Ernesto Cisneros’ MG Debut Efrén Divided is a Must-Read

I’m so thrilled to interview author, Ernesto Cisneros, about his debut must-read, Efrén Divided. (Harper Collins) This own-voices novel will be released in six months (March 31, 2020) and the reviews are already buzzing:

Let’s see what Ernesto has to say…

Q1 Which of these quotes from Efrén Divided best describes your writing process?

  1. “I always read [write] the ending first.”
  2. “If Ama were here, she’d roll up her sleeves and wave a wooden spoon and make a milagro happen. The pressure was on.”
  3. Reading [writing] books “was like visiting an old friend.

Ernesto Cisneros:  #2 for sure. Whenever I manage to complete a scene, it always feels like a miracle. It is very difficult to find time to write so I treat every page as a true blessing.  That said, I also feel a sense of magic whenever a character grows so real and lifelike that they begin to decide how they handle the challenges you create and place before them. I then simply sit back and enjoy watching the story unfold just like any reader would.

Speaking of miracles…

Q2 Without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us if, during the writing process, did you always know how the book would end?

Ernesto Cisneros: Yes and No.  I knew exactly how the novel needed to end, but I was clueless on how to wrap up all the loose subplots. Making it all come to fruition in an organic, believable way was a milagro (miracle) in itself.

Q3: Which character is most like you?

  1. Efrén
  2. Jennifer Huerta
  3. Mr. Garrett (or one of the other teachers)
  4. Amá or Apá
  5. David

Ernesto Cisneros: I’d have to say that Efrén is what I used to be like at his age. Something that never made it to the book, but I wish could have, were my experiences as a paperboy. I remember coming home with my first monthly paycheck (from 2 routes) and finding my mom in the kitchen trying to figure out how to pay the bills and how reluctant she was to accept my money.

Ernesto has also said, “He’s based on my son.”

Ernesto cont’d: However, at this point in my life, I identify most with Apá in the sense that there is nothing he won’t do for his family. Throughout the story, we see him sacrifice without ever thinking of himself—he is the father I strive to be.

Windows and mirrors

Q4: How much does Efrén’s experience mirror your own?

Ernesto Cisneros: I’ve grown up in the world depicted in the book. I have family on both sides of the border and like Efrén, I struggle to accept why I—and not other family members—was blessed with the fortune (and obvious benefits) of being born a US citizen. Everything in the book comes from either my experiences or those very close to me.

Q5: Tell us more about the qualities that make Amá a soperwoman.

Ernesto Cisneros: The character of Amá is based completely from my real-life mother. She has always been soper (super). Whether it was finding the means to provide food, clothes or a way to pay the mortgage, she always made milagros happen—even when things were especially tough.

Q6: How did it feel to show this book to your parents?

Ernesto Cisneros: To be perfectly honest, I feel like Efrén Divided belongs more to them than to myself. They are the ones who left Mexico as teenagers to make a better life for themselves and their children. Any success I have is because of their continuous sacrifices.

When each of my siblings graduated from college, we each handed our diplomas to our parents because they were responsible for our success.

Thank you Smurf cartoons!

Q7: You incorporate Spanish in the story, in a way that allows a wide range of readers to understand the content. For example, first Apá tells Efrén he’s proud of him (in Spanish) and Efrén responds with “I’m proud of you too.” This technique lets a non-Spanish speaker understand the meaning of Dad’s words. Can you tell us how this technique evolved?

Ernesto Cisneros: Using a second language is tricky. As an author, I never want to add a translation because that’s not how people naturally speak. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I honed this skill by watching old Smurf cartoons. Yes, Smurf cartoons. If you are familiar with them, you know that they routinely use the word smurf in place of everyday nouns, verbs, adjectives or adverbs—and yet, we completely understand their meaning simply by the context.  For example, “We are going smurfing at the pool” means that they are going swimming.

Q8: Is there a question that others haven’t asked you yet?

Ernesto Cisneros: No one has asked me which part of the writing process I struggle with the most. The answer is: ALL OF IT.

