6 Qs with HELLO, TREE creators Ana Crespo and Dow Phumiruk

Today on the blog, we get to celebrate the recent release of HELLO, TREE, a beautiful picture book about hope and renewal, written by Ana Crespo, and Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk (Little Brown Books for Young Readers).

Welcome Ana and Dow!

Ana & Dow: Thank you so much for inviting us to share about HELLO, TREE!

Dow Phumiruk (L) and Anna Crespo (R) at their fabulous Bookbar Denver launch party for HELLO, TREE (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

“This quietly powerful tale of ecological awareness will prompt reflection about readers’ own roles in coexisting with and protecting nature. The simple, evocative text captures the placid, ever faithful voice of the tree and pairs well with the detailed illustrations….Both an appreciation of nature and an ultimately hopeful reminder about our symbiotic relationship with it.” —KIRKUS

Ana talks about HELLO, TREE’s inception story here: https://vimeo.com/567135915

I LOVE this fun fact from Ana:

This book would not exist were it not for recent immigrants.”

Ana Crespo immigrated to the USA, from Brazil, as an adult. Dow Phumiruk immigrated from Thailand as a child. Their editor, Alvina Ling, is also the daughter of immigrants.
Ana Crespo, Dow Phumiruk, and Alvina Ling

Questions, Questions, Questions!

Q 1.     What was one of the most surprising discoveries you made in creating this book?

Ana Crespo: The most surprising discovery happened even before the Black Forest Fire (the inspiration for this book), when I attended a Ranger Talk at the Rocky Mountain National Park and learned about the role fire plays in a forest’s life cycle and how a fire changes a forest but doesn’t kill it.

After the Black Forest Fire happened and I started researching for this book, what surprised me the most were the details—how certain beetles are attracted by the heat, moving to fire affected areas to mate and lay their eggs, and how woodpeckers will follow the beetles, and how bluebirds will later make their nests in the holes the woodpeckers made, and how everything is connected. Essentially, I was surprised by nature’s incredible resilience.

Dow Phumiruk: There were many discoveries. I didn’t immediately realize that I would end up illustrating not just the life cycle of the forest, but also that of the girl who grew up and left like the bluebirds. Ana’s text really touched my heart! Also, because Ana’s story involves a tree as a main character, I had to find a way to help readers identify it – out of all the trees in the forest. So, I finally decided to have the girl character play dress up with the tree early on and leave behind a ribbon on one tree branch afterwards. Remnants of this ribbon remain on the tree throughout the book.

HELLO, TREE interior art by Dow Phumiruk, text by Ana Crespo (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

Q 2.     What’s on your desk? Your TO DO list? Your reading table? Your street? Your mind?

Ana Crespo: There’s a lot on my desk right now; in fact, you can hardly see the desk. And since I became an agent, my to-do list has been overflowing too. Still, I try to find time to read some non-work-related books. Right now, I am reading Ann Cleeves’s Cold Earth, the seventh book in the Shetland series. My mind is on everything that is currently on my to-do list.

HUGSBY by Dow Phumiruk (Viking Books for Young Readers)

Dow Phumiruk: My desk is quite a mess at the moment, too! There are pens, pencils, pads of paper with my doodles, books, printed dummies with notes for revision on them, and more surrounding my basic tools for digital illustration. I can’t seem to keep it neat lately!

My TO DO list for art includes finishing up final art for A LIFE OF SERVICE: THE STORY OF TAMMY DUCKWORTH, by Newberry Honor winner Christina Soontornvat, for Candlewick, and starting another dummy for my latest contracted project (not yet announced). Other TO DO items are preparing for two book-related events, attending two in-person, smaller scale weddings, and getting ready for Halloween (Should I make a life-sized Hugsby costume, a character from one of my books?). My street is pretty quiet. Like Ana, my mind is full of my TO DO list!

Teamwork

Q 3.     What does it mean to you—in the #kidlit world, or personally–to have teamed up together on this project? *And are you cooking up more collaborations?

Ana Crespo: I love that this is an “all-Colorado” book, inspired by an event that happened in Colorado and written and illustrated by Colorado residents. I saw Dow’s work for the first time in 2015, during a local writers and illustrators conference, and I fell in love with her art. So, since then, I dreamed of collaborating with Dow one day. Working with her on Hello, Tree is a dream come true. I would love to share another book with Dow, but there’s nothing on the horizon right now. 

