Publishers' Preview: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Andrea Beatriz Arango

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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Iveliz Explains It All — to her diary, anyway. How can she learn to communicate with the world?

1. Is it hard to put a character through so much pain?

One in five kids Iveliz’s age has anxiety, depression, or PTSD, often without the support systems Iveliz is lucky to have. I see it as putting Iveliz through pain to shed light on something more common than a lot of adults realize. So much of this book is about communication. I hope it will facilitate discussions about mental health that kids need.

2. You’re a teacher; how do you watch out for the Ivelizes?

The easiest way to establish trust is to treat everything children share as valuable and worthy of your time. That encourages kids to open up, because they feel safe enough to be vulnerable. As teachers, we have the privilege of deciding whether we will make our students feel seen or invisible, and that can completely change a child’s school experience.

3. What made you choose the verse novel form?

I work with English language learners, so I’m surrounded by students struggling to read on grade level. Poetry calls to me as an art form, but more than that, I wanted to write a novel about a twelve-year-old that could easily be accessed by a student reading several grade levels below Iveliz.

4. How did you decide the balance of English and Spanish?

Spanish is the main language many of my students and I use with our families, and English is what we use at work or at school. I wanted the Spanish in the book to feel natural, so it’s mostly used when Iveliz is speaking with her mom and grandma.

5. What has writing this first novel taught you about writing a second?

I can write about hard things, and characters can be intersectional and nuanced. Iveliz’s story is so personal, yet speaks to things many of us have experienced. That’s made me more comfortable in tackling my second book. I don’t need to write some sort of universally appealing Latinx story. I can write the specific stories I want to tell.

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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. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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