Publishers' Preview: Spring 2020: Five Questions for Michael Genhart

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Spring 2020, 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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Two accordions provide the unusual inspiration for bicultural harmony in Accordionly.

1. Do you play?

Our home was filled with music — from ranchera to polka. My dad played the accordion, and my grandfathers would sing, hoot, and yodel along. I do not play — yet. Sadly, my dad died recently. I inherited his accordion and plan on starting lessons soon!

2. What did you eat growing up?

My mom was the cook of the family, and she made lots of Mexican food: handmade tortillas, albondigas soup, picadillo, tamales, enchiladas, rice and beans. Occasionally she’d prepare my dad’s favorite dish from childhood — sausage and sauerkraut. My grandparents added tasty desserts, from pan dulce to lebkuchen.

3. As a psychologist, how do you see two-culture families affecting children’s development?

Some children feel like they are “not enough” of either one, and may not identify with either fully. This experience can be very marginalizing and interfere with healthy identity formation. I wanted to write a book that celebrates the richness of coming from different cultures that are not in competition with each other, showing that children can embrace all that both cultures add to their lives. Finding common threads (such as the accordion) can demonstrate the importance of shared experiences while still appreciating differences.

4. Do you remember a picture book that allowed you as a child to see yourself?

There were not many, but The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf gave me permission to be myself — with grace and dignity and without apology. It was liberating!

5. Fancy foldout! Whose idea was that?

Isn’t it wonderful? I wanted the last illustration to be “accordionlike” somehow, and my editor Kristine Enderle and her talented team developed the lovely foldout for Priscilla Burris, my equally talented illustrator. I love how engaging it is, mirroring the expansiveness of the accordion. I hope young readers will be tickled by it too.

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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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