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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Valerie Bolling and Review of Ride, Roll, Run

It's always a pleasure to have the talented Valerie Bolling visit and chat about writing and her new picture book.

Valerie Bolling has been an educator for 30 years and a writer since age 4. She is a graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University, Teachers College and currently works as an Instructional Coach.

Her nieces inspired her to write picture books. Her desire is for children of all backgrounds to see themselves in her stories and feel valued and heard. Ms. Bolling and her husband live in Connecticut and enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, theater, and dancing. For additional information, see our earlier interviews (here) and (here).

She’s the author of Together We Ride (2022) and Let’s Dance! (2020).

Her newest picture book is Ride, Roll, Run: Time For Fun! and it releases tomorrow.

Welcome back Valerie. How are you or have you been staying creative?

Maria, I’m constantly creating. I have to write! It’s not always a manuscript, but if I’m writing a blog post or preparing slides for a presentation, there’s creativity in that, too. Even teaching PB classes and meeting with my critique group inspires me to think creatively, as I respond to others’ writing and provide questions for them to consider as they revise. But, yes, writing my own manuscripts – getting ideas for new ones and getting them on the page or revising a draft is where I truly thrive.

It's true we end up writing all the time. What do you like to do outside?

The main thing I do outside, Maria, is take walks – almost every day. My walks are my medicine. Fortunately, there are many different routes to cover in my neighborhood. Sometimes I walk with my husband or a friend, but often I am on my own. I enjoy walking in the woods, too, and am fortunate to have a wonderful park with hiking trails nearby.

What a wonderful way to think about walks! What was your inspiration for Ride, Roll, Run: Time For Fun! ?

I got the idea for this book, thinking about activities children enjoy doing outside with their friends. I wanted to show that you don’t need expensive equipment or electronics to have a good time; you can just go outside and play in your neighborhood. Like my other books, in Ride, Roll, Run the threads of community, diversity, and joy are interwoven. Kirkus Reviews described the book as “pure joy,” and that’s what I hope children and adults will experience as they read it.

Sometimes, it seems like a lost art, to just go outside and play. How long did it take Ride, Roll, Run to travel from spark of idea to publication?

It has taken four years from first draft to publication. I wrote the first draft in 2018; the book (originally titled CITY FUN) was acquired in 2020 – the first book in a two-book deal. The second book, Bing, Bop, Bam: Time to Jam!, will be released next year.

Congrats on a companion book! What's something you want your readers to know about or gain from Ride, Roll, Run?

I hope young readers will go outside and play with their friends; I want them to have fun! I also hope they realize the numerous games and activities they can enjoy, whether it’s playing basketball, jumping rope, or even drawing on the sidewalk with chalk. Maybe they’ll discover a new activity they want to try after reading the book.

I hope they do. When you first saw Sabrena Khadija’s illustrations did anything surprise or amaze you? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Valerie Bolling, 2022. Image © Sabrena Khadija, 2022.

Sab is such a talented illustrator. What captivated me was their vibrant, energetic art that conveys the joy, movement, and sense of community I sought to create. It’s tough to choose a favorite spread, but I’ll pick two. I like the first spread because we meet all of the characters who appear throughout the book. I also love the second basketball spread because, again, we see all of the kids together, either playing or cheering on those who are on the court. There’s that community vibe.

Talk about showing a feeling of joy and friendship. What was the most challenging part of writing Ride, Roll, Run?

Fortunately, Maria, I found the book fun to write, not challenging. However, when the book was acquired, it was 50 words in length, and the acquiring editor, Meredith Mundy at Abrams Appleseed, wanted a longer manuscript. Thus, I changed my couplets to quatrains and increased my word count to a little over 120. It wasn’t super challenging, but it required work.

Wow, asked to add words. That's fun, unless of course you're rhyming! Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I just finished a draft of a PB bio. Next, I’m hoping to delve into revisions for an early chapter book I wrote.

Both of those sound tantalizing. We'll have to keep our eyes open. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Yellowstone when we traveled there 10 years ago. The park I frequent most is Mianus River Park, which is a three-minute drive from my house. There are many wonderful trails, and it’s beautiful in all seasons. In the summer, the trees provide a shady respite on the hottest days.

Thank you Valerie for stopping back by to share about yourself and your newest picture book.

Thank you for taking the time to interview me, Maria, and for supporting my publication journey.

To find out more about Valerie Bolling, or contact her:

Review of Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun!

Building on her previous concise, rhyming, and joyous picture books, Valerie Bolling captures the fun of being outdoors and active. Her newest picture book is an ode to free time and outdoor play.

Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun!

Author: Valerie Bolling

Illustrator: Sabrena Khadija

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed (2022)

Ages: 3-5



Friendship, rhyming, community, playing outside, and city neighborhoods.


This energetic picture book celebrates community and friendship, following children as they play their way through their vibrant neighborhood. Author and educator Valerie Bolling’s rhyming text makes for an exciting read-aloud and is paired with stunning illustrations by Sabrena Khadija.

Opening Lines:

School's done!

Ride, roll, run.

What I LIKED about this book:

These opening lines and spread definitely convey the energy and excitement that runs throughout the book. The joy of friends & of being free to play outdoors. I like Sabrena Khadija's straight forward portrayal of the diversity in our communities. It is simply as much a fact of life as the joy on their faces in getting out of school.

Text © Valerie Bolling, 2022. Image © Sabrena Khadija, 2022

The school day ends and the kids dash from the building. Using short, often two-word, rhyming couplets, Valerie transports the kids on foot, scooter ("Step, push./Glide, Whoosh!"), and bike ("Speed, Cruise./Cool Views") to the park. Once there, they swing on bars, draw with chalk, and play dodge ball, hopscotch, and basketball. Sabrena's bright, colorful illustrations wonderfully exude joy, friendship, and fun. They really entice the reader to join the activities.

Text © Valerie Bolling, 2022. Image © Sabrena Khadija, 2022

If you noticed, in Valerie's favorite image above, it's gender inclusive. I love that Sabrena shuffles 'norms' a little and wonderfully intermixes the genders in hop scotch, basketball, and jump rope. And I appreciate how Valerie highlights that even if you have nothing, your imagination and energy can create fun and games outside like "walking a line," "tag," or even a street band with garbage cans, bottles, and sticks.

Text © Valerie Bolling, 2022. Image © Sabrena Khadija, 2022

Clap, clang.

Bam, Bang!

Bom, Bop,

Rhythms Drop.

It's a wonderful ode to playing outdoors, imagination, inclusiveness, and fun with friends. Although it's based in a city landscape, most of the activities will resonate with suburban and rural children as well. The unspoken, simple acceptance of ethnicity, gender, and ability is something our society needs so badly right now. This is a wonderful book for encouraging all of us to have fun and play!


- what are your favorite outdoor activities? Is there something you've always wanted to try?

- try out a few of these park/playground activities.

- can you make up an outdoor game? Like "Simon Says Hop Scotch". What are your rules?

- check out these 21 outdoor games. Try a couple you haven't played before.

Join Valerie Bolling for her book launch events:

(1) Virtual Launch Celebration for Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun!

Multicultural Bookstore (Richmond, CA)

Thu. Oct 6th at 7:00pm - 8:00pm ET/ 4:00pm-5:00pm PT

Reservations: email - for the Zoom link.

(2) In-Person Launch Celebration for Ride, Roll, Run: Time for Fun!

Harry Bennett Branch of the Ferguson Library

115 Vine Road, Stamford, CT

Sat. Oct 22nd at 11:00am - 12:00pm ET


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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