Ernesto Cisneros: I don’t consider myself a very good writer. In fact, I feel like I’m not very good compared to most published authors. However, I am willing to rewrite as many times as it is necessary to get my stories to match the quality of my peers. When I was young and still played basketball, I was always the skinniest, least skilled and athletic player on the court. But I never hesitated to dive for loose balls and fight people for the ball. I used to will the ball into the hoop.  Writing is no different.

“Writing is no different.”

Yes, I’m sneaking my new book in here…

Q9: Last but not least, since my picture book, SNOW GLOBE WISHES, has just released (Sleeping Bear Press/ Illus. Claire Shorrock): If you had a magic snow globe that could grant one wish, what would you wish for?

First of all, snow globes are amazing. They let us step out of the world and see ourselves from an entirely new perspective. If there was one that could grant me a wish, I think I’d wish that people all over the world would forget about themselves and start thinking about putting others first. The world would be completely different (for the better).

Thank you so much, Ernesto–for not only answering my questions but for writing this important book!

Ernesto is a middle school teacher and SCBWI co-ARA in southern California. If you’d like to learn more about him, go to and follow @Author_ Cisneros on Twitter.

Blog takeover: Happy Book Birthday to SNOW GLOBE WISHES by Erin Dealey

It’s a Blog Takeover by Victoria Krol, a teen writer who has questions for me—-because she’s awesome, and it’s SNOW GLOBE WISHES‘ Book Birthday!

By the way, I’m not the first author Victoria has interviewed.
Photo R was taken during her interview with Richard Peck!

Needless to say, I am honored to answer her questions.

Q1: Since the Book Birthday of Snow Globe Wishes was Sept. 15th, tell us what you were thinking about Snow Globe Wishes a year ago on September 15th.

Erin Dealey: Hmmm…let’s see…A year ago, I knew that illustrator Claire Shorrock was somewhere in the UK, working on the art for SNOW GLOBE WISHES, and I couldn’t wait to see it. I got my first tiny glimpses from her Instagram post in March–six months later!

I am beyond thrilled with the magic Claire added to our book.

It was so worth the wait!

Q2: Where and when did the idea for Snow Globe Wishes come to mind?

Erin Dealey: The story for SNOW GLOBE WISHES came to me two years ago. I was feeling more and more like the world needed a hug. About that time, my Sleeping Bear editor, Sarah Rockett, and I were talking about lovely, heartwarming books such as Winter’s Gift by Jane Monroe Donovan (Sleeping Bear/ 2004) with themes of comfort, companionship, and hope.

It made me think of the magical feeling that hits you on a morning after a huge snowstorm; a snow globe morning when it seems like anything is possible. And I got a What If idea about a child’s wish for kindness and inclusion on such a morning.

Click above image by Claire Shorrock, to view the book trailer.

This story comes straight from my heart.

Q3: They say most books are a tiny bit autobiographical. Which of the characters in Snow Globe Wishes is most like you?

Erin Dealey: The narrator is me through and through. This story comes straight from my heart. Hopefully it will touch the hearts of those who read it as well.

KIRKUS Starred review:

“The feelings of community and togetherness are palpable.” 

Writer’s Block

Q4: How do you handle writers block, which I personally find to be more prevalent when writing prose?

Erin Dealey: OK, this is a long one, so buckle up–haha. First of all, I don’t experience “writer’s block,” but I know this feeling is very real to many. I taught English and creative writing to high school and mg students (for decades!) and we dug into this topic every year.

Here are six possible causes of “writer’s block” –and possible solutions:

Erin Dealey helping young writers at an Author Visit in Brazil .

  • You get writer’s block when: You are working on a topic, usually one you’ve been assigned, and it’s not one you care about very much, if at all. (Except for the grade.)

How to handle this: Author Bruce Coville tells writers to “throw up on the page.” Get the whole story out first–good or not-so-good. I’ll add this: if it’s an essay, write down everything you know about the topic (and everything you don’t know) and then fill in the gaps. Move the ideas around. Piece them together like a quilt until they fit the required format.


  • You get writer’s block when: You are worried about the grade, even before you start writing. (No pressure there!)

