Welcome to the 5th Stop on the "I Am Today" Blog Tour!
Come join me as I chat with our amazing author,
Matt Forrest Esenwine
Let's start out with the trailer that Matt sent me. You can find it on YouTube here.
Grown-ups say I am the Future.
But what if a child does not want to wait for the future
to stand up for what he/she believes in?
Matt Forrest Esenwine explores this thought in a powerful children's book
that sends a strong message.
CONVERSATION WITH OUR AUTHOR
Matt, the message in your book will to both children and adults. It brings to mind that every child is unique and has a VOICE. Hopefully, it will find cozy corners in bedrooms and reading/writing stations in classrooms. There teachers, librarians, and parents will offer read alouds, discussions, and prompts to capture what it means for each child to make a difference in this world. The book offers so many possibilities for children to explore. Perhaps, they will reach beyond their surroundings to offer new solutions for environmental issues, or become leaders, service providers, or on a more personal level speak on issues dealing with kindness, friendship, and sharing. Thank you for responding to the questions I pose.
1. Think back to the very first thought you had on writing this book. Did your own children influence your choice of topic? Did you envision this book as one that plants the seeds for children being change agents?
Last year we were in the middle of the pandemic - school was at home, playdates were via computer, vacations were halted - and many kids, including my own, felt they had no control over what was happening. Heck, we adults felt that way! So I decided I wanted to write something to help kids feel more empowered, to give them some strength or hope, and show them they had the power to make changes in a grown-up world. But how to do that?
My first step was rather odd, to be honest: I began by trying to come up with a completely non-grammatical title. Really! I wanted something that would catch potential readers and buyers off-guard, something that made them stop and think. So I thought about it quite a bit. The phrase "I am today" eventually popped into my head, and I liked it! As I thought more about the possibilities with that title, it occurred to me that kids are always being told they are "the Future." But what if a child doesn't want to wait?
2. Can you please ask your illustrator what is the significance of the book cover drawing where the child is upside down?
I have never met the illustrator, as she was hired by the publisher (which is the norm in traditional publishing), but I can try to contact her. I would think she was striving for the symbolism of reflection, of one looking at oneself and imagining possibilities, of what lies ahead - especially since the plot of the book involves not only her future but the future of the ocean.
3. What prompted the origami piece at the end of the book? Do you have a picture of your father creating origami pieces?
Isn't that cool?? That was completely unexpected and came from the illustrator. It's interesting to note that most of my books, like FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME, and now I AM TODAY, lack a traditional narrative such as, "First Billy did this, then Sally said this, then they went someplace," etc. I prefer a more poetic form of writing, creating what I call a story skeleton - a framework by which an illustrator can tell their own story - in congruence to mine.
You'll recall that in FLASHLIGHT NIGHT, three kids go on an adventure in which everything takes place within the beam of the flashlight. However, in my text, I don't mention kids, I don't give names, I don't say anything about a tiger or a Kraken or a pirate or a hot air balloon - and I certainly don't say anything about the story taking place within the beam of the flashlight. That was all created by illustrator Fred Koehler. Likewise, the plot of I AM TODAY is about a little girl who notices that sea turtles are in danger from pollution from a nearby factory and manages to rally the town to clean up the water and save the turtles...however, NONE of that is in my text! The entire narrative of the book was created by illustrator Patricia Pessoa, based on inspiration she gleaned from my text. And I have more books coming out over the next couple of years that are written in this same way!
4. How did your children react to the book about being a change agent?
I don't think they recognized it as a 'change agent,' necessarily, but I asked them what they thought and they both were happy that the little girl was able to succeed at what she set out to do - and really, that's what I want kids to get from it, that they do have the power to make change and don't need to wait. My son knows this first-hand because he actually helped the book's publisher a couple of years ago, back when we were putting out DON'T ASK A DINOSAUR! We had all received the final .pdf of the book right before it went to print, so I showed it to him (dino expert that he is), and he found not one, but TWO mistakes - which we quickly corrected before sending it off to be printed and bound. Not many 7-year-olds can say they saved a book, but he can! And I've been telling students that story during school visits ever since DINOSAUR came out, so I'm glad I now have a book that spotlights another way kids have the ability to effect change.
5. In our present world of ifs, this book is a powerful one for children. I think this can be used by educators, librarians, and parents of children from nursery to 8th grade. Did you have a specific age audience in mind when you wrote the book?
I was thinking of my daughter while writing this, so I'd say elementary-age kids, first and foremost. Children are always my primary audience, but adults are the secondary audience; they are the ones buying, gifting, and reading the stories to the kids, so adults are always at the top of my mind, as well. I want readers, no matter how old they are, to not get bored or tired of reading my books. I told folks back when FLASHLIGHT NIGHT first came out that my greatest fear was that someone would be asked to read one of my books and they would react with, "Oh, no, not THAT one again!" Ha! But I certainly hope that schools and libraries will recognize that this book could be more than simply an enjoyable book to read and might actually help and encourage kids who are trying to find their way through this world.