Dow Phumiruk: Thank you so much, Ana. I feel like the lucky one! It is such an honor for me when I am specifically chosen by the author for projects. I would love to work with Ana again! Glad to put that statement out in the world for all to read!

Book Launch Tips

Q 4.     Your book launch at The Bookbar Denver was terrific! Not only was it 1 part virtual, and 2 parts in-person (both indoors—thanks to the rain, and outdoors), you had original songs and group participation. Any tips for those with upcoming book releases?

Ana Crespo: I will leave this question for Dow to answer, but I will share that it helps if the person you are collaborating with is extra-talented. The songs she wrote are amazing! And, yes, we were so happy we had audience participation. Colorado kids are, unfortunately, very aware of forest fires.  So, they all had experienced it in a way or another. 

Audience Participation

Dow Phumiruk: Thank you so much, Erin and Ana. However you choose to launch your book, making sure you include audience participation is a must. Young children want to move, dance, sing, and answer questions. I love writing interactive, short kid songs just for them. Ana had a wonderful idea of bringing coasters made of slices of tree trunk to share. These were wonderful tactile elements for the children to enjoy! It’s another way for kids to join in – and they even learn while they are at it!

Q 5.     Tells us about your upcoming projects.

Lia & Luís: Who Has More? by Ana Crespo, Illus. Giovana Medeiros (Charlesbridge)

Ana Crespo: I have two upcoming projects, although just one has been announced. Next year, Lia & Luís: Puzzled! will launch. It’s a sequel to Lia & Luís: Who Has More? Both books are part of the Charlesbridge Storytelling Math series, which is a wonderful and important project mixing math, diversity, and the power of storytelling. There’s also a bilingual Spanish/English edition of Lia & Luís: Who Has More? coming out in April! I’ll share the other project when it is announced.

HER NAME WAS MARY KATHARINE by Ella Schwartz, Illus. Dow Phumiruk (Christy Ottaviano Books)

Dow Phumiruk: That’s great news, Ana! I have a book called HER NAME WAS MARY KATHARINE by Ella Schwartz that will be out in January 2021. It’s from Christy Ottaviano Books and is about the only woman whose name appears on the Declaration of Independence – at the bottom, as the printer of the document for circulation. How did history leave her out? We want everyone to read about her! Then I am finishing up the book about Tammy Duckworth as mentioned above. I also am working on LAST FLIGHT, by Kristen Giang, for Levine Querido. I am so very excited for that one, as Kristen’s story recounting her escape from Vietnam before Saigon fell to communist rule is harrowing, dramatic, and so beautifully written. And I am honored to work with Arthur Levine at his young imprint. My other work-in-progress is called BETTER TOGETHER, by Latin Emmy Award winning singer/songwriter Ben Gundersheimer. This one is for Nancy Paulsen Books, and I’ve been wanting to work with her and her team for a long while now. This book about joining together to make the world a better place is a delightful project!

PS–> Congratulations to Dow, who will have one of her illustrations from HELLO, TREE featured in the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show, which begins Oct. 27th.

Save the date!

Colorado friends: Don’t miss Ana Crespo and Dow Phumiruk and HELLO, TREE at The Wandering Jellyfish, on Saturday, October 16th, at 11:00am, in Niwot, CO, for another in-person event. They will read, sing, and sign books. What fun!

There is also another very cool event coming up for this dynamic duo, though they can’t talk about it yet. More soon!

Dia das Crianças no Brasil!

Q 6.     One last question, for Ana: Since Oct. 12th is Children’s Day in Brazil, what advice would you give to children who would like to write books someday?

Ana Crespo: Read! I think reading is essential for those who want to become a writer. And, of course, write! Write anything—keep a diary, write short stories, write long stories, write letters, blogs… Have fun writing!

Huge thanks to Ana & Dow

for answering our questions today on the blog.

To learn more about their books, you can find them here:

anacrespobooks.com ArtByDow.blogspot.com

And follow them on:

Instagram: AnaCrespoBooks DowPhumiruk

Twitter: @AnaCrespoBooks @DowPhumiruk

Next upon the blog: Carol Kim celebrates the launch of her new book, KING SEYONG INVENTS AN ALPHABET.

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