Deborah Cholette, Kalli Dakos, and Sara Infante
Holiday House sat down with Deborah Cholette (author), Kalli Dakos (author), Sara Infante (illustrator) to talk about their picture book Get Me Out of This Book: Rules and Tools for Being Brave.
This is a great book for teaching kids how to be courageous and overcome their fears. What was your inspiration for creating Get Me Out of This Book?
Sara Infante: First of all, the original concept for the story. A bookmark who is afraid of being inside a book! How clever is that? My eyes sparkled when I read that synopsis, and as an illustrator I had never received such a smart concept from an author. Just that sentence brought me so much to think about, because Max is in a very sticky situation: his fear prevents him from fulfilling his mission in the world, the very reason for his existence – bookmarking books. I was so touched by this character that every decision, from colors to composition, was made having him in mind. I can add that Max’s appearance is a bit inspired by Collodi’s Pinocchio, another character who gets frightened and jumpy quite a lot throughout his story. Another inspiration was the figure of Harlequin (with his little hat and colorful trousers) because one of Harlequin’s abilities is to become invisible, and that connected really well with the way that a bookmark “disappears” inside a book and the way that Max is always trying to disappear, so to speak, by escaping the frightful books. The color palette was inspired by the usual playful patterns of children’s paper bookmarks.
How did the collaboration come about?
Deborah Cholette: It started with my habit of reading a new book in bed, then wanting to close it to go to sleep, and forgetting to get a bookmark. So, I would look around for what was within arm’s reach—a Kleenex, a sock, a t-shirt—to mark the spot.
Then one night when it happened again, I wondered if there was a book about a bookmark. After searching the net, I couldn’t find one!
So, I asked my friend Kalli, with whom I had written a couple of books, if she wanted to work on it with me and she was enthusiastic.
After writing a few versions, we realized that in every one, Max the bookmark had been frightened when put on a page with a scary picture and couldn’t do his job as a bookmark. I thought that perhaps he should go to school to learn how to deal with his fears. Then Kalli who loved the Navy SEALs, thought of sending Max to training camp to learn three of their strategies to help him cope with his fears.
The strategies in Get Me Out of This Book weren’t intended to help kids cope, they were intended to help our hero Max. Happily it turned out that they could help kids. . . and adults, too!
SI: Holiday House reached me through the agency that represents me, The Bright Agency.
What’s your favorite Navy SEAL tip featured in this book?
Kalli Dakos: My favorite tip is “think good thoughts.” It is so easy to second-guess a plan you have made and get lost in confusion. This strategy helps us to use our energy to completely focus on the plan we have already made.
SI: The first one, “breathe deeply.” It’s the one that only requires basic physical skills, providing an instant feeling of ease. It’s also the one that I usually forget to follow when I get scared or nervous.
Was there a specific instance in your life where you put these tips to good use?
KD: There is one incidence I will not forget. I lost my wallet and was ready to freak out, but I remembered the three strategies and used them to deal with the situation. I calmed myself down with the breathing, made a plan to find the wallet (if possible), and then tried to use helpful thoughts. I remember saying to myself, “Other people have lost their wallets and survived and you will too.” I never found the wallet and it took months to get credit cards, etc., organized again, but the three strategies made all the difference.
They gave me specific tools to handle the situation.
SI: Since I read the text and started working on the art for the book, I’ve used these tips many times. And after I showed the book to my family, I had some surprises – a
few weeks ago my aunt saw me struggling with the fear of a possible bad outcome of a health situation in our family and she told me, “remember Max’s tips.” At first, I was startled with what she said, but then I was very glad that the message of the book had been so effective.
What is the most important thing you hope young readers will take away from your book?
KD: We all need strategies to handle fear. We basically need to know what to do in the most challenging
situations. I hope that if a child is put in a fearful or difficult place, he/she will remember the strategies and use them to make good choices.
SI: Mainly I hope that this book can help them grow and that every kid could take away different things according to their own needs, dreams, and fears. Whatever each one of them takes away, that’s the important thing. But I would love that they could understand that fear is a healthy feeling and that there are effective ways to deal with it and even embrace it.
If there is one thing you could tell your readers about life, what would you say?
DC: Life is wonderful but there will always be challenges and fears, and having tools to deal with them will make their lives even better. And hopefully, the rules and tools from Get Me Out of This Book will help.
KD: I would tell readers that they are living a story every single day. It is the story of their own lives.
Reading helps us to find ways to live our lives with strength, courage, and hope.
What was your favorite book growing up?
KD: I loved the book Heidi when I was a child. I even went up a mountain in Switzerland one year to
experience the place where Heidi lived.
SI: When I was very little I loved the Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem and a book series of fairy tales illustrated by the Great Russian Masters. But my two favourite books growing up were The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling.
Where can our readers find you online and on social media?
KD: They can find me at kallidakos.com, or they can google my name for more information.
About the Authors and Illustrator
This is Deborah Cholette’s debut as a picture book author. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Kalli Dakos is a poet and writer. Her books are very popular with children and include six International Literacy Association/Children’s Book Council Children’s Choices. She splits her time between the United States and Canada.
Sara Infante has won national awards in Portugal, where she currently lives. She has illustrated eight picture books.