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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview w/Andrea Denish and BlueBean & Review of The Way We Say Hello

I had the pleasure of interviewing both the author and the illustrator who've created the adorably sweet picture book - The Way We Say Hello.

Andrea Denish says hello with a vigorous wave and a big smile! She enjoys educating children about the world around us by writing books, teaching science, and engaging with young readers at the library. Andrea lives with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets in Elkins Park, PA. Andrea works in the Children's Department of her library and loves recommending books to readers!

She’s the author of Everyone Loves a Parade!* illustrated by Guilherme Franco (2020).



BlueBean 蓝豆 says hello with a little wink! She is an artist and book illustrator. The beauty and harmony of nature inspire her artwork. The artist of the popular Gamer Baby series, she loves working on whimsical stories with cute, quirky characters. She creates illustrations, products, and more from her studio in Malaysia.


She’s the illustrator of Yakety Yak - Animal Names That Are Also Action Words by Kathy Broderick (2021), Video Games (Gamer Baby) by Anne Elder (2021), Role-Playing Games (Gamer Baby) by Moloy Rossiter (2021), Chess (Gamer Baby) by Anne Elder (2021), The Dragon Painter by Lesley Sims (2021), A New King by Jenny Jinks (2021); and Four Seasons of Fun by Wiley Blevins (2016).


Their newest picture book, The Way We Say Hello, released yesterday.


Welcome Andrea and BlueBean! Thank you for the wave and wink and for stopping by to talk about writing and illustrating your newest book.


ANDREA – It’s so nice to say “hello” to you Maria.


BLUEBEAN - First of all, I would like to thank Maria for having me in this interview.


Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write?)


ANDREA – Writing picture books is my passion. I’ve been writing since childhood, but fell in love with everything about picture books after my own children were born. Picture books are deceptively difficult to write well, and I love a challenge.


BLUEBEAN - I started drawing at a young age and started illustrating books in 2020. Children’s picture books are my favorite books to draw and also one of my most collected books.


So, who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

ANDREA – I was an elementary school student in the 1970’s. I was always drawn to rhyme so certainly Dr. Seuss books were high on my list. I remember our teachers reading selections from Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends as a reward. The kids at my school loved the poem Sick (“I cannot go to school today,” said little Peggy Ann McKay). We would all shout the lines together in unison. I also remember liking Yours Till Niagara Falls by Lillian Morrison. It was a book of funny verses that could be easily memorized and written in friends’ autograph books.

BLUEBEAN - Jimmy Liao from Taiwan impressed me a lot since I was a teenager. His arts are quiet, yet so vivid and emotional. I have always loved his books, especially The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination. The illustrations are just phenomenal and filled with details.


I love discovering "new to me" books and these two sound wonderful. Andrea, what was the inspiration for The Way We Say Hello?

ANDREA – For me, one of the best things to come from the Covid-19 pandemic was the spark to write The Way We Say Hello. During the lockdown period, there were news reports about people avoiding traditional handshakes and replacing them with greetings like elbow bumps or bows. This piqued my curiosity and I started reading everything I could find about greeting customs. I considered drafting a guidebook for kids on how to say hello in different settings. This idea evolved into seeking the best way to greet someone really special, like a new sibling. The Way We Say Hello follows a young child on a journey around the globe in search of the best way to greet a new baby brother or sister. Along the way readers learn languages and greeting gestures from all over the world.


Thanks Andrea, it's always fascinating to see the progression of an idea. BlueBean, what about The Way We Say Hello manuscript appealed to you as an illustrator?

BLUEBEAN - My first impression, it felt like reading poetry, and I really like Andrea’s text. Those sentences are impressive. Wiggle, giggle, clap, clap!


What is the most fun or unusual place where you’ve written a manuscript or done an illustration?