How to handle this: Never worry about the end/result at the beginning. This is easier said than done, I know, but the fun should be in the WRITING. Create a world for characters to live in and then see what they do. Even if you are the only one who loves your story, give yourself permission to write it. Trust me. Not all of my rough drafts have become books…

Click image to view Max the Writer Dog’s video of Ruff (Rough) Drafts.

  • You get writer’s block when: You think what you write should be PERFECT the minute you write it down.

How to handle this: Rough drafts are NEVER perfect. “Sloppy copies” are supposed to be sloppy. Get the story out first.

  • You get writer’s block when: You’re afraid someone will LAUGH at you and/or your ideas.

How to handle this: If J.K.Rowling had worried that someone might laugh at her idea of kids riding on broomsticks and playing a made-up game called Quidditch, would she have written Harry Potter?

Who’s laughing now?

You get writer’s block when: Your life is so crazy-busy, with so many activities and obligations, that by the time you get back to the story you were passionate about, it has lost its appeal, its magic. Stories do that. Maybe your interests have changed. Maybe it’s not what you want to write anymore. Perhaps working on it isn’t fun like it once was.

How to handle this: Let the old story go. (Read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, BIG MAGIC) Write the story that’s in your head right now. The one that won’t let go. “Marie Kondo” the ones that don’t give you joy.

If it still gives you joy (and occasional writer’s block), “listen” to the characters. Let them “tell” you what might happen next. The answer might surprise you, and/or take you in a different direction than you had planned. Sometimes sticking to the plan gets in the way of the story.  Play with it.

  • You get writer’s block when: You believe, deep down, that other people write way better than you do. So why try?

How to handle this: Forget about those other people. You do YOU. If there are stories in your head, WRITE them down. I guarantee you they won’t be perfect. Play with them anyway. Write because it’s fun.

True story: In my 10th grade English class, we had to write an alliterative poem and after I shared mine, EVERYONE LAUGHED. I was mortified. Clearly that meant I couldn’t write. (Because 10th graders are expert judges of GOOD WRITING, right?) Senior year, I took Theater instead of the Creative Writing elective. I started university as a math major, because my math teacher made learning fun. Four years later, I graduated with a major in English and minor in Art. Now I write children’s books. If you were meant to do this, I’m betting the WRITE path will find you no matter what.

Follow your path.

Q5: Lastly, If you had a magic snow globe that could grant one wish, what would your Snow Globe Wish be?

Erin Dealey: My snow globe wish became part of the jacket copy of our book: I wish that SNOW GLOBE WISHES, might inspire many acts of kindness in our world. And a few much needed hugs.

About the Interviewer:

Victoria A. Krol is 14-year old Freshman in high school with an absolute passion for reading, writing, the arts, and horseback riding. She is working on a novel with her co-partner Charley B. Ramos, which is in the midst of its second revision and currently has a plot that resembles lasagna. She met Erin dressed in full 70’s gear at the SCBWI LA Summer Conference this year, where their instant friendship resulted in her as a guest blogger.

(I told you she was awesome.)

Thank you so much for helping me celebrate SNOW GLOBE WISHES’ Book Birthday, Victoria. Look for more of Victoria’s “takeover” interviews and reviews to come!

Happy Book Birthday to MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY–by Meeg Pincus

Interior from MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY–The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank’s Diary, by Meeg Pincus, with illustrations by Jordi Solano (Sleeping Bear).

Happy Book Birthday to Meeg Pincus’ non-fiction picture book, MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY. 75 years ago, Miep Gies rescued Anne Frank’s diary, after security police raided the Frank’s secret annex on August 4th, 1944. I am so thrilled to celebrate the August Book Birthday of this wonderful KIRKUS & SLJ starred picture book that tells Gies’s story.

First things first: Click HERE to watch the cool trailer.

And now…Welcome, Meeg!

Meeg Pincus: Thank you so much for inviting me!

I see that you use your full name, Megan Pincus Kajitani, when you write for adults, and your nickname,  Meeg Pincus, when you write children’s books. Since I recently interviewed Huda Essa (COMMON THREADS/ Sleeping Bear Press 2019) , who also wrote TEACH ME YOUR NAME, I’m compelled to ask: Would you please teach us your name?  

