Publishers' Preview: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Adrea Theodore

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2022 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, 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 A History of Me, a mother remembers being “the only brown person in class” when she sees her daughter going through the same thing.

1. What would you say to the teacher of the girl in your book?

First: “Thank you for being a teacher.” It has always been and will always be an incredibly important job. Second: “Thank you for teaching what’s true.” This is so important, because some truths — particularly about the history of our country — are difficult to hear and talk about. Teachers know that what they teach is important, but how they teach it is just as important.

2. And who was a teacher who inspired you?

I was the youngest in my class (thanks to skipping a grade) and one of the smallest (thanks to...genetics?). I felt self-conscious, but Mrs. Mielenhausen reminded me: “Good things come in small packages.” My mind percolated on small treasures, from a Hershey’s Kiss to a diamond ring. Her perceptive comment changed my perspective entirely. Thanks, Mrs. M.!

3. What was it like seeing pictures for your words?

It was a surreal feeling. Authors typically don’t have a say in how the art looks; there’s a lot of trust that goes into the process. In my case, there was a sense of relief and then of awe at how gorgeous the art is. I wanted more of it! The cover art itself is simply stunning and took my breath away.

4. How does your daughter like your book?

She loves it, especially the art. Although she doesn’t remember the incidents that inspired me to write it, her awareness of equity and social justice has grown over time. She finds that the themes represented in the book are still very relevant today.

5. What is your top tip to writers working on their first picture book?

Write, write, write. And then write the best story you can. In the endeavor to be published, there is only so much within our control. The writing is what we authors can control — and so we must do our best to make it the best it can be. Simple, right?

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Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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