When I first read The Dot by Peter Reynolds, I was blown away by the inspirational message it sent to both the reader and the child. Each of Peter’s books are beautiful both in illustration and in writing and are true treasures. The most recent book that I reviewed by Peter was Rose’s Garden. The book was very interesting to me because of it’s connection to Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. I wanted to ask Peter some questions about the book, his connection with Rose Kennedy and his newest book that he wrote with his twin brother Paul, Going Places (which will be posted next week)
A great thank you to Peter for taking the time to do this interview. It’s a huge honor!
1. When I first read Rose’s Garden, I was very interested to find out more about Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. What inspired you to dedicate a book to her?
Well, that was an easy choice. The park named in tribute to Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was the inspiration for my book. I was approached by Peter Meade, who was on the board of the Greenway Conservancy at the time, who invited me to visit the site of our future park. This new park, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, was being built in Boston’s downtown where once stood an elevated expressway – a huge slash of tar and metal which had torn the area in two for several decades. I stood there in the dusty, hot, mile-long strip of earth and the story came to me.
I met with Senator Ted Kennedy during the process of writing the book in his Boston office. He was moved that I would be naming the main character after his mother, Rose. He shared stories about his mother with me as we stood looking out at the harbor and the city. It was a very inspirational and special moment for me.
2. From my perspective, Rose’s Garden is a story of perseverance, friendship, community and the journey of life. What would you like children to learn from this beautiful story?
Your perspective is right on. Rose’s Garden is a very “Boston” book, although I intentionally made it a universal story about patience, story sharing and community.
3. I have always found your books to focus on the importance of creativity and imagination. Do you have any tips for parents to help foster this on a daily basis?
Creativity often gets put in the “arts and crafts” sorting bin, but for me – it is a way of thinking that fosters an open mind, a search for the possible, and self-directed discovery which can be applied to ALL disciplines and all facets of your life. My suggestion to parents, teachers and caregivers: show kids what creativity looks like.
4. What picture books were you inspired by growing up?
Snowy Day by Ezra Jack had just come out when I was ajust year old. (My twin brother, Paul was also a year old!). By the time we arrived in Kindergarten it had become a must-read in school. We attended a public school in the Boston area – the city of Somerville, Massachusetts. Snowy Day jumped out at me visually, but the story reminded me of my own exploring the snow in the city. Our teacher, Ms. Buscanera drove by after school on a snowy day and saw me -alone – sliding down the sidewalk along the steep hill leading to the school. I had found a piece of cardboard and was quite happy to go sledding down the hill over and over again. A city kid in the snow. That was 1966.
Our sister, Jane would read Charles Dickens and Shakespeare to us when we were quite young. I was was making my own pictures in my head as she read.
5. I see that you wrote your latest book, Going Places with your twin brother. Please tell me about this new book and your experience writing it with your brother.
After years of working together building a children’s media company in Boston called FableVision www.fablevision.com, my own brother and I finally decided to collaborate on a picture book together. He and I are on share that special twin “radio frequency” where we finish each other thoughts -and often, do not have to say a thing at all. It makes for a seamless synergy. Going Places is a great peek into how we think together. It is a book about alchemy–being surprised by combining two things to create something altogether new and wonderful.