I Get to Interview Elizabeth Warren!!! . . . There May Also Be a Book Involved in Some Way.
A Complete History of All My Encounters With Politicians Right Up To This Precise Moment:
- Met Senator Paul Wellstone at a party in Minnesota in 2001. He mistakenly seemed to think that my friends and I were donors. The food was good.
- Had tea (with a bunch of other librarians and booksellers) in NYC with then Vice-Presidential First Lady Dr. Biden when she released her picture book Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops in 2012.
- Interviewed Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2021.
Thaaaaaat’s right! I got to interview Senator Warren! From the moment I first laid eyes on her on The Daily Show back in 2009 I thought she was the bee’s knees. She has a new picture book out called Pinkie Promises out right now, and I got to ask her a couple questions about it.
Betsy Bird: Thank you so much for joining me today. This is an actual honest-to-god thrill. So, we’ve seen picture book biographies about you, and books that took the term “She Persisted” for their own, but this is the first picture book that you yourself have penned. Few politicians write picture books for kids while they still hold a position in office. Why write a picture book for young people at all? And is there a reason you did so while still serving?
Elizabeth Warren: I did about a zillion-billion pinkie promises when I ran for Senate, then for President. They were all about the things girls do—with an emphasis on jumping in. When I lost, I didn’t want that promise to fade away, so I wrote a story for all those little girls—and big girls, and brothers and uncles and dads, and even their doggies. The book openly addresses the subtle and not-subtle messages of what girls can’t do and gives a very powerful tool—the pinkie promise—to remind us all that girls can do anything.
BB: I know of your support for universal childcare and Pre-K in America as well as raising the wages for early childhood education instructors. How does your support for children extend by way of children’s literature? How does this book fit in with the other initiatives that you support?
EW: Books are one of the ways I get to talk with people and, I hope, draw them into important changes in our country. Little girls and little boys need to see women as strong, independent decision makers who deserve respect. If this moves some girls and boys—and some grownups—then I will regard Pinkie Promises as a big success.
BB: How do you think the art of Charlene Chua turned out? I was rather charmed by, amongst other things, the RBG doll and BLM messages in the backgrounds of some of the images.
EW: Charlene is wonderful. She got Polly just right—vulnerable, joyful, engaging—and finding her inner strength. The book has two levels: Obviously, Polly’s story, which the words and the pictures merge together to tell, but also a lot of activity in the background. Some is for the adult readers (you picked out two of them, but keep looking!). Some is for the child not-yet-readers (did you notice how bad boy Bailey keeps showing up in the background?). At some point, our youngster can start “ready” the Bailey story back to the adult. None of that would have been possible without Charlene’s incredible talent.
BB: Is this book a standalone or will you be writing other books for kids in the future?
EW: I’ll have to see if Polly finds her audience. If she does, then maybe there will be more adventures in the future.
BB: And finally, the hard hitting question: What were some of your own favorite children’s books when you were a kid? Are there any relatively recent ones out today that you admire?
EW: I loved the Little Golden Books of my childhood. My mother would read them over and over to me, until I would “read” them back to her. I read and re-read books to my children—Bambi Gets Lost, Whose Mouse Are You, Cars and Trucks and Things that Go—but I confess that I’ve had even more fun reading as a grandmother. One favorite is Some Dog, by Mary Casanova, partly because it’s a fun tale about two very different doggie friends, and partly because one of the dogs howls every few pages—an undertaking that both a grandchild and I would do until we collapsed in waves of laughter.
And that’s that! Many thanks to Senator Warren and to Kelsey Marrujo and the folks at Macmillan for setting this up. Pinkie Promises is on bookstore and library shelves everywhere now.
Filed under: Interviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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