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Between the Lines

Interview with Kathryn Lasky
Before I Was Your Mother
Kathryn Lasky

To Katie, it seems as if her mother has always been her mother, with her grocery lists, her purse full of bills to pay, and her boring, sensible shoes. But when her mother reveals that she once was a girl who bossed her little brother, wore firefighter boots to bed, and dreamed grand ballerina dreams, Katie realizes that she and her mother might be alike after all.

This humorous, warmhearted blend of past and present celebrates the special love mothers and daughters share.
Kathryn Lasky's many books for young people have received such honors as the Parents' Choice Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and a Newbery Honor citation. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Leuyen Pham is the illustrator of several award-winning picture books. A graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Ms. Pham lives in San Francisco, California.
Q: "Before I Was Your Mother" emphasizes a beautiful connection between daughters and their mothers. What was your inspiration for reminding both adults and little girls that childhood is a special time?
A: I'm not sure if it was just trying to remind adults exactly that childhood was special. I think that with my own children when they were very young there was always that kind of look that came into their eyes that said "Wow Mom--you were a kid, or you did that!" I found that so odd and curiously compelling. I knew that I had been a little girl once --demanding, ornery, vulnerable but I think that it is often hard for children to imagine their
parents that way. And yet my own kids just loved stories that I would tell them about when I was little and yes, powerless--for that is usually the natural state of being a child--at least compared to adults and that I was sometimes confused and often a little crazy. I guess I just think it's important that kids know that you were something else before you were their mother. You were not just born this full blown adult designed for motherhood.

Q: We know you had a dog named Suzy when you were a little girl. Did you dress her up in tutus just as the girl-turned-mother did in this book? Did you inspire your daughter to partake of and enjoy the same childhood pleasures as you did? How many of those activities are included in "Before I Was Your Mother?"
A: I certainly did dress Suzy up in a tutu. And the funniest part was that she went running off in the neighborhood and my aunt came driving down the street and thought she had gone completely bonkers when she saw my dog running about in a tutu. She was such a terrible driver it was lucky she didn't have a wreck. I did do a lot of tap dancing although I never took lessons, but my friend and I were always looking around for good loud tap dancing surfaces. garbage can lid were great. I didn't have to inspire my daughter to do anything. She was self-inspired and has a lot of imagination.

Q: You have authored several books in a mixed set of genres--historical fiction, picture books, and nonfiction. What is it that makes the writing f children's books so appealing to you? And what is your greatest pleasure in the process?
A: Oh gee, I really love every part of the process. I used to not like revising too much but now I really love it. I guess what I like most about writing children's books is that I just feel that I can explore not only the world out there but a lot of hidden parts of myself as well. I have always been a person with a very active interior life. I don't need a lot of people around. I don't need to be in groups or go out a lot. I think I am a dedicated explorer of the interior states of not just myself but others. And I do not always have to meet these people or often animals that I write about, I can just try to imagine. But I do go out a lot to libraries and I do an enormous amount of research for many of my books.

Q: How do you think the illustrations in your book change, express, or enhance the written story?
A: Well, I usually think they enhance the story. You have to leave room for the artist's interpretation. I can't dictate what the artist should do. That'sreally not the point of a picture book. Both the illustrator and the writer have something unique to bring to the experience and that is what makes a good picture book. I think leUyen Pham in Before I Was You Mother did any extraordinary job. I mean when you think of it it was rather difficult to show this time slide between the time the mother was a little girl with her own mother and the little girl in the present time. She just figured it out. It was something about her line, her use of color that just captured or really perfectly expressed the timelessness of the story.

Q: If you were going to give a pertinent piece of advice--something to always remember and embrace when writing children's books--what would it be?
A: Don't preach. Know what the spirit of the story is you are trying to tell and be faithful to it.

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Kathryn Lasky

Kathryn Lasky

Before I Was Your Mother

Before I Was Your Mother