Sierra Reads and Questions
Providing children with read alouds and mentor text at a very young age allows them to not only be delighted by the act of reading but become lifelong readers. My four-year-old granddaughter has been a fan of reading since she was younger. She loves to listen to a book being read and then spend time alone looking at the illustrations.
"Sierra, I have a surprise for you. The author of Flashlight Night sent me a new book. Would you like to read it with me before nap time?"
"Grandma, why is the book upside down?" - " That is a reflection in the water, Sierra."
We begin to read and Sierra quietly listened, intrigued by the storyline. Being observant she noticed the turtle in the water right away. As we moved through the book, she learned that the main character's family taught the little girl to be polite and share with others, concepts she knew about. It was on the next page that she paused and asked another question. "What does it mean to take a stand?" She carefully listened to my response and understood.
Someday I'll be the Future. But right now...
Sierra enjoyed the book and decided to reread it before taking her nap. As I peeked inside the room after I left, I saw her quietly looking through the book again.
Matt, from this little toddler you get a thumbs up!
POW! Kids Books is offering a copy of Matt's book, I Am Today, to a lucky responder. Please leave a comment below the blog post in the comment section. A winner will be chosen Sunday after dinner. If you see the promotion on social media come back to the blog post to respond. Good Luck! Sierra and I hope you enjoy the book as much as we do.
Thank you, Matt Forrest Esenwine
, for writing this book, I am Today
, with the intent of "empowering children so that with strength or hope they have the power to make changes in a grown-up world".
Thank you Patricia Pessoa for illustrating the book with images that are delightful and beautifully rendered to enhance the story content. Thank you to Shannon Krieg at POW! Kids Books for providing a raffle for this stop on the blog post.
Please Visit Matt Forrest Esenwine
Thoughts from the Blogger
Please heed the words I speak.
Children are unique,
strong thought makers,
future movers and shakers
but for now learners
and little page-turners.
Give them words to speak.
Books to read each week
so in the future, they will be
proud and strong. Do you agree?
Matt's blog post today is dedicated to his blog tour stops. Here goes mine into the social media world. I am linking up with, Michelle Kogan, the host of Poetry Friday this week. Michelle is holidazing us with her poems and illustrations.
Carol and Matt, thanks for this peek into the painfully-delayed I AM TODAY (apparently I AM DECEMBER 21st instead!). Carol, to answer your question, I find I disagree! This idea that kids should not have to wait to take charge, make change. This can only happen if we adults are truly willing to give up power and control, and this is super-hard, *even when we think we want to.* When we say "Yes, you are today," but then we write "future movers and shakersReplyDelete
but for now learners
and little page-turners," we show our true colors--"you're not ready today." I do this in my classroom too--I *think* that I want my 4yos to take the lead, and then I plan each day down to the minute and forget to leave time for them to actually TAKE THE LEAD. (District and curriculum expectations, don't you know.) Thanks for helping me reflect on the challenge this book presents to us, the adults in the room! Here's something I came across yesterday that resonates...https://education-reimagined.org/declaration-of-a-learner-centered-future/
Congrats on the new book, Matt, and thanks for sharing this conversation, Carol.ReplyDelete
Matt has written a book that allows all of us to ponder, Laura. Thank you for stopping by.Delete
Thank you all for your support - and to Carol, for inviting me to chat with you!ReplyDelete
Always my pleasure to work with you, Matt. We have over 100 hits so far.Delete
That idea of a story skeleton is really interesting. I enjoyed finding out more about the book, and I love the seven-year-old fact checker. That is wonderful. Gracias to both of y'all.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Susan!Delete
Sounds like an intriguing and timely book in many ways. I really enjoyed your exchange of questions revealing more about the book, its structure and the relationship between the art and story. Thank you both, Carol and Matt, and thanks to your son also for being a leader with this new book. Hoping it will be out for all soon!ReplyDelete
I'm hoping the third time's the charm, as far as release dates! Thanks, Michelle.ReplyDelete
I do agree, Carol! Thanks for the interview, Carol and Matt. Can't wait to read this one. I love it when illustrators just get in there and do their thang. Magical!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Laura - that's why I enjoy writing the type of books I do!Delete
Oh, I love this interview from the idea for the book and it's title to the last page origami. How wonderful that this book is now out in our world. Many congrats, Matt. I'm looking forward to those next books you hinted at too!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much, Linda! Can't wait for you and everyone to see it...and to share more news about my upcoming titles!Delete