Mymcbooks's Blog

Keepsake that Educates!

Interview with Author Barbara Joosse

Barbara Joosse is an author of 38 books for children, including picture books and early chapter books. Her books are translated into 28 languages, and she has traveled world-wide to promote them. Many of them have won awards, most recently Stars in the Darkness which was awarded the Golden Kite honor book for picture book text by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Papa, Do You Love Me? which was named a Best Book of 2005 by the Chicago Public Library. While Barbara’s books embrace many cultures, voices, themes and moods, they have many elements in common—hope, warmth, lyrical language, metaphor, and often, humor. The strong resource of family, its affection and resiliency, is a theme that runs through nearly all of her books.

Barbara has several new books under contract for the coming years. A Wisconsinresident, she looks forward to visiting schools, writer’s groups, and conferences when she has an opportunity.

Interview with Barbara Joosse author of Sleepover at Gramma’s House and Dog Parade.

I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog

What is the last book you read? The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall–a summer tale of four sisters, two rabbits and a very interesting boy.  Magical.  Inspiring to a writer.

What were your earliest memories of writing? We didn’t have creative writing in school.  We didn’t even have a library!  But I wanted to make up my own stories so I wrote them and Mom typed them up on the picnic table in the back yard.  Then I wrapped them in saran wrap so they’d look like real library books!  I was probably in fourth grade.

Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural? When I was a child, women became one of three things: a nurse, a nun or a mother.  Moms didn’t have much fun as far as I could see . . . and nurses did gross things . . .and I couldn’t spell so mom said I couldn’t be a teacher.  I was stumped!  No one thought of writing and neither did I!  But when i graduated from high school, my grandmother gave me a thesaurus.  I thought it was a castle of riches, full of exotic words, and I loved the thickness of it and the smell.  My Grandma was someone who took my writing seriously, and I have kept her gift ever since.  Although it is quite tattered, I still use my thesaurus and enjoy the careful and proud way I wrote my entire maiden name on the inside cover: Barbara Jean Monnot.  I think it may not be an advantage to encourage a writer.  I wouldnt DIScourage someone.  But writing is so difficult and lonely.  You must be completely on fire to do this, enough so that every hour passes in a nanosecond.  The drive must come from you, not anyone else.

What was it like co-writing music with Grammy-award winning lyricist Burton Collins and Nathan Meckel? Writing books is exciting but veerrry slooowww.  It often takes 500 revisions in 7 years to complete a picture book.  Writing music is like hopping on a skyrocket.  It goes very fast, quick minds with huge talent and a lot of goofiness.  It usually takes us a half day to complete a song.  This is immediate gratification, a nice contrast to book writing.  I love these guys with all my heart.  They are so gifted and it’s so much fun for like-minds to collaborate.

I know you have won so many awards, which award do you find really special? My best award comes from a child, when she says, “Read it again.”  Honestly, everything else pales by comparison.

Are you working on a new book? I’m working on a series of books for young readers.  Sadly, picture books have lost the 6-10 year audience, who have turned to chapter books.  This is a loss for children, I feel, who learn and love so well through picture books.  But that’s reality, so I’ve taken what I know about 6-9 year olds and turned that knowledge toward these chapter books.  The first is Clever Henry, but soon I will write the second book, (Dinki-Di: Henry Goes Down Under).  Henry sings in the book, childlike songs asFrances sings in Bedtime forFrances.  These songs are “placekeepers” for full songs I hope to create for a feature animated or children’s musical.  You see how I dream??

I wrote Sleepover because I dreamed of having grandchildren.  I knew exactly what kind of Granna I’d be, so wrote myself into the book.  Then .. .. ta-da! Two grandgirls, Lucia and Marina.  I know children find “musicality” engaging (making music out of the rhyme and rhythm of words), so that is the style in which I wrote.  Jan Jutte, from The Netherlands, is my dream illustrator.

What inspired you to write Sleepover At Gramma’s House  and how did you come up with each character? I wrote Sleepover because I dreamed of having grandchildren.  I knew exactly what kind of Granna I’d be, so wrote myself into the book.  Then .. .. ta-da! Two grandgirls, Lucia and Marina.  I know children find “musicality” engaging (making music out of the rhyme and rhythm of words), so that is the style in which I wrote.  Jan Jutte, from The Netherlands, is my dream illustrator.

What was your favorite children’s book? I loved Arabian Tales and Eloise.  But my favorite book was an art book because I could make up stories about the pictures.

