interview · picture book

A Conversation with Amy June Bates & Juniper Bates + a Book Giveaway


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Enter to win a copy of this book by leaving a comment — about the interview or how you’d use this book in your classroom — at the bottom of this post.

Anyone who knows me in real life knows how concerned I’ve been about the state of affairs in our country. I’ve been making phone calls, signing petitions, and showing up to my congressman’s office with regularity. There’s only so much that one citizen can do so I’m often left feeling like I wish I could do more.

If you have read some of my recent mentor text blog posts, then you may have noticed there are some similarities with the books I’ve chosen. In August, I shared an interview with Holly M. McGhee who wrote Come With Me. The interview was scheduled for September, but after the white nationalist rally happened in Charlottesville, I moved the post up a few weeks since I thought the book’s message would be one that children would need to hear sooner rather than later. Last month, I shared five comforting picture books that are needed in these uncertain times. Today, I’m sharing another book, The Big Umbrella, co-written by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates. This book serves as a reminder that everyone has a place in this world and that we should be kind to others.

Amy June Bates is the illustrator of one of our family’s favorite books, Beach House, which is written by Deanna Caswell. My daughter and I met Amy when she was signing books at an event at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore last year. I knew she had a daughter, who the young girl in Beach House is modeled after, but I didn’t realize – at the time – they were collaborating on a book together. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when I learned Amy and her daughter, Juniper, published a book together!

If the message of The Big Umbrella resonates with you, then I hope you’ll pick up a copy to share with your students. Here’s an interview with Amy and Juniper you can share with your class to extend the read-aloud of The Big Umbrella.

32162372_hr (2)Stacey: What was the seed idea for this book? 

Juniper: It is about accepting people, but The Umbrella started out as just an umbrella in our house that I liked and made into a character and called it the Big Friendly Umbrella.

Amy: At Juniper’s school, during the 2016 presidential election, there had been a lot of fighting and bullying. This was really worrying Juniper. We walked to school every day and she would tell me about these things that were happening, and what she could do, so the idea of being inclusive was in the air.

Stacey: How did you nurture this idea from a seed into a picture book?

Juniper: The day I got the idea, it was raining and we could only find one umbrella, and my mom was like “Oh no, there is only one umbrella,” and I said, “Don’t worry there is always room under the Big Umbrella.” Then we started talking about the character and later I drew a bunch of pictures and then my mom was like, “We are definitely making this a book whether you like it or not.”

Amy: After that, we did a lot of the thinking about this book on our morning walk, and it cracked us up thinking about the creatures- like Big Foot.  At first, we thought maybe the umbrella would break and people would have to fix it, but if we both did a happy dance when we realized that of course the umbrella just kept getting bigger.

Stacey: What message do you hope readers will take away from The Big Umbrella?

Amy: I hope it will help people realize that the more love you give the more you get.

Juniper: I want kids to know that no matter who you are the umbrella will always accept you.

Stacey: How do you hope teachers will use The Big Umbrella in their classrooms?

Amy: I hope that kids will have fun imagining what could be under the umbrella.  I wonder if kids will think about how it feels to be on the inside of the umbrella or the outside. I would love it if kids would draw themselves and someone else on the last page. I wish I could have an image of the last page that included all the different faces of everyone. Because we all belong there.

Kids could think of there own metaphors to use like “the Big School.”

I hope it will be artistically inspiring. I hope it will inspire kindness.

Juniper: I want kids to enjoy it and think about what will come under the umbrella next. I think it would be cool if kids made up their own characters to go under the umbrella.

Stacey: What was easy about collaborating as a mother and daughter team? 

Amy: The easy part was that it was fun and we were excited about the idea, so we wanted to talk about it and make it happen.  Also, the concept of the book was happening in real time in our world and community. The Big Umbrella is an idea that we want to share with people.

Juniper: The experience gap was hard because my mom knew what to expect from publishers, but I didn’t. But I figured out how the process works.

Stacey: As a result of working together on this book, what advice can you give to young people who are working on a collaborative writing project with one partner or with a small group?

Juniper: I think if you want to write a book together you both/all have to be ready to really get into it.

Amy: If you are working together, recognize that everyone is a part of the process and has a valid and important contribution (Not just the adults). Part of what was so fun about collaborating was talking about it and imagining the world together. I think collaborating gets you out of your own head. Juniper has ideas that I don’t and I love her perspective.

Stacey: How did you celebrate the publication of The Big Umbrella?

Amy: WE ate Ramen!!!! (At our favorite Ramen shop, Issei Noodles.)

Juniper: We ATE RAMEN!!! No regrets.

Stacey: What’s next for the two of you?

Amy: I am working on a new book. (Juniper, I am sure, will looking over my shoulder)

Juniper: I am working on a graphic novel (Mom is on the edge of her seat waiting for the next chapter).

Amy and Juniper: We would love to do another book together. Maybe next time Juniper will do the illustrations!

Here’s a peek inside of The Big Umbrella:

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Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.
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Click on the image to enlarge.


