A Joyous Family Collaboration @ GBF

Sisters-in-law Sanyukta Mathur and Courtney Pippin-Mathur will be joining the stage together to present their book Happy Diwali! at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st.  Their presentation will be in the Willa Cather Pavilion beginning at 10:15am. The picture book Happy Diwali! is a joyous family collaboration about the Hindu festival of lights.

I hope you enjoy my interview with Sanyukta Mathur and Courtney Pippin-Mathur.

What prompted you to write this book together?  How did you get started?
Courtney – I drew an illustration of my daughter hiding behind some sarees and mailed it out on a postcard. An editor (not the one who acquired HD) approached me at a conference and said that I should write a book featuring our inter-racial and intercultural family celebrating holidays in the US. So, I ran back to my hotel room and called Sanyukta and asked her to list everything that she does to prepare for Diwali for our family. I added a few things and put it into a picture book format and created a rough dummy (like a sketch of the entire picture book) and it was sent off for submissions.

Original postcard
Final image in book

Sanyukta: When Courtney approached me with the idea I was really surprised, it’s not my field: But the more we discussed we felt this book reflecting our blended family, showing how we try to celebrate traditions in the US was maybe something that was needed. Ultimately this is the book I was always searching for when I was looking for simple books about Indian festivals to share with my kids & at their school. It’s been a joy to work on this with Courtney. 

Are you planning to write any future books together?  If so, could you tell us about it?
Courtney – Hopefully!  🙂 Two of our other favorite holidays are Holi (festival of Spring) and Raksha Bandhan (celebrating the love between brothers and sisters) so it would be lovely to be able to share those!

Sanyukta: We hope so! 😉

Do you have any resources about Diwali you would like to share with readers?   Do you have a discussion guide?  Or discussion questions?
Courtney -There is currently not a discussion guide, though I will work on something for this fall, when the book will be out before Diwali. (Shipping delays last year pushed the book to be released after Diwali.) There are a few books out about celebrating Diwali in India that we share on the holiday. I’ll let Sanyukta chime in with her favorites. 
Sanyukta: there are many lovely books about Diwali that explain the Hindu mythology behind the festival. One of our family favorites is Amma tell me about Diwali written by Bhakti Mathur (no relation). My kids also enjoy the books by Sanjay Patel (E.g., The Little Book of Hindu Deities). When I was growing up we loved reading the Indian graphic/comic books by Amar Chitra Katha that relayed Indian religious and historic stories.

Melissa – Additional resources that my readers may find helpful:
Celebrate Diwali With Books! | Parenting Tips… | PBS KIDS for Parents
21 Children’s Books about Diwali, the Festival of Lights –

What medium did you use to create your art, Courtney?  Can you tell us about your process?  Do you have any pictures of the various stages of creation?

Courtney – I combined watercolor and line drawing in photoshop. Here is a spread through a few of the stages:

Original line drawing that I scanned.
About 2/3 finished, with most of the colors blocked in.
Final image in the book.

What is your writing space/ art studio like? Courtney – My husband and I share a room. I call it my corner of chaos, because I have a lot crammed into a small space (including random things my kids throw on my desk). 

I hope you enjoy my interview with Happy Diwali! co-authors @SanyuktaMathur and @pippinmathur @MacmillanUSA @MacKidsBooks @GburgBookFest

Sanyukta – We worked on this book during the height of the Covid-19 lockdowns, so my writing and collaboration space was my basement office and zoom!

How (or in what ways) do you hope librarians will promote your book?
Courtney – I hope they will share it in storytimes to teach kids about Diwali and connect it with other important holidays that celebrate goodness and light and being with families. 
Sanyukta – I hope librarians can use our book to talk about Diwali (the Festival of Lights), about different festivals around the world, how festivals are celebrated by people of the Indian diaspora, and how food/special meals are often a key part of many family celebrations.

What do you hope your readers will learn from reading your book?
Courtney – I hope they will learn about Diwali and how we celebrate it in our mixed cultural family. 
Sanyukta – I hope young readers will see how some families in the US celebrate Diwali. I hope, too, that the vibrant illustrations will make them curious about the traditions, clothes and foods.  

