There are still many places all over the world that I would love to see someday. Brazil is one of them. Thank goodness for books that let us travel vicariously!
Joana Pastro visited my blog last year for her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz. Her second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa released just this week! Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her husband, her three extremely creative children and a rambunctious Morkie. You can find her on Twitter, on Instagram, or learn more about her at her website.
BISA’S CARNAVAL is the story of Clara and her great-grandma Bisa who are preparing for Carnaval. Clara is young and excited for the costumes and parades. Bisa helps to make her costume and remembers fun from the past, but can’t participate this year as it’s harder for her to keep up with fast-moving parades. This is a sweet story about the festival of Carnaval, traditions, and family connections. It’s a story with an amazing heart.
Welcome back Joana!
Me: Surprisingly, there aren’t many picture books about Carnaval out there. What gave you the idea to write about it?
Joana: True. I wanted to share my heritage with American readers. I knew there was a market for it, because there really aren’t many books featuring Brazilian experiences in general. I chose to write about Carnaval because it’s an extremely rich cultural celebration. There are so many different Carnaval traditions within Brazil that I could write ten different books with that topic and still have material for more!
Me: Why tell the story from both a child’s perspective and a great-grandparent’s perspective?
Joana: BISA’S CARNAVAL is the story of Clara and her great-grandmother, Bisa, preparing for Carnaval, but they’re not just making a costume. Bisa is sharing her memories and they’re creating new ones along the way. Nowadays, we’re all excessively busy with work, school, sports, and electronic devices, that we risk taking our older relatives for granted. We need to be reminded of how wonderful it is having them in our lives. Hopefully this will be a takeaway for readers, and they’ll be inspired to spend quality time with their loved ones and create new memories.
Me: There are so many wonderful elements in the text of your story. There are some lines in your text that come close to rhyming but then veer away. There are some really fun sounds that start to create a repetitive rhythm, but then don’t show up again. Did you set out to make this a rhyming story or a rhythmic story? How many revisions did it take to get to the final version readers see?
Joana: I believe that I have a good ear for rhyme, but I don’t know enough about meter to write in rhyme, so I never considered it. And although I didn’t use repetition, I think the story has a certain rhythm. When I read it aloud, I think it has a crescendo quality to it, that builds up to the climax and then it explodes with “BOOM!” circling right back to the beginning with “Louder, Faster, Faster, Louder!”
From first draft to publication, I did about twenty revisions, which really doesn’t feel like a lot. For my debut, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, I did about seventy.
Me: Wow! What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Joana: I started this book by researching everything that I could find about carnaval around the world and in Brazil, and by reading mentor texts covering celebrations and other cultures in general. Once I felt research was done, I allowed this information to simmer for a few months. The biggest surprise came one morning when suddenly it all clicked. I woke up, I read the research, and when I sat down to write, the story poured out of me.
Me: I understand that you grew up in Brazil. Do you have other stories about growing up there that you hope to turn into picture books?
Joana: Of course! I have a few manuscripts in different draft stages that fit that description and, one that I can’t talk about yet, but I believe will be coming out in 2023.
Me: Ohh! That sounds exciting. I can’t wait to hear more. The illustrations by Carolina Coroa are wonderful. I especially loved the patterns and the color palette. Were there any illustration surprises for you?
Joana: So true. I can’t think of anyone better to illustrate this book. She’s so talented and did such an amazing job! She surprised me from the very beginning with her elaborate color palette and character studies. At that moment, I knew that she was perfect for this project, and completely invested in it. And she was fast! I truly hope we’ll get to work together again.
Me: What was your favorite Carnaval costume from when you were a child in Brazil?
Joana: I always say that I have a hard time picking favorites. I gravitated toward fairy tale characters, like fairies and princesses, and strong historical women, like Nefertari and Amelia Earhart. See, we were always on a budget, so a good deal of creativity, recycling, and my mom’s sewing skills went into creating these. It was a lot of fun!
That sounds like fun. Thank you for stopping by my blog again Joana.
Dear readers, if you haven’t yet had a chance to track down this book, I highly recommend it. It’s a book of celebration, but also a book about the heart connections we have with our families that make those celebrations so meaningful. You won’t want to miss this one.