AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Annemarie Riley Guertin
I connected with Annemarie Riley Guertin a little while ago online, and am thrilled to welcome her to my blog today for a Q&A. Her debut picture book, How the Finch Got His Colors, explores folktales, which is always a wonderful topic to look at, and it is done in the the perfect way for young readers. The book is beautifully illustrated by Helena Perez Garcia, and was published by Familius earlier this year. So, let's get on with the questions...
Can you tell us a bit about your book and the themes/issues it explores?
How the Finch Got His Colors is a creation myth folktale. The original version How the Finch Got Her Colors originated from Belgium. I came across this beautiful folktale in a book from the 1920’s called My Bookhouse. My aunt gave me her collection of children’s books before she passed. I remember that specific book had a lot of folktales inside, so I dug it out looking for some lesser known folktales to share with my students. I loved the story itself and the teaching moral embedded in it. After reading it, I decided I wanted to re-write it in picture book form.
To create my tale, I took the characters from the original version and created the storyline starting at the beginning of time. After a great rainfall, a rainbow appears in the sky; as she bends towards Earth, she begins to color everything in her path bright, bold colors. The birds take notice and want color too. I don’t want to give the rest of the story away, so if you want to know more you’ll have to buy it to find out what happens. That is how Finch was born!
In terms of themes and issues it explores, this story touches upon a few. Folktales are written to teach the reader a lesson in a subtle, non-preachy way. My version contains lessons on friendship, patience, and kindness.
How do you hope readers will connect with the book, and/or what do you want them to take away from it?
I want my readers first and foremost to love the story! The storyline is beautiful, and the amazing illustrations draw you right in. I want my readers to connect with the messages of friendship, patience, and kindness.
Do you have any suggestions on ways parents, teachers, librarians, booksellers and readers can get more out of the book? For example, questions to discuss or ponder, activities to complete etc.
My story has discussion questions in the back-matter pages. Parents and teachers can use them for discussion after they’ve read the story. How the Finch Got His Colors lends itself nicely both inside and outside of the classroom setting. It can be used as a bedtime story, a read aloud and as a mentor text.
Since it is a folktale, Finch can be used in classrooms in grades 1-3 to address the Common Core folktale standards. Aside from that teachers, home-schooling parents and librarians can use it as a mentor text to teach lessons on figurative language because Finch contains language structures such as simile, metaphor, assonance, rhythm etc. You can also use Finch to teach folktale elements, or, for the very young, you can use it to teach children about colors!
Can you let us in on any sneak peeks into your next books or other projects?
I was offered a contract on another folktale this past weekend. Finch is doing exceptionally well, so my publisher, Familius, reached out and asked if I would consider re-writing another one. I took them up on that suggestion and re-wrote Florence Holbrook’s 1902 classic Why the Evergreen Trees Keep Their Leaves in Winter. This folktale is another amazing story with a beautiful message of kindness woven into it!
I also have two more original stories out on submission. I think my biggest fear is that people will see me as a re-teller when I have some of my own ideas floating around out there. While I do love rewriting folktales, my dream is to have one of my own creations out there in the world!
Can you tell us something not a lot of people know about you?
Growing up, I struggled in school. I was not gifted in reading or in math. I made it through school with help from my aunt and from tutors. I had a terrible school experience early on in my schooling that shaped the way I view myself even now as an adult.
When I applied to college I knew I wanted to teach. I enrolled at Wheelock College, a prestigious school for education. I wanted to help the children (like myself) that struggled in school. I wanted my students to have a teacher that inspired them and fostered their sense of self-worth. I wanted to give them exactly what I needed in my formative years.
Once I completed my degree, I went on to obtain my master's degree. I worked hard and graduated with a 4.0 (summa cum laude). Even though I graduated with the highest of honors, I have a hard time viewing myself as “smart." I still struggle with a low self-esteem. I hear many people talk about my accomplishments, and refer to me as “gifted, or talented” and it feels like they are talking about someone else.
If I can offer advice to any of my readers, it’s...
YOU are the only person that's allowed to define YOU. Chase your dreams and make them your reality.
What about a favorite word or quote?
A book is a dream you hold in your hands- Neil Gaiman …And, because I chose to chase my dream, I’m holding mine right now. :)
You can connect with Annemarie online at Twitter, where she's found @Mrs. Guertin, or on her website, http://www.annemarierileyguertin.com