ANDREA – Typically I find a cozy spot to sit with my laptop when inspiration strikes. I spend lots of time at the Jersey shore where my bedroom window faces the ocean. There’s something about staring out at the waves that helps keep the ideas flowing.


BLUEBEAN - My home studio!


They both sound like amazing places to be inspired. Andrea, what was the toughest part of writing The Way We Say Hello? How long did it take from the first draft to publication?


ANDREA – The Way We Say Hello was written in rhyming couplets. Writing in rhyme comes with challenges right off the bat. Additionally, I included foreign words in the text - making for revisions that nearly made me tear my hair out! It was important to incorporate as many different words for “hello” that I could, but working with the rhyme scheme ruled out some greetings because of the way the stress fell on the syllables. Given all of that, The Way We Say Hello was written, sent on submission, and published in just under three years.


That's quite an accomplishment. BlueBean, you’ve illustrated both picture books and board books, do you prefer either format? What’s the hardest part about illustrating picture books?


BLUEBEAN - Any format will not limit my artistic exploration. This Hello book is one of the most exciting picture books I have drawn. Since the illustrations are created in gouache and digitally, it's also the first book I have drawn in traditional media, this was the hard part, and it took me a lot of courage to take the first step. I first painted my book spread with gouache, then digitally touched up the painting and finished it.


It turned out beautifully. Glad you gave it a try. What's something you want your readers to know about The Way We Say Hello?


ANDREA – I hope that readers will connect to the book and that it will bring back memories of that special moment when they met a new sibling or another important person in their own life. The Way We Say Hello was meant to introduce different greeting languages and gestures in a friendly, accessible way. I hope that readers will also go beyond the book and share additional greeting customs that are significant to their family.


BLUEBEAN - This book is a lovely book, and everyone is welcome to read it, whether you are an adult or young! I also read this story to my cat, Yibby who I brought home for New Year's and it was a great welcome gift for her.


*Smiling* BlueBean, many illustrators leave treasures or weave their own story (or elements) throughout the illustrations. Did you do this in The Way We Say Hello? Could you share one or more with us?


BLUEBEAN – Oh yes! In one of the scenes with big families, where they all gather for a huge meal party, you can see the people are actually from all around the world which is also from the previous story scene. This is very exciting to me especially seeing many cultural foods prepared on the table.


I love how you worked them all in! Andrea, did anything surprise or amaze you when you first got to see BlueBean’s illustrations? What is your favorite spread?

Text © Andrea Denish, 2023. Image © BlueBean, 2023.


ANDREA – Yes, I was amazed by the whole aesthetic of the book! I like the pretty pastel color palette and the assortment of international characters. The Way We Say Hello demonstrates greeting gestures from around the world. There’s a spread that features an old Tibetan greeting custom. BlueBean included a yak in the illustration which I found to be adorable!


It is adorable. BlueBean, is there a spread of which you are especially proud? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Andrea Denish, 2023. Image © BlueBean, 2023.


BLUEBEAN – My favorite is the parade scene, which is also the first big scene I started to paint for this title. It was challenging, yet I appreciated having the creative freedom given by the Starry Forest team to make the best work I could.


It's really fun! Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


ANDREA – I don’t have any news to share but I am working on several picture book manuscripts that I hope will make it over the finish line.


BLUEBEAN - Stay in touch with my social pages, where I’m always sharing news. At the same time, warmly welcome you to visit my online shop at https://bluebeanart.etsy.com. Also, I want to do a lot of things, including writing, baking, traveling, and owning my own orchard.


Good luck to you both. Last question, what is the best advice you’ve ever gotten - whether it’s regarding writing/ illustrating or not?


ANDREA – Something that reverberates in my mind came from actor and children’s author, Henry Winkler. When he spoke to a group of mostly pre-published children’s authors he talked about identifying your dream and keeping it at the forefront of your mind, never letting it go. He communicated to us that when you keep your focus on something you really want to achieve you’re bound to make it happen. I wholeheartedly agree that focus is a major component for success in publishing. I would combine that with hard work. So I guess focused hard work is key for authoring a book or any endeavor worthy of pursuit.


