Summer birthday kids (like me) don’t get to celebrate during the school year with their peers. But today’s picture book will let anyone celebrate their half birthday!
Erin Dealey has visited my blog before. She is a children’s author of over a dozen books. She grew up in Oakland, California, where she often did her homework on the roof of her garage. You can learn more about her at her website or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
THE HALF BIRTHDAY BOOK is a fun celebration of half birthdays with the half birthday buddies. It’s full of half jokes and half songs, as well as half math facts. This is a book that will appeal to teachers everywhere for multiple reasons.
Welcome back Erin!
Me: I haven’t seen a picture book about half birthdays before. What gave you the idea for this story?
Erin: I hadn’t seen a book about half birthdays either. However, I have to give credit for the idea of The Half Birthday Book (Genius Cat Books/ Illus. Germán Blanco, releasing April 25th) to the Vice Principal at the school where my daughter teaches 2nd grade. He had been searching for a book about half birthdays and couldn’t find one. In all honesty, my usual answer to “You should write a book about…” is: “I think YOU should write that one.” This time something made me check for comp titles, and he was right. The most recent books I could find on half birthdays were the Berenstain Bears, and a Max & Ruby (Rosemary Wells) leveled reader!
Me: I love that you incorporated the math concept of halves with this. That’s a great tie-in for educators! Was that concept always part of the story? Or did that come about with revision? How many revisions did your story go through to get to this state?
Erin: I’m so glad. The teacher in me loves this extra level of the book too. As I recall, the first illustrations from Germán had illustrations of the ½ objects mentioned in the story—like when Big Buddy bakes half of a birthday cake– but then I realized this could be a fun activity, as well as teach half vs. whole and beginning fractions. In the next revision(s), we made sure there were ½ objects on every spread, and added the search-and-find at the back. Germán was so wonderful (and patient) to incorporate all these ideas into the final draft. I lost count of how many revisions we went through!
Me: What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Erin: The biggest surprise was learning how many people celebrate ½ birthdays—and not just in the U.S. It’s particularly popular in Japan as well.
Me: I didn’t know that either. I also wasn’t familiar with Genius Cat books. They sound like a wonderful company interested in working with educators. Can you talk about the marketing of your book? How did you come to market your book through them?
Erin: I have been intrigued and impressed with the fun titles published by Genius Cat Books. The founder & CEO is also an author, and attorney, whose experience includes working in toy development. We have worked on a few other projects together, and I felt like The Half Birthday Book was a good fit, so I reached out to her through my agent. I was thrilled that they thought so too!
I also love that Genius Cat Books has a non-profit “arm,” Authors4Education, dedicated to getting books in the hands of kids who need them, to increase literacy and educational equity.
Me: I love that as well. The illustrations by German Blanco are so fun! Were there any illustration surprises for you? Were there any favorite illustrations?
Erin: I am so thankful for the fun and magic that Germán Blanco brought to our book! My favorite surprises are the ½ objects hidden like Easter eggs for the readers to discover. And if you look closely, you’ll find a Half Birthday Buddy hiding on each spread as well.
I love the illustration of the Half Birthday Buddies sneaking around at “exactly half past one.” Germán used such great colors. But I think my favorite illustration is the one with the kids dressed “half-right and half-wrong.” Believe it or not. we went through several revisions of the outfit of the older dude with the Hawaiian shirt. He makes me laugh because I’m pretty sure I taught with a few guys who look like him over the years.
Me: I have a summer birthday, which was always a bummer as a younger school kid. I didn’t get to celebrate my birthday during the school year at all. Do you anticipate this book being used for kiddos like me? Why was it important to you to celebrate half birthdays with young readers?
Erin: The Half Birthday Book is for everyone –any time of the year but especially kids with summer birthdays or birthdays on holidays, who don’t get to celebrate at school. We have a June birthday in the family and she only had one year (Kindergarten) when her birthday was actually during school. Then the school changed their calendar, and by the time it was her birthday, school was out and many families were off on vacations of their own. There are also those who share their birthdays with the BIG holidays… I wanted this book to be a magical celebration, and yet something that any child could do, or teachers could use in the classroom. I hope you’ll use it too, Jena!
Me: I absolutely plan to! You have published several picture books now. Do you have a writing process? How frequently do you sit down to write?
Erin: You know, at this point I do write something every day. I may not be working on a manuscript. I might be answering questions for a wonderful interview like this one. Or reading mentor texts. Or researching.
I hesitate to say I have a process or a schedule because when I was starting out, I was seriously intimidated by those who were able to work, raise a family, and carve time out for writing—to the point that I never let myself sit down and write unless I had a big chunk of time—which felt like an impossible goal. The game changer was when I started telling myself to write for 5 minutes a day. Some days, all I could manage was those five minutes. Other, days, five minutes turns into hours of glorious writing time. The other thing that changed my mindset was when I realized that, as a teacher and parent, we always tell kids to follow their dreams. So we owe it to them—and ourselves—to show them that we are following our dreams too. That helped me make writing a priority in an already crazy-busy life. I challenge others to do the same: BE that role model.
Yes! I love that. That is wonderful advice Erin. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog today.
Dear readers, if you have a hard-to-celebrate birthday, consider celebrating your half birthday with this book. It’s not released into the world until April 25th, but when it is, I plan to grab a copy of it myself.