Meeg Pincus: Of course! (Huda’s work is great, by the way!) My name is pronounced “Mee-G” (like “league”) “Pink-us.”

Meeg is short for Megan (pronounced “Mee-guhn” like “vegan”). I got so tired of correcting people who called me May-gan or Meh-gan all my life, that I decided to use my longtime nickname, Meeg, when I started writing for children. In addition, I decided to use my (Jewish) maiden name, Pincus, alone, rather than my added (Japanese) married name, Kajitani (pronounced “Kah-jih-tah-nee”). I love my husband and his name and cultural background, but Pincus Kajitani makes a very long last name, especially for kids—and Kajitani is mispronounced even more than Megan!

My whole family gave the thumbs-up to Meeg Pincus, children’s author—and it feels quite liberating and just right! 

Speaking of names, MIEP rhymes with “keep” and GIES sounds like “geese”– The “G” sound in Dutch is harder than in English, so it sounds more like a K, but not as hard as a “K” sound in English. 


Q1. How wonderful that you actually got to meet Miep Gies, and interview her. (WOW!) That being said, what was the most surprising fact or discovery you’ve made while writing MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY?

Meeg Pincus: I didn’t know until researching for my own book (20 years after meeting Miep) how she actually got to Amsterdam. As a child in Vienna during World War I, she was 11 years old, starving to death with such vitamin deficiencies her teeth were crumbling. In desperation, Miep’s parents sent her on a train to Amsterdam, along with many other starving children, where they were told that kind Dutch families (strangers) would nurse the children back to health and keep them safe through the war.

Oh my goodness. So some equally kind and wonderful Dutch people had helped Miep, long before she helped Anne and her family?

Meeg Pincus: Yes, and the war lasted so long that Miep came of age with her kind Dutch family. By the time she could go safely back to Vienna, it wasn’t home to her anymore. So, she asked for (and received) her parents’ blessing to stay with her Dutch family and make her life in Amsterdam.

As with so many of the impossible wartime situations I read about in researching this book, I found myself often thinking of both how her parents must have felt putting their child on that train, and how her childhood was defined by kind strangers taking her in and caring for her, just because they felt it was right. Then, that’s what she grew up to do.

Wow. I can see this book being a mainstay in classrooms and libraries everywhere! Check out the reviews:

“Pincus narrates…accurately, not understating…but not allowing the horrors to overwhelm the intensely heroic accomplishment of this kind, courageous woman, employing quotes from Miep’s own writing… A beautifully realized homage.” —KIRKUS, starred

“VERDICT This book somberly and beautifully depicts what life was like for the Franks and others who fell inside the Nazi sphere of influence during World War II. A truly valuable resource.” —SLJ, starred

Congratulations, Meeg! This leads me to your path as an author. Fun fact–I read that you and your family can belt out songs from musicals on demand. (As a theater teacher, I’m with you all the way!) And it makes me wonder…

Q2 Which of these Broadway show titles might best describe your path as an author? Explain why.

          a. Into the Woods

          b. Wicked

          c. Fiddler on the Roof

          d. How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying      

High school senior Meeg (L) as Cinderella’s Stepmother in Into the Woods,
helping one of the step-sisters cut off her toe so the glass slipper will fit!

Meeg Pincus: Love this question, Erin, and a, b, and c are three of my favorite musicals! I’m going to say Into the Woods (and not just because it was my senior musical at my performing arts magnet high school—I was Cinderella’s stepmother!). I think it’s thematically quite fitting of my own author path.

Remember Blue Books?

I’ve loved writing since I was a child using my professor mom’s exam blue books to create my own books. Then, for 20 years, I worked in many writing jobs, kind of wandering through the woods of this profession. I wrote for magazines, newspapers, educational organizations, academia, companies, and many book anthologies (plus, I edited for an educational publisher, for trade nonfiction books, and more). I enjoyed these pursuits, but never quite felt “at home” as a writer until I finally arrived in children’s nonfiction a few years ago.

Looking back, I see consistent breadcrumbs on my path: creative nonfiction, research, educating and tapping into emotions through stories. Now, having traveled the winding, sometimes murky, path through the woods makes it all the sweeter to be here.

