1. What gave you the idea for Makanaka's World?
Makanaka's World was inspired by my daughter Jillian Makanaka. The idea was to create stories in my native language and include animation that would be appealing and fun for her to read. I'm originally from Zimbabwe and come from a Shona speaking family; therefore, not having them close by limits the amount of language my daughter gets to hear as I'm the only source.
2. In setting out to write a series of books rather than just one stand-alone title, how did you plan out your project?
I initially was focused on just handful of stories, so an actual series was not really part of the plan. However, as the character developed, I realized there was an opportunity to do more with it, and more ideas just started coming without even searching really hard.
3. What are some examples of things that kids will learn in reading your books?
Kids are going to learn about the globe, different languages, and also cultures. Time and again I hear from educators that geography is an area that a lot of students don't do well in, from first grade all the way to high school. I want my daughter to embrace what it means to be a global citizen, and I'm sure there are many parents out there that feel the same way. The key is finding material that will really keep a child engaged, and I believe Makanaka's World is just a start.
4. In writing the books, what has been most enjoyable to you about the process?
As I'm writing, I'm also researching, which is just as fun. I'm either using the internet, borrowing books from the library, or connecting with parents who are natives of a particular country. Connecting with a native person is the biggest treat as I get a very authentic and current perspective of the lifestyle, customs, and traditions.
5. What feedback have you received from parents and kids who have seen the books so far?
I've only recently started sharing the series, and the reactions and feedback I receive get me excited all over again. At least three parents have told me they felt chills of excitement after learning about Makanaka, and another said it reminded her of all the global travels she has experienced with her daughter over the years. Some are just simply amazed at how this all came together. It's all so humbling to see people react the way they do--you can't pay anyone enough money to give you that kind of response.