Susan Hood - A Lion & Dragonfly Interview
"I love coming across an idea or topic that WOWS me and makes me want to find out more." - Susan Hood
We Are One: How the World Adds Up is a straight-up extraordinary picture book. It's math meets philosophy as numbers are seen through a unique and thought provoking lens. Textured and whimsical, this is the sort of layered book that will grow with children over the years. So, obviously we were thrilled that author Susan Hood - who once worked at Sesame Street - took the time out of her busy writing schedule to answer our questions! Enjoy the interview!
Can you tell us about what inspired you to write We Are One?
I honestly have no idea. My husband is a teacher and he gets up at 5am every morning. I’m usually not fully awake at that hour and that half dreaming/half day-dreaming state allows my brain to layer unusual thoughts. It’s often when I get my best ideas.
What is your favorite page of this book and why?
I love the last couple of spreads that link the mathematical ideas of fractions and part/whole relationships to the idea that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves. There are so many important concepts featured in this book.
What do you hope your audience takes away from We Are One?
Two things: First, that math isn’t just for math class; there’s math in ballet, theatre, sports, geography, poetry, and so much more. I also hope the book shows how “the world adds up,” how everything is connected. Together we are greater than each of us alone.
What’s your favorite part of being an author?
I love coming across an idea or topic that WOWS me and makes me want to find out more. For example, there were the kids on a landfill in Paraguay who formed an orchestra with instruments made from trash (Ada’s Violin). Or the critically endangered axolotl who looks like a Muppet and has important ramifications for science because it can regrow body parts like a sea star (Spike, the Mixed-up Monster). Or the thirteen-year-old boy whose love of books saved 46 people stranded at sea (Lifeboat 12). In recent years, my dream of traveling the world in search of stories has come true. I just got back from Denmark where I was researching my upcoming middle grade book called Harboring Hope.
Who has most inspired your creative life?
No doubt about it—my husband Paul. He’s endlessly supportive about all the time and energy this profession takes. He’s my best and most honest critic, refusing to pull any punches when he knows I can do better. He patiently reads and rereads my manuscripts, helping me a great deal by reading them aloud to me. He’s there to celebrate the successes and to commiserate when things go wrong. I wouldn’t have survived the ups and downs of this rollercoaster ride without him.
What is your writing process like?
It varies for each book. I don’t write every single day, but I think about my books every day…and every night!
What was your favorite picture book growing up?
I loved the books of Ruth Krauss and of her husband Crockett Johnson, especially A Hole is to Dig and Harold and the Purple Crayon.
What would you tell your ten-year-old self?
Be patient. Writing and publishing children’s books takes a long time and I was a late bloomer. But now I am finally doing what I love to do!
Who are your favorite authors at the moment?
Too many to name, but here are a few: Leslie Connor, Candace Fleming, Deborah Freedman, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Lois Lowry, Steve Sheinkin, Joyce Sidman, Christina Soontornvat, William Steig, Melissa Sweet, Jacqueline Woodson, and on and on!
What’s your most prized possession?
A gorgeous blue-and-white quilt my mother designed, sewed, embroidered, and quilted by hand. In another time and place, she would have been more celebrated for her artistry.
What’s something not many people may know about you?
I had the great honor of working at Sesame Street for eight years. My colleagues were some of the brightest and most forward-thinking people on the planet.
What are you currently working on?
Lots of things! I have two new books this year—both incredible true stories. Alias Anna is a middle grade nonfiction biography in verse about a young Ukrainian girl and her sister—both piano prodigies—who outwitted the Nazis during World War II. I wrote it with Greg Dawson, who is the son of the older girl Zhanna. In October, HarperCollins will publish Brothers in Arms: The True World War II Story of Wojtek the Bear and the Soldiers Who Loved Him. It’s a nonfiction picture book about an abandoned bear cub adopted by Anders’ Army, who grew up to become a World War II hero, beloved by people across Europe. I interviewed one living veteran and descendants of other soldiers to get to the true story behind this adorable and legendary bear.
(note from MB: Alias Anna is a gem!)
Abby Gallagher with Susan Hood