What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books? When I’m not writing or promoting I’m usually with a grandgirl.  Yesterday Lucia and I watched boys catching bullfrogs at the creek and listened to a bagpiper play beside a walking path and put on a puppet show for her mom and dad and grampa.  We like to jam-pack fun into every day together . . . like in Sleepover at Gramma’s House.  After she left, I canned spaghetti sauce.  I love to cook and garden.

What do you hope that readers will take away from your book? Kindness.  I really want readers to have soft hearts about the world.  I wrap that up in humor and sound, but I want them to leave with a soft heart.

Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with? Maurice Sendak, Ruth Krauss, Kate Dicamillo, William Steig and Barbro Lindgren.  We will have to drink white wine because we will be gesturing so broadly and laughing so much that we will surely spill red all over ourselves and then people would point and say, “There go some very talented authors who, unfortunately, are not very tidy.”

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.? .  I have no discipline.  I just love what I do, so I don’t have to make myself.  I usually work every weekday and sometimes on the weekend, too.  I have a very understanding boss, though, so when I ask myself if I can have the day off to play with my grandgirls, I always say yes!

What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read? .  I’d ask parents to start reading the day they bring their child home, and remember that the very earliest books should have lots of words.  Not quick words on a page, that comes when a child starts moving about at 9 – 18 months.  Always, at least three books before bed.  Let the child choose two books, you choose one.  That way you can keep exposing a child to new stories, but give them choice and allow the moldy oldies.  A big job of picture books is to help a child create order out of chaos.  To give them mastery.  That comes from repeated reading of the same book, even though you get tired of the reading.

What advice you would give to new writers? I’d tell new writers to find an honest voice.  They should remember who they’re writing for.  Kids first, adults second.  I think to myself, “Keep your vessel clean.”  As a writer, you become the vessel for your books.  A story, really, comes THROUGH you.  When you’re burdened or worried or angry or jealous, the vessel becomes soiled and clogged and you can’t write in a way that shines for children.

Thank you for this interview.






November 11, 2011 - Posted by | Meet the Author | , , , , ,


  1. It is clear you love what you do and, as an avid reader, we can always tell that genuine tone that the author wants to share a story with us, rather than tell it. I have added your name to our author list and the next time my daughter and I take an adventure to the library, we will have to look for some of your books! Thanks!

    Comment by simply.bekah | November 11, 2011 | Reply

  2. Great interview and I will have to check into her books for my son as I have not read any of them. I would Love to feature her on my blogs if she would be open to it.

    Comment by Glenda | November 11, 2011 | Reply

  3. I love that you wrote this book as a Grandma so that you know first hand how much children will love reading this with their own Grandparents!

    Comment by Kelly Moran | November 11, 2011 | Reply

  4. Dogs can do anything along with their unconditional love.

    Comment by Ann Council | November 12, 2011 | Reply

  5. Sounds like you certainly keep your days packed full with fun activities with Lucia and Marina. I can picture you reading to them and how much they must enjoy each visit with you!

    Comment by Laura of Our Virginia Home | November 12, 2011 | Reply

  6. I can’t wait to share your books with my grandkids – a book that shows the warmth in relationships & life is a great think to share at bedtime.

    Comment by Teresa Young | November 12, 2011 | Reply

  7. I find i amazing that your books have been translated into 28 different languages

    pattifritz2000 at yahoo dot com
    thanks for the chance

    Comment by bloomerbear | November 13, 2011 | Reply

  8. The Penderwicks, one of my favorites as well. I agree with letting children choose what to read while at the same time guiding them to a greater variety than they might choose on their own. Expand their horizons so to speak. Thanks for the great interview.

    Comment by Heidi Grange | November 14, 2011 | Reply

  9. 38 books, that is amazing! So she was blessed with granddaughters, what a sweet inspiration for a book 😉

    Comment by Jodi T | November 15, 2011 | Reply

  10. She sounds like my mom, who loves having sleepovers with her grandkids and cooks and gardens too! 🙂

    khmorgan_00 [at] yahoo [dot] com

    Comment by Kristie | November 17, 2011 | Reply

  11. I so agree with Barbara on picture books. The schools push kids to read and do math and everything else at such young ages nowdays its insane. But I can proudly say my daughter is 6 and LOVES picture books. I even catching her reading baby ones because its easier for her to understand. I won’t personally be removing them from her collection for sometime. I think they help build imagination and more understanding through pictures and not just words.

    Great interview!

    Comment by larissa brunken | November 21, 2011 | Reply

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