Who is the reader you are writing for?  Please describe them.
Courtney – Children who are curious about other cultures and holidays.
Sanyukta – This book is for families who want to see their culture and traditions represented and families who are curious about other cultural celebrations.

What is one (or more) thing(s) that you really want your readers to know about you?
Courtney – I love being part of a multi-cultural family and believe diversity makes people more kind and caring and stronger as a community.  
Sanyukta – I loved working with my sister-in-law on this book and am excited to share how our diverse family continues the traditions of Diwali here in the US. 

What do you love most about the cover art and illustrations in your book?
Courtney – Being able to include most of the children in our family and the raised embossing and foil and the teal background 
Sanyukta – The illustrations by Courtney (my sister-in-law) really make the book and the festival come alive in all its vibrancy. 

What has surprised you most about the characters in your book?
Courtney – How happy all the nieces, nephews, and cousins are about being drawn in a book. I was so stressed about capturing cartoon versions of real people! 
Sanyukta – Not so much a surprise about the characters, but I was surprised by how my son (who is one of the kids in the book) was overjoyed to take this book to his 3rd grade class and share the book and Diwali with his friends.

What are you most looking forward to at our book festival?
Courtney – I love the vibe of being around book lovers, kids and adults! 
Sanyukta – I love the GBF and we usually make it an annual family event. I hope we get to meet lots of curious kids, teachers, librarians, and parents and share this book with them.

I hope you will join me and attend Sanyukta and Courtney’s presentation at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21st.

Sanyukta Mathur

Sanyukta Mathur is a social scientist and studies how to improve the health and well-being of young people around the world. She is the author of various research publications. “Happy Diwali!” is her first children’s book. She lives in Maryland with her family.

Courtney Pippin-Mathur

Courtney Pippin-Mathur is an author/illustrator of picture books, such as “Maya was Grumpy” (2013), “Dragons Rule, Princesses Drool” (2017) and “Happy Diwali,” with her sister-in-law, Sanyukta Mathur (2021). She loves being part of a multicultural family and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, three children and one very friendly dog.

2018 Gaithersburg Book Festival (in review)

Being a part of Gaithersburg Book Festival planning committee is magical for me, because it allows me to be on the ground level of creating this amazing event each and every year.  As I watch the list of featured authors and illustrators grow, and help to recruit authors, illustrators, poets and other creative sorts for our writers’ workshops, my anticipation grows as well.  I encourage my students and their families to attend, hoping they will be as excited as I am about the “big day”.  There is nothing quite like listening to an author talk about their writing, or watching an illustrator create magic on an easel!

In case you missed my earlier posts about GBF 2018:

And The Children’s Book Podcast by Matthew Winner

Pop-Up Interviews at the Gaithersburg Book Festival (The Children’s Book Podcast #447)

Spotlight on 4 Children’s Book Illustrators Coming to GBF 2017

Picture books are amazing works of literature, and spectacular works of art!  As a member of the Gaithersburg Book Festival committee, an elementary school librarian, and a mom of four kids, I love to read books. Love. Love. Books!  Lots. And lots. of. Books. I love the words, and I love the illustrations.  I love to hold the books in my hands and feel the pages when I turn them.  When I read picture books, my students and I analyze and discuss the artwork as much (and sometime, more than) the actual words on the pages. We discuss the cover art, the colors and art on the end pages, the title page, and all of the pages that follow.  My students and I experience the books using the Whole Book Approach described in detail by Megan Dowd Lambert in  Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See.

In this blog post I am focusing on four talented author/ illustrators that are coming to the Gaithersburg Book Festival on the May 20th.  I hope you will take time to come see these four, and many other authors and illustrators and a variety of other activities and for all ages.

Brian Floca and Chris Van Dusen share thoughts about Friends Misbehaving in the Jim Henson Pavilion, 12:15-1:05 pm.

