Fall 2018 Publishers' Preview: Five Questions for Ketch Secor

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine
This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2018 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall 2018 Publishers’ Previews, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In the picture book Lorraine: The Girl Who Sang the Storm Away, written by musician Ketch Secor and illustrated by Higgins Bond, a young African American girl faces down her fears.

Photo: Crackerfarm.

1. I think I’d enjoy a Tennessee thunderstorm. What’s the best time and place to catch one?

As a child, electrical storms were my greatest fear. Now I love them. Tennessee has such a wide range of topography that you can watch the lightning dance in a host of pastoral landscapes, from rugged mountains to flatlands. But my favorite place to see a thunderstorm is over downtown Nashville.

2. What’s your instrument in your dreams?

When I’m out on the road, the instrument of my dreams is most often the rumbles and vibrations of a bus traveling through the night. At home it’s the giggles (and occasional kicks) of the four-year-old in bed with me. In either case, I don’t sleep much.

3. What do you sing when you’re scared?

Singing when you’re scared reminds me of when I took my daughter to the MLK50 March in Memphis. All morning long I was thinking about the powerful canon of songs from the height of the civil rights movement. All around the world there is music made in the moments of humanity’s darkest hours. I’d like to hear the songs being sung right now on the south side of the Rio Grande, or on an unstable boat in the Mediterranean.

4. What’s the difference between writing a song and writing a picture book?

They really are one and the same, though in songwriting you have to paint the pictures with your words and music. I always liked narrative songs like cowboy ballads and corridos, or story songs about bounding adventures or casualties of the road. By the same turn, my favorite children’s books are songs, too, like Pete Seeger’s Abiyoyo.

5. Give me your best argument for music in the classroom.

Children harness a distinct power in their bodies when they lift their voices in song. The power is in both the cognitive doing of performance and in the quantum spirit of knowing a song before it leaves your lips. I can think of nothing more empowering for children than learning to sing together in harmony.

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