I’m so excited to be kicking off the blog tour for Trisha Speed Shaskan and Xindi Yan’s adorable story about being small yet mighty, The Itty Bitty Witch! I reviewed this fun story about a little witch with a big spirit back in July, so today, I’ve got an interview with author Trisha Speed Shaskan. Enjoy!
“Caregivers and teachers will be pleased with the multiple extensions the story offers, all wrapped up in a Halloween theme. Proving size does not matter, this itty-bitty witch casts a bewitching spell.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A familiar portrayal of [a] determined, lone underdog who discovers her sense of worth.” —Publishers Weekly
And now, the Trisha Speed Shaskan interview. Thank you so much to Trisha and to Barbara at Blue Slip Media!
MomReadIt: As someone who was always first or second on the size order line at school, I love and appreciate Betty’s story! What inspired you to write THE ITTY-BITTY WITCH?
Trisha Speed Shaskan: Thank you! I’m so happy you enjoyed The Itty-Bitty Witch. When I was a child, Halloween was magical because the neighborhood kids took over the streets at night, in costumes. Because of my love for Halloween, the first book I chose at a RIF event was Tilly Witch by Don Freeman, a story about a witch who feels happy instead of wicked on Halloween! Drat! That story inspired me to write and read witch stories as a child and into adulthood.
As a child, I was also one of the smallest or shortest kids in my class. And I played many sports—too bad I couldn’t race atop a broom like Betty! I was often the one girl athlete on a team of boys. Kids called me “short” and “Tommy” since I was seen as a tomboy. I didn’t like being labeled because it set me apart from other kids. And although my height and ability to play on any team was often an asset, I didn’t always see it that way. In The Itty-Bitty Witch, Betty is similarly given a nickname she doesn’t like (“Itty-Bitty”) but learns that being small can be a strength.
MomReadIt: Betty starts out being bullied because she’s small, but her bullies change their tune when they see that Betty wins the Halloween Dash! As an educator, how did you teach younger kids about self-acceptance and resiliency?
Trisha Speed Shaskan: My husband/children’s book author and illustrator Stephen Shaskan and I teach kids how to create comics and graphic novels. Recently, we taught a class that had only two students in it, which allowed us to get to know them. Eleven-year-old Brian told everyone he wasn’t a good artist. He clearly felt insecure. But by the end of the class he said he created the best drawing he’d ever created. He built that confidence and in turn self- acceptance in a couple hours. How? First, Stephen and I built a relationship with the kids in the room by listening to them. We learned Brian’s favorite TV show (“Zig and Sharko”), and the names of the cows on his family’s farm. We joked around. Stephen and I modeled the drawing activity. The students made suggestions and Stephen drew a character out of simple shapes. Next, we set out tools for the students to use, such as geometric templates. The template helps kids who don’t feel they can draw the shapes consistently. I praised Brian for his focus and for using the template. I sat down next to him and drew. I’m not a trained artist so I had a hard time drawing the hand. I failed. Stephen gave me an example of a how-to-do it from a drawing book. Brian encouraged me. Brian had a difficult time drawing part of the snowman from a new angle. I encouraged Brian. By the end of the day, Brian invented a hexasnowman, drew it from different points of view, and told us he was going to draw it more at home. How do you get kids to accept and love themselves? First and foremost, build a positive relationship with them. Give them tools. Give them specific praise that focuses on the process, not result. Be honest. Take risks alongside them or share your mistakes or failures. Lift them up.
MomReadit: Will Betty return in another adventure?
Trisha Speed Shaskan: Betty’s return is yet to be determined, but I do have more stories about her brewing!
MomReadIt: How would you encourage younger kids to start their own storytelling?
Trisha Speed Shakan: I write from my own experiences and imagination. But I also write to learn about myself and the world. If kids want to write stories, I encourage them to explore the world through activities and books! Take a walk outside. Develop a hobby. Learn about a subject you enjoy. Learn about an animal you love. While exploring and learning, you’re sure to collect story ideas! Pay attention to the stories you love and why you love those stories, whether it’s a book, a TV show, or a movie. When you set out to write a story, think about those elements and how to incorporate them in your story.
Thank you so much!
When Trisha Speed Shaskan was a child, Halloween meant bobbing for apples, daring to touch brains (which may have been noodles), and—best of all—wearing costumes. She still loves dressing up for Halloween. Trisha is the author of more than forty children’s books, including Punk Skunks and the Q & Ray series, both illustrated by her husband, Stephen Shaskan. Trisha lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with Stephen; their cat, Eartha; and their dog, Beatrix. Learn more at www.trishaspeedshaskan.com.
Xindi Yan grew up in a small city called Wuhu in China, and like Betty, she was always the smallest in her class. Standing a little shy of five feet, she still can’t reach the high shelves in grocery stores and sometimes finds that shoes made for kids fit her best. But her size didn’t stop her from chasing her big dreams of being a published artist in New York City. Xindi is the illustrator of Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree by Sandy Shapiro Hurt and the Craftily Ever After series by Martha Maker. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and hopes to have a puppy one day. Learn more at www.xindiyanart.com
One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Itty-Bitty Witch, courtesy of Two Lions/Amazon (U.S. addresses). Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here!