Brian Floca

Featured Children’s book illustrator

Presentation: Friends Misbehaving

12:15-1:05 pm in the Jim Henson Pavilion

princess coraFrom Candlewick Press: Princess Cora is sick of boring lessons. She’s sick of running in circles around the dungeon gym. She’s sick, sick, sick of taking three baths a day. And her parents won’t let her have a dog. But when she writes to her fairy godmother for help, she doesn’t expect that help to come in the form of a crocodile—a crocodile who does not behave properly. With perfectly paced dry comedy, children’s book luminaries Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca send Princess Cora on a delightful outdoor adventure — climbing trees! getting dirty! having fun! — while her alter ego wreaks utter havoc inside the castle, obliging one pair of royal helicopter parents to reconsider their ways.

Brian Floca’s website: http://brianfloca.com/princess-cora-and-the-crocodile.html

All the Wonders Interview http://www.allthewonders.com/?s=princess+cora

Locomotive (2014 Caldecott Honor Book):  http://brianfloca.com/locomotive.html

Locomotive Book Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y18-XZ7SB6I

Chris Van Dusen

Featured Children’s Book Author/Illustrator

Presentation: Friends Misbehaving

12:15-1:05pm in the Jim Henson Pavilion

hattie and hudson

From the publisher: Hattie McFadden is a born explorer. Every morning she grabs her life jacket and paddles out in her canoe to discover something new on the lake, singing a little song on her way. When her singing draws up from the depths a huge mysterious beast, everyone in town is terrified — except Hattie, who looks into the creature’s friendly, curious eyes and knows that this is no monster. So Hattie sneaks out at night to see the giant — whom she names Hudson — and the two become friends. But how can she make the frightened, hostile townspeople see that Hudson isn’t scary or dangerous at all? Chris Van Dusen brings his colorful, perspective-bending artwork to this satisfying new story about acceptance, friendship, and sticking up for those who are different.

Chris Van Dusen’s website: http://www.chrisvandusen.com/

Video Interview with Chris Van Dusen: http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/vandusen
Joining forces on the How to Illustrate Humor in the Jim Henson Pavilion are Brian Biggs and Tom Lichtenheld.

Brian Biggs

Featured Children’s book Author/ Illustrator

Presentation How to Illustrate Humor

11:15am-12:05pm in the Jim Henson Pavilion

Noisy+Night+Cover+copy

From the publisher: It’s a noisy night in this city building! The residents of each floor can hear their neighbors above them, and are wondering what’s going on above their heads. Climb floor by floor and page by page to find out whose singing, dancing, cheering, and cooing are keeping a grumpy old man awake.

With innovative split-level spreads that offer the feeling of climbing an apartment building floor by floor, this clever and colorful collaboration between New York Times–bestselling author Mac Barnett and gifted illustrator Brian Biggs offers an irresistible investigation of one noisy night.

Mac Barnett -TED Talk – Why a Good Book is a Secret Door

https://youtu.be/LPrS7-kx9Y0

Noisy Night Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMh0OOhigKo

Tom Lichtenheld

Featured Children’s book Author/ Illustrator

Presentation How to Illustrate Humor

11:15am -12:05pm in the Jim Henson Pavilionmighty mighty construction site

From Chronicle Books:  At last—here from the team behind the beloved international bestseller comes a companion to Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. Al
l of our favorite trucks are bac1k on the construction site—this time with a focus on team-building, friendship, and working together to make a big task seem small! Down in the big construction site, the crew faces their biggest job yet, and will need the help of new construction friends to get it done. Working as a team, there’s nothing they can’t do! The millions of fans of
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site are in for a mighty good time!

Library of Congress presentation  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jInkwtDkrjg

Mighty, Mighty Construction Site Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCsia3xndoA

All the Wonders podcast Interview:  http://www.allthewonders.com/podcasts/sherri-duskey-rinker-and-tom-lichtenheld-all-the-wonders-episode-327/

Good night, Good night, Construction Site: http://www.tomlichtenheld.com/childrens_books/goodnight-goodnight-construction-site.html

Cloudette:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBxXhqXTmIs

Exclamation Mark!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWnPSLYO9aM

Sing!   http://www.tomlichtenheld.com/childrens_books/sing.html

About the Festival:

