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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  • 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.