The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Charlotte Offsay and Review of A Grandma's Magic

Charlotte Offsay was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. Through her work, Charlotte hopes to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world in which her readers can lose themselves in time and time again.

She’s the author of How to Return a Monster (2021) and The Big Beach Cleanup(2021).


For additional information see our earlier interview (here) and (here).


Charlotte’s newest book, A Grandma’s Magic, releases today!

Charlotte, thank you so much for stopping back to talk about your newest book and writing.


Thank you for having me back on your blog Maria, it is a treat to be here and I really appreciate your support!


Did you find anything particularly helpful in keeping you inspired and writing these past couple of years?


The past couple of years have certainly had their challenges and I have had to learn to allow myself permission to not spend quite as much time writing as I did pre-pandemic. That said, when searching for inspiration I often turn to the things I care most about in my life. For me, this means my children. I am a mother to two wonderful children, and I try to think about the emotions and things that consume them and use them to reflect on my own experiences as a child and write from there. When that doesn’t work and I am feeling particularly stuck, I like to pull all of my favorite picture books from my shelves and think about why I enjoy them. This usually sparks an idea or two of my own or I will challenge myself to try out a new picture book structure and brainstorm ideas that way.


Great ideas. So what was your inspiration for A Grandma’s Magic?

A Grandma’s Magic was inspired by my own grandma. My grandma lives overseas in England (where I was born) and I don’t get to see her as often as I would like. After one particularly painful goodbye, I was consumed with missing her and decided to channel my emotions into my writing. I began writing what would eventually become A Grandma’s Magic.


What was the toughest aspect of writing A Grandma’s Magic? Why?


The toughest part for me was finding the right way into the story and figuring out how to honor the grandma-grandchild bond in the way that I felt it deserved. My grandmas have taught me so much and their magic has truly helped shape the person I am today. It was hard to find a format that celebrated that with all the joy and love that I have in my heart for them. I initially wrote A Grandma’s Magic about a little girl who wanted magical powers like her grandma but it didn’t quite capture the emotion that I wanted it to. I was fortunate to attend SCBWI LA Writer’s Day 2019 and receive a critique from the fabulous Frances Gilbert who helped me see that the heart of my story was the relationship and not the girl trying to mirror her grandma. She suggested that I re-write the manuscript as a lyrical ode to grandmas.


It's great that love and serendipity ("magic") played a role in creating this magical book. What’s something you want your readers to know about A Grandma’s Magic?


I hope readers find their own relationships reflected in the pages and that it inspires them to celebrate those relationships and tell their grandmas how much they mean to them.


Or, for some of us, maybe do something they used to love doing or just remember them fondly. When you first saw Asa Gilland’s illustrations in A Grandma’s Magic did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? What is your favorite spread?


Yes to all of the above! Asa Gilland is a dream illustrator and I knew from the moment she agreed to partner on the book that I would love her illustrations, but even so, I was blown away. I still can’t quite make it through the book without tearing up -- the joy and emotion that she has put into every page is beyond anything I ever could’ve imagined. I adore every detail and even had napkins made from her stunning end papers!

Text © Charlotte Offsay, 2022. Image © Asa Gilland, 2022.


There is one spread where a child is climbing an apple tree though that feels as though Asa managed to climb into my own memories of apple picking with my grandma! I also adore the heart-squeezing spread at the height of the arc of the book - it is far better than anything than I ever could’ve dreamed up, but I will have to let readers discover for themselves what Asa came up with for the scene when “disaster strikes!”


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


Eeek, I do have some exciting news in the pipeline, but I will have to ask everyone to wait a tiny bit longer before I can share more.


Yeah! My curiosity is definitely peeked. What is your favorite National Park, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Yellowstone National Park. I met my husband in the Boston area where I grew up and when we decided to move to California we drove across the country and stopped at Yellowstone National Park. I loved every minute of being there, the animals, the walks, the views, and the way we disconnected from the rest of the world while we were there. The whole experience was spectacular -- I highly recommend checking it out if you ever get the chance!


