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An interview with Eloise Greenfield

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Eloise and Ehsan show off their lovely book Thinker!

Wonderful author and poet Eloise Greenfield gave an interview for the Center for the Collaborative Classroom. She talks about her book Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me and her collaboration with illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi. Read an excerpt from the interview below!

Collaborative Classroom: Throughout your career, you have moved seamlessly between different genres and subjects. Two amazing new books (one published and one in the works) perfectly illustrate your breadth: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me and The Women Who Caught the Babies. One is a fanciful book about a poetry-spouting dog, the other a celebration of African American midwives.

Where did these two ideas come from? Have you ever met resistance from your publishers (or even from within yourself) when you wanted to try something new?

Greenfield: I never think that I am trying something new. I write whatever interests me if I think it will be good literature. I complete my manuscripts before I send them to a publisher. My primary publisher, HarperCollins, has never complained about a change of genre, nor have any of my other publishers. Sometimes a manuscript is rejected, but I don’t think it’s about genre.

Collaborative Classroom: Your picture books are works of art—inspired text and illustrations enrich each other. You are best known for collaborating with the illustrator Jan Spivey Gilchrist, but you’ve worked with so many gifted artists: Carole Byard, Floyd Cooper, Jerry Pinkney, John Steptoe, and most recently, Ehsan Abdollahi, Daniel Minter, and Don Tate.

How do these partnerships come to be and how closely do you work together on the art?

Greenfield: For all of my books, except those with Jan Spivey Gilchrist and Daydreamers with Tom Feelings, the illustrators have been chosen, with my approval, by the editors, and we have worked separately with our editors. Tom Feelings got in touch with me and asked if I would come up with an idea and a text to accompany portraits of children he had drawn over a number of years. The portraits are beautiful, and I was happy to write a book-length poem to accompany them.

Jan and I often talked briefly about a book I was planning to write. Then we went our separate ways. I wrote the text, sent the manuscript to her, and she did preliminary art, which was always beautiful. We then submitted the work to the publisher.

My first contact with Ehsan Abdollahi was a few months after Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me was published in the United Kingdom by Tiny Owl Publishing. (It will be published in the US in April 2019 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.) Ehsan and I met in Scotland when we spoke together at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2018.

The idea for Thinker came because I was upset about a few articles I had read criticizing free verse as not being real poetry. I wanted to correct that view and decided to write a picture book that included free verse and an afterword about its techniques. I also included an explanation of the techniques used in writing rap, which sometimes receives the same kind of criticism. I fell in love with Thinker, this puppy who loves words and can only bark, and not talk, unless he is reciting his poems. Ehsan perfectly captures Thinker and his family.

Read the full interview here.

  • Thinker picked as the best diverse children’s books by The Evening Standard
  • Hurrah! Thinker nominated for Kate Greenaway Awards!
  • Listen to Eloise Greenfield recite her poetry in fab video for Thinker
  • Watch this video to learn more about illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi

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