The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Valerie Bolling 2023
Although she's busy teaching at Highlights, speaking at the SCBWI 2023 Summer Conference, and participating in a number of summer events, I'm so excited and honored that the talented Valerie Bolling agreed to do an interview about her newest two picture books which release in the early part of August.
Valerie Bolling is passionate about creating stories in which all children can see themselves and feel seen and heard, valued and validated.
A graduate of Tufts University and Teachers College, Columbia University, Valerie has been an educator for 30 years and is an active member of the kidlit community – teaching picture book classes (independently and for the Highlights Foundation), serving as a mentor, and presenting at conferences. Valerie lives in Connecticut with her husband where they enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, going to the theater, and dancing.
Valerie’s the author of the Scholastic Acorn early reader series, Rainbow Days, illustrated by Kai Robinson (2023), Ride, Roll, Run: Time For Fun!, illustrated by Sabrena Khadija (2022), Together We Ride, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita (2022), and Let’s Dance!, illustrated by Maine Diaz (2020).
Her newest two picture books are Bing, Bop, Bam: Time To Jam!, releasing August 8th, and Together We Swim, releasing on August 15th.
What was your inspiration or spark of inspiration for Together We Swim? How about for Bing, Bop, Bam: Time To Jam! ?
Both Together We Swim and Bing, Bop, Bam: Time to Jam! are companion books for my last year’s titles, Together We Ride and Ride, Roll, Run: Time For Fun!. Since I wrote a book about learning how to ride a bike, I needed to write about another activity a child would learn with an adult’s guiding love and support. After exploring a couple of other ideas, I eventually landed on a book about swimming. Holding and encouraging a child in the water fosters a special connection between child and adult.
For Bing Bop Bam, I was thinking about activities children love to do outside, besides playing games (as they do in Ride, Roll, Run). Sometimes the books I write inspire other books, so I figured that since I wrote a book about dance, I could write about music. After all, children (and adults) enjoy music! In Bing, Bop, Bam I decided to feature instruments from around the world (since Let’s Dance! showcases dances from around the world) at a musical block party that an intergenerational community could enjoy.
These are such great sequels for those books! What was the hardest or most challenging thing for you about writing Together We Swim? And you guessed it, how about with Bing, Bop, Bam: Time To Jam! ?
As I always say, Maria: When writing a rhyming story, it’s a challenge to make sure the rhyme is right and tight. [😊]
For Together We Ride, I wrote 30 words with the same end rhyme – rhyming with “ride.” I knew that a book about swimming would need to be more than 30 words. I also knew that since there are so few words that rhyme with swim, this book would not have the same end rhyme throughout.
Text © Valerie Bolling, 2023. Image © Sabrena Khadija. 2023.
For Bing, Bop, Bam, I was committed to showcasing instruments from countries different from those featured in Let’s Dance! I had to do some research and listen to the instruments so that I could accurately describe them with rhyming words. That was a challenge, but it was fun to learn the names of some instruments I hadn’t heard of before.
I like the rhyming couplets that you created, instead for Together we Swim. And I love that Sabrena Khadija included these instruments on the end papers. What's something you want your readers to know about or gain from Together We Swim and Bing, Bop, Bam: Time To Jam! ?
I think my readers will gain from my books whatever they like and what resonates with them, and it will be different for each reader. I do hope, however, that young children will understand that perseverance and resilience lead to knowledge and success and that, for most people, being part of a family and the larger community is connected to joyful experiences.
Those are two very wonderful things to discover in these books. When you first saw Kaylani Juanita’s illustrations in Swim and Sabrena Khadija’s in Jam did anything surprise or amaze you? Which is your favorite spread in each book?
First of all, Maria, shout-out to Sabrena Khadija and Kaylani Juanita for their amazing illustrations! Though I’d seen sketches of both books throughout the illustration process, and had seen the final electronic version, there’s nothing like holding the actual books in my hands. I continue to love Sab’s unique style of making magic with geometric shapes and Kaylani’s heart-warming, detailed illustrations!
Text © Valerie Bolling, 2023. Image © Kaylani Juanita, 2023.
It’s hard to pick favorite spreads, but I really love the spread in the Together We Swim when the boy is swimming successfully on his own, in the zone.
Text © Valerie Bolling, 2023. Image © Sabrena Khadija. 2023.
For Bing Bop, Bam, I love the final spread that shows all of the children playing instruments together, making their own music.
Both illustrators did a remarkable job and I love that the same main characters carry over from the previous books. Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I’m currently working on two new picture books. One is a style I haven’t written before (dramatic irony), and the other is a story from my “archives” that I haven’t worked on in about three years; I’m seeing if it’s worth resurrecting with a fresh set of eyes. I don’t know if either of these books will end up being published, but I’m having fun.
Next up is the release of Rainbow Days: The Gold Bowl on September 5, 2023 and Rainbow Days: The Orange Wall on March 5, 2024 (both illustrated by Kai Robinson). I See Color (co-authored with Kailei Pew, illustrated by Laylie Frazier) is slated for May 2024.
I’ve also been working on edits for two books I’ve sold within the past year. One, New Canaan Library, was announced in July.
Congratulations on all these books, Valerie! You are on fire! Thank you so much for carving out some time to stop back by to share about your two newest picture books.
Thank you for taking the time to interview me, Maria, for the THIRD time. I appreciate your continued support of my books and myself.
Be sure to stop by on Friday for the Perfect Picture book #PPBF post on Together We Swim and Bing, Bop, Bam: Time to Jam!
To find out more about Valerie Bolling, or contact her:
And if you're in the area:
Valerie is doing a dual book Launch Celebration for BING, BOP, BAM and TOGETHER WE SWIM
at the New Canaan Library, New Canaan, CT
151 Main St, New Canaan, CT 06840
Sat. Aug 12th 11:00am - 12:00pm
Valerie's Guest Author at Summer Reading Ice Cream Social
at North Lake Public Library, Polson, MT
301 16th Ave E, Polson, MT 59860
Thur. Aug 17th 10:00am - 10:30am
*See Valerie's website for other scheduled events.