I couldn't agree more. Thank you, Charlotte for stopping by again and sharing your time and thoughts with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.


To find out more about Charlotte Offsay, or contact her:

Website: http://charlotteoffsay.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/coffsay

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/picturebookrecommendations/


Review of A Grandma's Magic


Releasing today, this sweet book is a delicious celebration of the love between a child and a grandmother.

A Grandma's Magic


Author: Charlotte Offsay


Illustrator: Asa Gilland


Publisher: Doubleday Books for Young Readers (2022)


Ages: 3-7


Fiction


Themes:

Grandmas, family, love, and magic.


Synopsis:

"When a child is born, a grandma is born too. Grandmas aren't like regular grown-ups. Grandmas are filled with magic."


In this charming picture book tribute to grandmas, a grandma's magic bursts through the door as soon as she comes to visit and can be seen in every wonderful thing she does: playing, exploring, baking, gardening, and in all the many ways a grandma and grandchild connect.


Filled with adorable scenes featuring a diversity of grandmas and their grandkids, this is a book that families can enjoy together. Grandmas will love snuggling with their grandchildren as they share their love and "magic" through cuddles, kisses, and many repeat readings.


Opening Lines:

"When a child is born . . .

. . . a grandma is born too.


Grandmas aren't like regular grown-ups.

Grandmas are filled with magic."


What I Liked about this book:

Everybody knows newborn babies are adorable,

Text © Charlotte Offsay, 2022. Image © Asa Gilland, 2022.


but what about newborn grandmas?

Text © Charlotte Offsay, 2022. Image © Asa Gilland, 2022.


I love Asa Gilland's shift from the initial spread's white background featuring swaddled babies to this stunning blue spread showing the grandmas' love & magic swirling around the page! Charlotte Offsay's poetic opening is touching & thought provoking. I'd never really thought about the fact that you 'can' be an adult simply through the passage of time, but you can only be a grandparent upon the birth of a baby.


This is such a tender, lyrical, free-verse ode to grandmothers. A loving celebration of their ability to sweep you off to adventures, to have time just for you, and to revel in creating and exploring. The colorful, soft illustrations are full of delicious details and whimsy which match and play off the text.

Text © Charlotte Offsay, 2022. Image © Asa Gilland, 2022.


Her magic swirls inside your creations.

Together you sing her apple crumble recipe

until the whole world is golden.


I love the diversity represented in both the illustrations and the activities (baking, beachcombing, gardening, planting, and sewing). It presents a wonderful kaleidoscope of races and families, ages of grandmas, and houses/settings. Creating a magical series of experiences between children and their grandmothers. And for all of those with found families, note Asa's dedication to "Therese, for offering to be a grandmother to my boys." Not every 'newborn' grandmother is necessarily genetically related. Though they certainly are just as magical! My step-grandmother was wonderful and an amazing great-grandmother to my kids.


But, as with life, bad things happen. The gorgeously colored spreads with each grandma's individual sparkling magic swooping through the pages, changes to a foreboding and heart wrenching green-gray spread. Without giving anything away, this is when a grandma's magic really comes into play. The final two spreads are bound to bring both tears and rewarding sighs of joy. This is a book that families will enjoy reading again and again. The perfect gift for new moms and newborn, magical grandmas.


Resources:

- make a picture frame and send your grandma a picture of the two of you (https://craftulate.com/kid-made-photo-frames/).

- draw a picture or write a poem or letter to your grandparent and mail it to them.

- write a story or draw a picture about your favorite time with your grandma. What did the two of you do? Why was it so special?

- create a "fun tree" - make a family tree and include fun things you like to do with each person. [Cooking, sewing, walking, rock hunting, games, reading.....]

- find something special to do together - just you and your grandma. Whether it's a long-distance book reading over Zoom, a trip to a favorite place (zoo, ice cream store, beach), or snuggling for a movie.

Decorative scroll design
Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

Decorative scroll design

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