Publishers' Preview: Picture Books: Five Questions for Maira Kalman

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine
This interview originally appeared in the November/December 2018 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Picture Books, 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 Bold & Brave: Ten Heroes Who Won Women the Right to Vote, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winning (for Fireboat) illustrator Maira Kalman “remember the ladies.”

Photo: Cyndi Stivers.

1. Do you have a personal favorite among the women Senator Gillibrand profiled in this book?

Each of the women melts my heart. They are fantastically inspiring. But I do love Inez Milholland — who led the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade on horseback, wearing a crown and carrying a trumpet — for her romanticism and joy. She was Wonder Woman! Where did she find the courage? We can’t be courageous all of the time. But some of the time is not too much to ask.

2. Did you have a childhood shero?

Pippi Longstocking, of course. Independent. Fearless. Kind. Funny. She represented the ideal. Girls are fearless and full of self-confidence. Then puberty hits, and things change. When we’re older, we look back to those years when we didn’t doubt who we were.

3. There’s a lot of pink in your paintings here. Subliminal messaging?

I always use lots of pink. For the Founding Fathers. For cakes. For shoes. Pink has a light and an optimism to it. You can be serious, but you can have fun and search for beauty.

4. What was the most challenging aspect of the portraiture?

To make the women accessible; to portray them realistically but lyrically. I wanted them to connect with the reader and to seem real and dignified.

5. What women in public life give you hope?

My co-creator, Senator Gillibrand, for one. She has energy and optimism beyond understanding. I admire her tremendously. But all women who are writers, artists, filmmakers, architects, or musicians fill me with respect. It takes courage to do your work, no matter the obstacles. My mother never had a job outside of the house, and I think she suffered because she did not pursue her own work and make her own money. She always told me how important it was for a woman to have a career. So here’s to all the women all over the world who live their lives with courage, humor, and kindness.

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