As the song says: “Into the woods/to get the thing/that makes it worth/the journeying…”

Q3 Speaking of journeys in creative non-fiction, can you tell us about your upcoming book, WINGED WONDERS (Sleeping Bear)?

Meeg Pincus: Oh yes, thank you for asking

WINGED WONDERS: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery is a nonfiction picture book about all the people from Canada to Mexico who helped figure out the path of the Great Monarch Butterfly Migration. The story uses a questioning structure to spark kids to question how many people, decades, and environments may be behind a scientific “discovery” like this one. The back matter offers tips for kids to help monarchs today.

I’m thrilled to be working again with MIEP’s editor, Sarah Rockett, and with illustrator Yasmin Imamura on that book, coming in Spring 2020.

For those who have been reading my blog lately (thanks), and know that my Book Birthday is next month ( SNOW GLOBE WISHES /Sleeping Bear/ Illus by Claire Shorrock, Sept. 2019) just got a starred review from KIRKUS!) this last question is no surprise:

Q4 If you had a magic snow globe that could grant one wish, what would your Snow Globe Wish be?

Meeg Pincus: Oh, my wish would be an end to the “othering” that causes prejudice and violence—to have all people see that all living beings are equally deserving of love, respect, and safety. I think if everyone could magically understand that we are all truly interconnected, that could solve almost every problem facing people, animals, and the planet.

“Othering” is such a good way to put it. I love this wish. I hope it comes true very soon. And thank you so much for letting us celebrate Miep, as well as you, and your books, Meeg.

To learn more, check out Meeg’s blog and books at and wish MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY a Happy Book Birthday on Twitter @MeegPincus.

Meeg at Run For Cover Book Store

And don’t forget to order MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY from Run for Cover Bookstore. ; )

Watch out world. #Kidlit author Lori Degman Writes LIKE A GIRL!

Yes, you read that right: #kidlit author and rhymer Lori Degman writes LIKE A GIRL. (Literally and figuratively.) In fact, she has TWO new picture books.

JUST READ! ( Sterling/ Illus. by Victoria Tentler-Krylov)

“A chipper, colorful celebration of the limitless possibilities for what, where, and when one can read.” —Publishers Weekly

LIKE A GIRL (Sterling / Illus. by Mara Penny–releasing SOON!
August 13, 2019)

“As an introduction to women’s power and possibilities, this choice rises above the rest.” —Kirkus

Fun fact: Lori and I met at SCBWI Los Angeles many summers ago at the PAL signing table–because Dealey and Degman. How could two #kidlit authors who love crazy rhymes NOT become friends. Amiright?

Time to ask this girl some questions:

Q1: Which of your picture book titles best describes your path as an author? (or your revision process?) Explain why.

          a. Like a Girl

          b. Just Read

          c. Norbert’s Big Dream

          d. Cock-a-Doodle Oops!

          e. 1 Zany Zoo

Lori Degman: Would it be cheating to say all five?  I learned to write, and applied what I learned, LIKE A GIRL.  I knew if I would JUST READ other picture books and books on craft, that I’d someday achieve my BIG DREAM of becoming a published author!  Of course there were a lot of COCK-A-DOODLE OOPSES along the way, on my ZANY journey to becoming an author.  (I bet you’re sorry you asked!)

Haha–nope! By the way Lori is leading a session at #SCBWI LA on Friday, August 9th at 11:15. You won’t want to miss her talk about Writing in Rhyme Is Not A Crime–Unless you butcher it. (Love the title.) So I had to ask for a preview:

Q2 Can you give us a few tips, or a preview of your session, for those who write in rhyme, or think they should?

Lori Degman: I created the session to help other rhymers avoid the pitfalls of writing and submitting rhyming picture book manuscripts.  I believe many editors and agents reject rhyme because of problems in three main areas – story, rhyme and/or meter:

1. The story isn’t strong enough or it’s driven by the rhyme, so there are elements that would not have been included, had the story been told in prose. 

2. The rhymes are either too simple or uncreative; they’re not true rhymes; sentences are split in unnatural places to leave the rhyming word at the end of the line; and/or “flipped the grammar is”, to make the rhymes work (aka: Yoda speak).

