Today we’re delighted to welcome Nikki Grimes to the WNDB blog to discuss BEDTIME FOR SWEET CREATURES, out January 14, 2020.
It’s bedtime. But Mommy’s little girl is not sleepy.
She growls like a bear, she questions like an owl, she tosses her mane like a lion. How can Mommy tuck her in now?
Mommy needs to wrangle her sweet creature in this endearing and imagination-fueled journey to bedtime, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon.
How did your experience growing up in New York influence this book or any of your other books?
New York had no particular influence on Bedtime for Sweet Creatures, but with most of my books, the stories are set against New York’s cityscape and feature characters molded from that environment.
What inspired you to write Bedtime? How did you draw inspiration from a different or similar place to your other work?
I’ve been looking to create more stories featuring characters of color in everyday, universal situations, stories that are both authentic and joyful. Not everything about our lives is heavy and dark. We know moments of joy, too, and I’m chasing after those moments, beginning with early childhood. The only other book I’ve written that captures joy from beginning to end is It’s Raining Laughter, with photographs by Myles Pinkney. In that book, it was his photographs, bursting with joy, that inspired the direction of that book.
What was the process like working with the illustrator, Elizabeth Zunon? How did you two work on bringing your story to life through pictures?
Author and illustrator rarely have much contact through the creative process. I did, however, make comments during sketches which led to changes in the art. Liz was very open to make whatever changes would enhance the story. Apart from that, though, she was on her own, and I love what she came up with! Her animal designs, especially, were magical!
What do you hope young readers take away from Bedtime? What do you hope their parents and caregivers (or anyone who’s reading the story with them) takes from it?
Bedtime is a book about a universal experience, in which a mother, like so many mothers, uses her own special magic to corral her little one to bed. I hope children and the adults who care for them, will see themselves in this story, and be reminded of the joy that is to be found in the everyday.
The language in your books is so evocative. How does your work as a poet inform the way you write children’s books? Why do you believe it’s important for children to be exposed to poetry from an early age?
I am, first and foremost, a poet. Metaphors and similes are always going to be woven into my work. That’s a given. Aside from the pure love of storytelling, those of us who write books for young readers look to engage them from an early age. We’re trying to create life-long readers, and filling their stories with gorgeous, evocative language and rhythms is one sure way to accomplish that goal.
Bedtime is a stressful time for most kids. Why did you decide to focus on such an imaginative, whimsical take on the typical routine?
Hopefully, this story will make bedtime a little less scary or stressful for readers. It might also inspire parents to find creative ways to handle bedtime for their own little ones.
Tell us about a few picture books, upcoming or published, that you loved.
Three picture books that I immediately fell in love with this year are Saturday by Oge Mara, Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley Newton and A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin. Each book was magical and joyful in its own way, and each tapped into the universal.
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New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2017 Children’s Literature Legacy Award, the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include the much-honored books Garvey’s Choice, ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark Sons, Words with Wings, and The Road to Paris. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.