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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Charles Ghigna

Charles Ghigna - Father Goose® is an award-winning author and poet of more than 100 books from Disney, Random House, Red Comet, Schiffer, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Time, Inc. and more than 5,000 poems that appear in anthologies, textbooks, newspapers, and magazines ranging from Harper’s and The New Yorker to Highlights and Cricket magazines.

He served as poet-in-residence and chair of creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, instructor of creative writing at Samford University, poetry editor of English Journal for the National Council of Teachers of English, and as a nationally syndicated feature writer for Tribune Media Services. Ghigna has read his poems at The Library of Congress, The John F. Kennedy Center, American Library in Paris, American School in Paris, the International Schools of South America, Indigenous Schools of Alaska, and conferences, libraries, and literary events, and colleges and schools throughout the U.S. and overseas. Charles’ most recent books include The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry, illustrated by Sara Brezzi (2023), Fetch, Cat. Fetch! illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde (2022), Love is Everything, illustrated by Jacqueline East illustrated by Glenn Thomas (2021), A Poem Is a Firefly, illustrated by Michelle Hazelwood Hyde (2021), Once Upon Another Time, written with Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Andrés F. Landazábal (2021), Little Bee, Little Bee, Noisy as Can Be! (Father Goose: Animal Rhymes), illustrated by Ellen Stubbings (2021), Plan and Prepare! (Fire Safety), illustrated by Glenn Thomas (2021), Little Seal, Little Seal, Noisy as Can Be! (Father Goose: Animal Rhymes), illustrated by Ellen Stubbings (2021), Dial 911! (Fire Safety), illustrated by Glenn Thomas (2021), Illusions: Poetry & Art for the Young at Heart, illustrated by Chip Ghigna (2020), The Night the Forest Came to Town, illustrated by Annie Wilkinson (2018), A Carnival of Cats, illustrated by Kristi Bridgeman (2018), First Times, illustrated by Lori Joy Smith (2017), and Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals (An Animal Planet Book published by Time, Inc.) (2016).

As well as poems in the following poetry anthologies, For Every Little Thing, edited by June Cotner and Nancy Topper Ling, illustrated by Helen Cann (2021), Construction People, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Ellen Shi (2020), A World Full of Poems, edited by Sylvia Vardell, (2020), Hop to It, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, illustrated by Franzi Paetzold (2020), The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog, edited by Paul Janeczko, illustrated by Richard Jones (2019), Thanku: Poems of Gratitude, edited Miranda Paul, illustrated by Marlena Myles (2019), A Bunch of Punctuation, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Serge Bloch (2018), Family Celebrations, edited by June Corner (2018), School People edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Ellen Shi (2018), World Make Way, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2018), The Poetry of US: National Geographic, edited by J. Patrick Lewis (2018), Poems Are Teachers, edited by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (2017), Baby Blessings, edited by June Corner, (2017), and One Minute till Bedtime: 60-Second Poems to Send You off to Sleep, edited by Kenn Nesbitt, illustrated by Christoph Niemann (2016).

For some additional information on Charles, see our earlier interview (here).

Charles' newest picture book, Little Hearts, was released November 15th.

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

I write here in my treehouse in the middle of Alabama. I climb the steps each morning, turn on my computer, look out the window and search for my Muse. So far, she’s been showing up most every day. We write all day and late into the night, then do revisions the next afternoon. I write picture books for kids and poems for all ages in various forms from traditional rhyming verse to free verse. We have four new books under contract right now that contain a variety of verse forms. Three are picture books and one is for teens that features art by my son, Chip Ghigna. I’ve been writing full-time now for nearly thirty years. Before that, I taught creative writing at the Alabama School of Fine Arts and Samford University. I'd love to have a treehouse to write in. What do you like to do outside? Take long walks with my wife.

What was your inspiration for Little Hearts?

Nature walks. My wife and I enjoy taking long walks. During our walks we enjoy looking closely at Nature, at things great and small. How wonderful, I thought it would be to write a book that might inspire children to also get out and enjoy Nature and to discover all the glorious wonders around them.

It's a lot of fun to realize, if you look, how many things in nature look like hearts. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing children’s books and poetry in general? Was there anything challenging about writing Little Hearts?

The secret to writing for children is to remember that we do not write for children. We write from the child in us. As writers of children's books and poems, we try to look at the world through the heart and mind of a child, to look through the youthful lens of imagination, to stay open and welcome to each new idea, to simply let the universe speak to us in that wondrous voice that whispers, "Listen to this..." I love this. Thank you! What's something you want your readers to know about Little Hearts? That love and nature remind us of just about everything we need to know — to be and grow.

Such an important thing to remember. When you first saw Jacqueline East’s illustrations in Little Hearts did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?

I first fell in love with Jackie's art several years ago when she created the lovable characters for our Tiny Tales series. Her renditions of Cuddle Bunny, Lucy Goose, Bobby Bear, and Adeline Porcupine continue to enchant beginning readers with their radiant charm. We have worked together on seven beautiful picture books so far, with more on the way. I look forward to introducing readers to our precious Pandora, she is one of the most adorable panda cubs you will ever meet. She is the main character in our forthcoming book, The Magic Box (2023). We're also working right now on a new series of beginning readers about a friendly, wide-eyed walrus cub named Wally.

Text © Charles Ghigna, 2022. Image © Jacqueline East, 2022.

Each leaf upon the redbud tree

Looks like a work of art!

I'm excited to meet Wally and Pandora! Who was a favorite/special author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child? I have many favorite poets. As a kid, I enjoyed reading William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Elinor Wylie, Sara Teasdale, Edna St. Vincent Millay, as well as the light verse poets Richard Armour, Arthur Guiterman, Ogden Nash, Phyllis McKinley, and Don Marquis. Later I discovered the poetry of Robert Hayden, John Updike and James Dickey.

Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry, will be released Spring 2023. This is a collection of my poems.

The book is divided into seven chapters: Home, Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Animals, Poetry. Here's a sneak peek at some sample pages from Home.

Text © Charles Ghigna, 2023. Image © Sara Brezzi, 2023.

I also have a couple of other picture books in the works, including Bound to Dream, illustrated by Anna Forlati (2023), along with two new books for teens. One of my teen novels, Only the Stars, is written in verse along with daily diary entries. Here’s a sample from the beginning and the end. (Day One) ONLY THE STARS Only the stars know our lies. Lonely are the stars in our eyes. I met you walking down the beach. You said you were from New York and pointed up to a sea blue condo on the hill. Said you were here for the summer. I told you I lived here, a bike ride from the beach. The pale moon followed us as we talked, held hands, kissed. We stared up at the cloudy stars and held on to the night until the world stopped spinning. (Day Thirty-One) THE SILENT ECHO STILL The final sunset of summer and we hold onto the night like a parting lover we know we may never see again. It is the stars we will remember, the wishes we made, the promises we knew we could never keep. A final kiss and the silence between us echoed down the beach louder than the beat of our breaking hearts. The moon pushed a final wave upon the shore, washed away our footprints, yours heading north, mine heading home into our separate worlds where we will relive this summer for the rest of our lives I am excited for The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry. The illustrations are stunning and how fun to have an anthology of your own poems!. Thank you for sharing a few pages and giving us a taste of Only the Stars. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Muir Woods National Park. A walk through those giant redwoods restores the soul. If the world had a common collective congregation, Muir Woods would be its church.

Thank you Charles for sharing with us a bit about yourself and your newest picture book.

Be sure to come back on Friday for the Perfect Picture Book #PPBF post on Little Hearts.

To find out more about Charles Ghigna, or to contact him: Website: Facebook: Twitter: Instagram:


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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