3. The meter is not consistent, making the text difficult to read.  The text in rhyming picture books should read as naturally as those written in prose – you don’t want the reader to have to think about how they’re reading it.

I love that even her non-fiction book, LIKE A GIRL, rhymes. Check out the first pages here. Also, here’s one of the spreads:

Another COOL thing: This book is all about amazing women.

Q3 How did you choose the women you highlight in LIKE A GIRL?

Lori Degman: I wanted to include a diverse group of women from different eras, backgrounds, and geographical locations.  I chose some of the women because I’ve always admired them.  Others I had never heard of, but when I learned about them, I knew they would perfectly exemplify the lines I’d written.  I realized, while thinking about this question, that the first time I learned of several of the women was in movies about them – Helen Keller, Babe Didrikson Zaharas, Wilma Rudolph, Temple Grandin, and Irena Sendler.  I discovered Gertrude Ederle (the first woman to swim the English Channel) when I was doing research for NORBERT’S BIG DREAM, so I knew I wanted to include her.

So which-comes-first?

Q4 When you get a new idea for a book, what pops into your head first, the title, the topic, or the story?

Lori Degman: Usually a title pops into my head and I start with that.  Sometimes I hear a rhythmic sentence and I use it to start writing the story.  For example, I was waiting in line at the post office and the sentence, “There’s a cow in the kitchen and company’s coming,” * popped into my head.  It’s the title of the story, but the sentence isn’t in the text. 

* If that title is intriguing to any editors reading this, the story is still available.  It’s my mother’s favorite and she’s 89 – so if you’re interested . . .

Q5 They say most books are a tiny bit autobiographical. Which of the characters in your books are most like you?

Lori Degman: I’m actually like the pig in both Cock-a-Doodle Oops and Norbert’s Big Dream!  Both Pig (from Oops) and Norbert have can-do attitudes and they jump right in to do what they want – even if they’re not fully prepared.  I’m the same way in many aspects of my life – I get an idea and jump in with both feet before figuring out exactly what I need to do.

Fun fact: A good friend of mine came to my Cock-a-Doodle Oops book launch and heard the book for the first time.  Later, she told me that she recognized our group of eight college friends in each of the book’s characters!  They matched their personalities exactly – and I hadn’t noticed!

Sounds like the sweatshirt my niece gave me: “Be careful or you might end up in my novel.” Or picture book…

Like I said–Watch out world!

Q6 If you had a magic snow globe that could grant one wish, what would your Snow Globe Wish be?

Lori Degman: My Snow Globe wish would be that my grandchildren grow to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled adults!

I’m betting they will be READERS too! Like the kids in your JUST READ book trailer. Check it out here.

What fabulous art by Victoria Tentler-Krylov!

BONUS for Teachers & Librarians: JUST READ Teacher Guides with STEM and Language Arts extensions.

Full disclosure: As you probably know by now, I’m asking everyone my Snow Globe question because of my new picture book, SNOW GLOBE WISHES which I am so excited to share with readers everywhere!

(Illus. by Claire Shorrock / Sleeping Bear Press / Sept. 2019 / Pre-orders have begun!)

Thank you, Lori, for stopping by the blog and sharing your wonderful books with us. See you at SCBWI LA!

To learn more about Lori and her books, go to and follow her on Twitter & Facebook.

PS If you are going to SCBWI, please be sure to say hello. We won’t be at the PAL table this year, but we WILL be signing books as part of the Faculty. Hurray!

Dreams do come true. (Right Norbert?)

Meet #kidlit author Huda Essa

Today it’s my pleasure to interview Huda Essa, author of the upcoming picture book COMMON THREADS: ADAM’S DAY AT THE MARKET (Sleeping Bear / August 2019 / Illustrated by Mercè Tous.), and founder of Culture Links LLC. Both her books and her work revolve around encouraging others to celebrate our similarities instead of dwelling on our differences.

Isn’t the cover beautiful?

In COMMON THREADS, Adam and his family spend an exciting day at the colorful and bustling Eastern Market. But when Adam gets briefly separated from Mom and Dad, he mistakes a friendly, diverse cast of characters for his parents in their traditional Muslim clothing–and shows that we all have more in common than you might think.