  • This giveaway is for a copy of The Big Umbrella. Many thanks to Paula Wiseman Books for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of The Big Umbrella, please leave a comment about this post by Monday, February 26th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Wednesday, February 28th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at Simon & Schuster will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
    • You must have a U.S.A. mailing address the book can be shipped to in order to receive this book if your commenter number is selected.
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – UMBRELLA. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Comments are now closed. Thank you to everyone who left a comment on this post. jcareyreads‘s commenter number was selected using a random number generator so she’ll win a copy of The Big Umbrella.

59 thoughts on “A Conversation with Amy June Bates & Juniper Bates + a Book Giveaway

  1. Several years ago I read “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth,” in which the author argues that some kids are part of “the cafeteria fringe.” They are on the outside of the unbrella, relegated to the margins of the social order at school. I’ve been thinking a lot about how high school teachers can do more to make kids feel a part of the group. This is why I use picture books in AP Lit to teach theme at the beginning of the year, why I teach a children’s lit interpretation unit in my speech classes, and why I teach students how to integrate children’s stories into their speech introductions. These are just a few of the ways I’d use “The Nig Umbrella” in a high school English and speech class.


  2. I love the dual interview with both authors! There is clearly a mutual respect between the mother and daughter. Also, it shows how these small moments with kids can turn into a beautiful story that inspires and uplifts others!


  3. I love the story on how this book came to be! To think that a book so wonderful that teaches so much and it all started from “There is always room under the Big Umbrella.” Even better that it was done by a mother and daughter! Love it!


  4. The power of books/read alouds!!! Can’t think of a better way to teach acceptance, inclusion, and the power of kindness! Thank you for sharing!


  5. Thank you for making me aware of this book. You always pick great books. It sounds wonderful and I love the idea that we could expand on the concept with “The Big School”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This year it seems like my classroom has a revolving door; one student leaves and another one joins the class. This book will be a great one to read to the class as we work quickly to make each new child feel a part of the community we have created and are continuously creating. It sounds like it will be a beautiful addition to any class library.


  7. Stacey, your book recommendations have been so powerful in these uncertain times. I’ve found comfort in the last few days from the image of all of the “good people” going up the mountain in Most People. I keep reminding myself that most people are good. Thank you for sharing these powerful books with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a beautiful message! Children can’t learn too early that there should always be room under the umbrella for everyone. Can’t wait to share with students how a seed about a real umbrella grew into this lovely story.


  9. This sounds like a wonderful book. I teach 5th grade and we have 1st-grade learning buddies. Our focus this year has been kindness. This book will be great to use with our students.


  10. I love to wake up and read your blog. You are an inspiration. However, my pocketbook is feeling the effects of the many extraordinary mentor texts you have revealed.


  11. What A great message for our young readers in this day and age. So important for them to learn lessons from what they read and make connections with their everyday lives.


  12. Such a fun post! Since I’m no longer teaching, I actually pass on some of the TWT posts, but a post about a book I haven’t met yet is never deleted. This is a book that I’ll be sharing with the grand boys and other young people in my world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can think of many ways to incorporate this book. There are, of course, some text to text connections of The Hat, and The MIitten, which we have read this year. The contrast would be that the animals allowed the others in the mitten “out of fear” of harm. In math we could use under the big umbrella SHAPES to sort the shapes by color, size, shape, or 2D/3D, etc. They are all shapes; they are different and yet the same…just like people. The students could design a shape umbrella with some from each set. I have not read the book, but I imagine we could talk about how the umbrella grew, just as our hearts and abilities grow as we work & share with others. We can find a way to share our “provisions”, or abilities, talents, etc. to benefit everyone. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with reading the book just as a cozy rainy day read aloud. 🙂


  13. I love the idea of offering kindness that this book offers. Thank you for sharing. I am thinking about ways that I can use this message for my Middle School ELLs.


  14. This book will make a difference in so many lives! I can’t wait to add this amazing book to my collection, but I am especially excited to share this message with others.


  15. This is a fabulous post. The central message of how the book came to be, but I especially like how we can see how an author develops a story / book. This is a great teaching platform for students who are becoming writers (even though I know this was not intent of post). The dialogue between Stacey, Amy, and Juniper is fabulous for students. I plan to share this TWT post with the teachers whom I work. The Big Umbrella is a book I would love to share as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. This book is just the vehicle we teachers need to jumpstart “safe” conversations in our preschool and kindergarten classrooms, to help our young students begin to make their own paths through these confusing and troubling times.
    Thank you, Stacey, for introducing us to this important book.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This looks like a precious book everyone should have. Recently I found myself in the rain without an umbrella and tucked myself under one with two strangers. Before the rain stopped, we were friends. That’s what umbrellas are for, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thanks for sharing this post! When I saw the title of the book, I knew immediately how I would use this book in Kindergarten. Our students need to learn from a young age on what it means to include everyone and it’s so important for Kindergarten or preschool teachers to help set this foundation for students even at a young age.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What a great post, Stacey! Thanks so much for introducing this book and for highlighting the collaboration between the authors. It was such fun to read their responses to your questions and to learn how they developed their book idea together. On another note, thank you also for all that you are doing to make a difference during these disturbing, crazy times.


  20. I love this post! The book is such a lovely story, but perhaps even more the conversation between mother and daughter about this special project – inspiring!


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