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Storystorm 2021 Day 30: Jackie Azua Kramer Meets Children Where They Are

by Jackie Azúa Kramer

I’m inspired and emotionally moved by what’s happening in the world today. Children are living through challenging and difficult times in many ways. I have the utmost respect for young readers, and I strive not to talk down to them.

In THE BOY AND THE GORILLA, I had known this lovely family from úmy neighborhood with two adorable, little sisters. I had them over once for a very messy tea party. It was their father who was killed by a falling tree while attempting to drive his family to a safer location during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

My inspiration for the story was imagining the metaphorical idiom “the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room” come to life. I leave it to the reader to decide—the gorilla might represent the pain and feelings that the Boy is experiencing from the death of his mother. I envisioned a conversation between the Boy and the Gorilla, a series of questions and answers on death and grief.

I come from, like all of us, a diverse tapestry of experiences in my faith, race, culture, society and politics, all of which influences and inspires my work. As a Latina, it’s not lost on me that twenty-five percent of kids in schools today are Latinx.

In I WISH YOU KNEW (May 2021) a little girl’s father is deported. She wishes people knew how much she misses him and how it affects her at home and school. But with the help of her teacher, they start a sharing circle where her and her classmates share their challenges and by listening with compassion and kindness, together they all help each other.

We’ve all heard many times that inspiration is everywhere; one just has to be open to it. More than that, seek it. Be aware, available and surround yourself by it. Trust the muse, work with it and fearlessly, fall in love with it.

I WISH YOU KNEW was influenced not only by my culture but also inspired by a TED talk. An educator shared, how after feeling she was making little progress with her students, she asked them to complete the statement on a piece of paper, I wish my teacher knew…

The students’ responses changed everything for her.

She discovered she could not teach to kids who feel sad, hungry, scared and angry. The need to create a community of meaningful classroom relationships based on compassion, respect and kindness would have to established before the students were open to learn.

More and more, I feel responsible as a creator to turn these real-life observations into stories that tell a fuller and truer history yet leave room for the reader to ask questions and interact with the story. Never forgetting that a child’s need to be understood, accepted and loved is a universal feeling. We need to meet children where they are with hope and love.

Jackie is an award-winning and internationally translated children’s author. She earned her MA in Counseling in Education, Queens College. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab. Her picture books include, THE GREEN UMBRELLA, “2017 Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year,” IF YOU WANT TO FALL ASLEEP and her newest THE BOY AND THE GORILLA which received three starred reviews described by Kirkus as “Luminous.”

Her upcoming picture books releasing between 2021-2022 are: I WISH YOU KNEW/OJALÁ SUPIERAS; DOROTHY AND HERBERT: An Ordinary Couple and their Extraordinary Collection of Art; WE ARE ONE; MANOLO AND THE UNICORN and MILES WON’T SMILE.

She lives with her family in Long Island, NY. When not writing, you’ll find her reading, watching old movies and traveling to her family’s roots in Ecuador, Puerto Rico and Spain. Visit her online at Jackieazuakramer.com, on Twitter @jackiekramer422 and Instagram @jackie_azua_kramer.

Jackie is giving away one copy of THE BOY AND THE GORILLA and one copy of I WISH YOU KNEW.

Two separate winners will be randomly selected.

Leave one comment below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Source: Writing Competition

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