In its 8th year, the Gaithersburg Book Festival was originally conceived and introduced by (then City Council member and now Gaithersburg Mayor) Jud Ashman with the support of the mayor and City Council, and the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee. GBF is produced by a core committee comprised of city staff and a dedicated group of volunteers who donate their time and talent.  For more information about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, please visit www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org

About Melissa:

Melissa A. McDonald, MLS, is a School Library Media Specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools and Children’s and Teen’s Workshops Coordinator for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.   Melissa writes the blog The Creative Librarian – Adventures in School Librarianship.  She is also a proud mom, animal lover, avid reader, and volunteer extraordinaire who lives in Maryland.

 

GBF – Literally, the Place to be on May 20, 2017

 

GBF logoThe Gaithersburg Book Festival, a celebration of books, writers, illustrators, and literary excellence, will hold its 8th annual festival on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall  (31 So. Summit Ave, Gaithersburg, Maryland) on Saturday, May 20, 2017.   Gaithersburg, Maryland, was named the most diverse city in the United States, and our festival honors and celebrates diversity in literature.

As a lifelong lover of literature, a mother of four children, and now as an elementary school librarian, I’ve been an avid reader of children’s books for many years, delighting in both the words and the illustrations.  Several years ago I was thrilled to discover the Gaithersburg Book Festival in its inaugural year.  I began volunteering in its second year and eventually was invited to join the core planning team two years ago. I am the coordinator of teen’s and children’s workshops, and am so pleased to share our wonderful festival with readers of all ages in Gaithersburg and beyond!

The Gaithersburg Book Festival (affectionately known by the committee as GBF) boasts:

Locally and nationally known featured authors in adult, young adult, and children’s literature

There is “literally” something for everyone at the Gaithersburg Book Festival!  As an elementary school librarian, I am pleased to share with our community of readers that Brian Biggs, Fred Bowen, Doreen Cronin, Jen Swann Downey, Brian Floca, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Maria Gianferrari, Debbie Levy,  Tom Lichtenheld, Juana Medina, Kate Messner, Dave Roman, Leila Sales, Chris Van Dusen, and Salina Yoon are among the KidLit authors and illustrators presenting at our festival.  Amalie Howard, Brigid Kemmerer, Christine Kendall, Michelle

Knudsen, Kimberly McCreight, Meg Medina, Erin Teagan, Booki Vivat, and Carol Weston are among the teen and YA authors presenting at our festival. There is a fantastic line up of adult featured authors, too!  Information about each featured author or illustrator, and a link to each presenter’s website is included on the GBF featured presenters’ pages, and I have also hyperlinked within this article outstanding interviews and book reviews from All the Wonders website and author commentaries and book reviews from Nerdy Book Club blog.   

Led by our author presenters (Fred Bowen, Dave Roman, Alexis Frederick-Frost), writing specialists, illustrators (Elise Gravel, Timothy Young), and other trained professionals, our writers workshops include topics such as creating characters and sketchbooks, sports journaling, comic stories, writing fiction, and writing college essays.  Encourage your children to stop into the workshops tent and let their creativity flow!

As you can see, GBF offers a wonderful world of family activities in the Children’s Village – we hope to see you strolling through the grounds of the Gaithersburg City Hall, peeking into each tent, and soaking up all of the wonderful experiences the festival has to offer book lovers of all ages!

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About the Festival:

In its 8th year, the Gaithersburg Book Festival was originally conceived and introduced by (then City Council member and now Gaithersburg Mayor) Jud Ashman with the support of the mayor and City Council, and the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee. GBF is produced by a core committee comprised of city staff and a dedicated group of volunteers who donate their time and talent.  For more information about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, please visit www.gaithersburgbookfestival.org

About Melissa:

Melissa A. McDonald, MLS, is a School Library Media Specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools and Children’s and Teen’s Workshops Coordinator for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.   Melissa writes the blog The Creative Librarian – Adventures in School Librarianship.  She is also a proud mom, animal lover, avid reader, and volunteer extraordinaire who lives in Maryland.  Follow her on Twitter @Cre8tiveLib !