You know you’ve found a great picture book to read to your kiddo when you hear her say “again!” as soon as you finish. That’s what happened with Mama’s Day with Little Gray, which I received a review copy of two weeks ago. It’s what I think of as a quiet book that tells the story of one day in the life of an elephant, Little Gray, and his mama. They talk about what life might be like when Little Gray grows up and his Mama grows down. (Isn’t that a marvelous way to think of growing older and having one’s body change?)
I have a heightened awareness about everyday moments since the Slice of Life Story Challenge is happening now. As a result, Mama and Little Gray remind me a bit of me and Isabelle since they spend a lot of time together and love each other very much. As a result of reading Mama’s Day with Little Gray with Isabelle, I’ve begun to talk to her about what life will be like when she gets older (and taller than me). She claims she will still love spending time with me. I hope that’s true. I can’t rely on her responses since she is, after all, three. I can just hope for the best and seize the day since my little curly girl probably won’t want to snuggle in bed for bedtime stories in another five to seven yeas. 😦
Mama’s Day with Little Gray is Aimee Reid‘s first picture book. I knew I wanted to interview her since she’s also an educator and a mom who believes in finding the beauty and joy in everyday moments. Therefore, I thought it’d be neat to mesh a slice of life story post with an author interview this month. My interview with Aimee Reid follows. Also a snippet of tonight’s read aloud of Mama’s Day with Little Gray with Isabelle comes towards the end of this post. Finally, leave a comment on this post if you’d like a chance to win a copy of Reid’s book.
SAS: What inspired you to write Mama’s Day with Little Gray? How do elephants help you convey your message in a way humans couldn’t?
One night, our discussion inspired her to dream about being a grown-up. She said, “When I grow up and you grow down . . . .” Then she listed off a number of activities she would want to share with me. Her words were like a spark that flew straight to my imagination. This could be a story, I thought.
The choice of elephants for this book happened as a flash of intuition. I was attending a writers’ conference in L.A., and I had woken up with this version of the book writing itself in my head. I grabbed a pen and jotted down the draft. Then I took a break to go swimming. As I relaxed in the water, I remembered a time several years prior when I had seen an elephant family swimming together. Suddenly I knew: the characters for my book are elephants!
Since that time, I’ve researched elephants a great deal. I continue to be impressed with their intelligence and loyalty.
SAS: I love the language of growing up and growing down. How did you think all of that wonderful language?
AR: As I mentioned above, my daughter’s words during a bedtime conversation first gave me the idea of playing with this sort of role reversal in a picture book.
Another aspect of Mama’s Day with Little Gray also arose from that discussion. When my daughter imagined our ideal “growing up/growing down” day together, she spoke of sharing normal activities.
At the time, our routines were simple. We read, we met up with friends, we visited the library and had picnics on the living room floor. No matter how ordinary our plans, my daughter would wiggle her toes in delight as she anticipated the next day’s agenda. I was struck by the incredible preciousness of time with loved ones—that shared connection that makes the everyday extraordinary.
Thus, Little Gray’s picture of an ideal imaginary day mirrors the one he is already experiencing with his mama. It’s the shared joy of being together that transforms these moments. I wrote a little about appreciating the ordinary beauty of our lives here: http://www.aimeereidbooks.com/timetogether.
SAS: How do you balance your roles as mother, educator, and writer?
AR: Well, I resigned from my teaching position, so I am no longer in the classroom. That decision certainly changed the contour of my days.
I love the seamlessness of my life now. I ponder a plot line while I stir the soup. Often something one of my children says or does opens up a window of inspiration for me.
I think being a mother provides a deep wellspring for my writing. I’m right here to listen in on children’s conversations and witness their worries and celebrate their triumphs. Writing for children means knowing them, and being a mom certainly helps with that.
It’s tricky to speak of balance, isn’t it? I think each individual has to find the right mix. I don’t try to be a super-anything. That helps.
SAS: This is your debut picture book. Can you tell a bit about your journey from writing to publication?
AR: Sure! The conversation with my daughter happened about eight years ago. I then wrote a rhyming picture book that featured a human girl and her parent.
I attended my first retreat with the Canada East chapter of the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators and read my manuscript aloud. The retreat participants encouraged me to submit the piece. I did sent it out to a few agents as well as some editors I’d met at SCBWI conferences, but it wasn’t the right fit for any of those people.
Let’s fast forward a few years. In the meantime, I continued writing and formed a great writer’s critique group with fellow picture book writers. I also rewrote this piece, taking it out of verse and replacing the humans with elephants.
In January of 2012, I attended the winter conference of the Florida SCBWI chapter where I submitted four manuscripts for evaluation. An editorial assistant critiqued Mama’s Day with Little Gray and loved it. She encouraged me to submit it to her house.
After the conference was finished, I was swimming in the pool. (Did I mention that I’m Canadian? How could I resist taking a dip in an outdoor pool? Under palm trees? In January?) Along came Jill Corcoran, an agent who had been at the conference. As we chatted, she found out about the favorable reception of my manuscript and asked me to show it to her.
Jill handed me a towel, and I climbed out of the pool. We met in the hotel restaurant just before she left to catch her plane, and she offered to represent me. A few weeks later, we had an offer from Random House Children’s Books.
SAS: What are you working on as a writer?
AR: I love to read. Lately, I’m working on being a reader who thinks carefully about story. Whereas I used to skip sections of novels that were dragging, now I try to single out what has pulled me out of my immersion in the story world.
My children are my best first readers. One day, after listening to my draft of a humorous chapter book and rewarding me with some belly laughs, my daughter said, “Good work, Mom.” She turned to go and then poked her head back in the room. “Remember,” she added, “keep out the boring parts.” Writing engaging stories that leave out the boring parts is what I’m working on right now.
Thanks for hosting me on your blog, Stacey.
Images Courtesy of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.
And now for a slice of our bedtime routine:
This giveaway is for a copy of Mama’s Day with Little Gray for one reader. Many thanks to Random House for sponsoring a giveaway of Mama’s Day with Little Gray. To enter for a chance to win a copy of Mama’s Day with Little Gray each reader may leave one comment about this post in the comments section of this post. All comments left on or before Wednesday, April 2nd at 11:59 p.m. EDT will be entered into a random drawing using a random number generator on April 3rd. I will announce the winner’s name at the bottom of this post on April 3rd. Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address and have my contact at Random House send the book out to you. Please note: Your e-mail address will not be published online.
Comments are now closed.
Thanks to everyone who left a comment on this post.
Congratulations to Brittany Butler whose comment number was chosen at random. She’ll win a copy of Mama’s Day with Little Gray. Here’s what she wrote:
Growing up and growing down! No absolutely adore that concept! I also liked this interview a lot for many reasons. One being how she came to using elephants (a huge hit with my 2 yr old). Two, that she explained how the book transformed over time. I have a bunch of little stories like this that I
should maybe dust off and give a new spin too. Very inspiring! Great slice!