BLUEBEAN - “Love what you do! Do what you love!” These are the words that popped into my head. I know that sometimes we are asked to choose between two options. But I hope that in the adult world, we wouldn’t have to select a single answer to a multiple-choice question—we can always do our best to balance many aspects at the same time.


Excellent advice! Thank you Andrea and BlueBean for stopping by to share with us your newest picture book.


To find out more about Andrea Denish, or to contact her:


To find out more about BlueBean, or to contact her:


Review of The Way We Say Hello


This is a very sweet book which wraps the anticipation of welcoming a new sibling with the fun of learning how to say "hello" with both international gestures and languages.

The Way We Say Hello


Author: Andrea Denish


Illustrator: BlueBean


Publisher: Starry Forest Books (2023)


Ages: 3-7


Fiction


Themes:

New sibling, international greetings and customs, and friends.


Synopsis:

From author Andrea Denish and illustrator BlueBean comes a touching story about new siblings, greetings, languages, and love.


A young child searches for the best way to welcome a new baby to their family as they ask, "A special day. A special place. How will you greet a special face?" With rhyming text, heartwarming art, and educational facts about cultures and customs around the world, The Way We Say Hello takes you as far as Tibet and as near as your front yard as you learn greeting after greeting.


Along the way, you'll also discover how to welcome the world into your heart in different languages, gestures, and places. You can say "namaste," "howdy," or "annyeong." You can use traditional greetings like the Māori hongi or European cheek kisses. You can use sign language to greet those who are hard of hearing, or send a card to someone far away.


Perfect for new big siblings, baby showers, and kids curious about different cultures and languages. There are so many ways to greet someone new, no matter where they're from or what language they speak—so how will YOU say hello?


Opening Lines:

A special day. A special place.

How will you greet a special face?

A wink?

A pat?

A tap-tap- tug?

A wave?

A shake?

A big bear hug?


How will YOU say HELLO?


What I LOVED about this book:

This is such a sweet picture book about a young girl trying to figure out how to say "hello" when her new baby brother or sister arrives. After the opening, loving moment with Mom and Dad, she explores different cultures and customs around the world as she looks at many ways to say "hello." I love that the focus is on finding your own special way to welcome the baby, instead of jealousy.

Text © Andrea Denish, 2023. Image © BlueBean, 2023.


From the opening spread, there's a fun refrain kids will enjoy echoing, "How will YOU say HELLO?" which is tweaked to "How in the World will you say hello?" at the end of a fun spread with traditionally attired characters saying 'hello' in multiple languages. And a fun final fun shift at the end. Andrea Denish did a great job of respectfully weaving the different greeting customs and "hellos" from about twenty countries into her rhyming text.

Text © Andrea Denish, 2023. Image © BlueBean, 2023.


In Japan, to bow politely, face your

friend and bend down slightly.


Or, like the Māori, greet your guest

nose to nose with foreheads pressed.


And BlueBean beautifully threaded the clothing, environment, and foods of each nationality into the softly pastel illustrations. Making this also a wonderful international introduction for kids (and their caregivers) to some traditional outfits, customs, and many ways that we say "hello" around the world. Including a fun special wiggle handshake, which kids will have fun mimicking or be encouraged to create one of their own.


It ends with a tender moment and a wonderful opening for the reader to think of how to demonstrate their own way of saying hello. It also includes fun additional information about the featured greetings. Overall, this is a wonderful introduction to international customs and languages and a perfect book for exploring ways to welcome a new family member, relatives, or friends.


Resources:

- how would you welcome someone special?

- be sure to check out the coloring & activity pages for The Way We Say Hello.

- pair this with Maple by Lori Nichols and Mama’s Belly by Kate Hosford for a couple of other ways to welcome a new baby.

Comments


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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