This nearly-wordless picture book celebrates #diversity and community in vibrant, dynamic art.

I love that Huda teaches others to “…utilize our diversity as the great asset it is.”

Q1. What was your inspiration for writing COMMON THREADS: ADAM’S DAY AT THE MARKET? 

Huda Essa: Through my work, I have come upon many misconceptions that people have about various forms of cultural and religious dress. When I share images of the many similarities of these forms of dress, participants are pleasantly surprised. I realized more and more that we need to be explicitly taught to look for common threads that bind us together in our shared humanity.  Talking about our similarities and our differences helps to increase knowledge and understanding that allows us to utilize our diversity as the great asset it is.  It’s my hope that COMMON THREADS will to give adults and children alike, a resource to use to foster invaluable discussions around diversity and inclusion. 

Huda shared some of the GORGEOUS interior art on Twitter: “So cool to view the behind the scenes process of my illustrator, Mercè Tous, creating this colorful art filled book… especially when I can pretty much only draw stick figures.

PS To Teachers, Librarians, and Parents: The “Becoming a Cultural Detective” back matter in COMMON THREADS looks like a very cool extension activity and writing/discussion prompt.

Q2. Your self-published picture book, Teach Us Your Name, seems like an excellent story for teachers to share at the start of the school year. How did this book come about? Did the TED talk come first?

Click image above to view Huda’s TED talk.

Huda Essa: TEACH US YOUR NAME was written before my TED Talk and after experiencing the wondrous advantages of not only learning to pronounce my students’ names, but to also allow them to share the story of their names.  For several reasons, I grew up despising my name.  I now realize that this led to the loss of enlightening my peers and others with stories that increase our knowledge, connections, and understanding of others.  I also missed out on the opportunity to learn from their names, as well. 

“Our names allow us to discuss ideas such as language, family history, cultural traditions, social identities, and so much more!” 

I am honored to have learned that many people have shared my TED Talk in staff meetings and classrooms as well as social media to get the conversations started.  Immediately after viewing the video, people were eager to share their story and learn from others.  The reverberating effects of those conversations increased motivation to engage in more opportunities to learn and to build connections within and beyond school communities.  Along with my book, people can also find a free downloadable document with activities and discussion guides at

Q3. Would you please teach us your name? 

Huda Essa: Huda is pronounced like the word “hood” and then the short e sound at the end.  Hood – eh   My last name, Essa, rhymes with Visa.  The pronunciation of my name is also on the cover of Teach Us Your Name to encourage others to do the same if their name is commonly mispronounced. 

Suggestion for Teachers: Pair this book with THE NAME JAR by Yangsook Choi.

Q4. Can you share a positive teacher or student reaction or aha moment that you experienced in working with schools through your foundation, Culture Links?  

Huda Essa: The most common reactions I receive are ones recognizing that learning about culturally responsive practices can add value to our lives in countless ways. 

Many people are unaware of the impacts of unintentional, learned unconscious biases. 

Huda Essa: Learning what our biases are and how they are formed gives us the power to take control of our thoughts, allowing us to work through potentially negative outcomes, and create positive relationships. This greatly enhances our ability to support not only our communities, but the world, as a whole.  It’s wonderful when participants leave feeling more confident and aware of how they can help to make our world a better place for all.

Q5. If you had a magic snow globe that could grant one wish, what would your Snow Globe Wish be? 

Huda Essa: I would wish for a world where social justice is valued and positively experienced by all. 

Thank you, Huda.

Full disclosure: I asked Huda Q5 because I’m so excited about my picture book, also from Sleeping Bear Press, SNOW GLOBE WISHES with wonderful illustrations by Claire Shorrock. (Pre-orders have begun!) The main character of my book would LOVE Huda’s wish for #inclusion and social justice. And so do I!

Thank you, Huda, for stopping by the blog and sharing such important messages with us.

To learn more about Huda Essa, her books and work, go to and follow her on Twitter @culturelinksllc and Facebook.

As we gather for the 4th of July, I wish for one and all, a world where we celebrate our COMMON THREADS.