Anika Denise is the author of “Baking Day at Grandma’s,” (Philomel, 2014) “Bella and Stella Come Home,” (Philomel, 2010) and “Pigs Love Potatoes” (Philomel, 2007.) In 2016, HarperCollins Children’s Books will release her forthcoming title, “Monster Trucks!” Her books have been praised by Parents’ Choice Foundation, The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews and the Rhode Island Center for the Book. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Barrington, Rhode Island. For more information about Anika’s books, visit her website at www.anikadenise.com, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or visit her YouTube channel.
I have the great fortune of presenting to you today an exclusive interview with, fellow Listen to Your Mother Providence alum and children’s author Anika Denise. I’m also lucky enough to offer you a chance to win a signed copy of her newest release, Baking Day at Grandma’s, and eight gift tags for treats made and shared!
How did you come upon the idea to write Baking Day at Grandma’s?
Baking Day at Grandma’s was inspired by my grandmother and my mom. Both loved to bake. And both welcomed kids and grandkids into the kitchen while doing it. Quite a bit of the baking was done around the holidays, but we never needed an excuse to get in the kitchen and start in. My mom would visit and she’d be browsing through my cookbooks and say, “Girls, let’s try these lemon cookies!” Before you knew it, the mixer was going and the kids were covered in sugar and flour.
We always made a mess, but there was also lots of joy and laughter. My girls loved it. It got me thinking that a baking day with grandma would make a great premise for a picture book. So, I wrote one!
Did you incorporate any personal childhood memories into the book?
Yes, this book is basically a love letter to my childhood. I grew up in Queens, but spent summers and holidays at my Grandma Rose’s house in the Adirondacks. My grandmother is pretty much the standard to which I hold all things domestic. She had seven children. She was excellent cook. She understood the importance of a family sitting down together each night for a meal, and she set a nice table—even if the meal was grilled cheese and tomato soup. She knew how to sew and bake, and encouraged her kids and grandkids to do both. For her, food was joy. . . and sharing food was love. I should also point out she did all this and worked for many years at the restaurant she owned with my grandfather. Whenever I’m exhausted or feeling overwhelmed with juggling mom stuff and work stuff, I think of my Grandma Rose and the grace with which she lived her life—and kept her home—and I snap out of it.
That’s why I wanted this book to have so much of my grandma in it—including her recipe for chocolate cake! The cubs tromp through the snow to Grandma Bear’s house; they put on aprons and help mix the batter. Grandma lets them lick the spoon… then Grandma Bear makes them hot chocolate while the cake bakes. In the end, the cubs wrap up their treats to share, not just eat. That’s a direct homage to Rosie, and all the cookies and treats she delivered in little tins to family and neighbors.
What age child do you think would enjoy this book the most?
The book is written in bouncy verse, almost like a song, so little ones ages 3-5 will enjoy hearing it read aloud. But I notice with my husband’s art, slightly older kids will pick up and read our books, too. The illustrations are lush and inviting and there’s lots to pore over and enjoy. A good friend bought the book for his wife because she loved baking with her grandma as a child. I’m a firm believer that picture books are for all-ages!
Do your own children read your books? Do they share their ideas? How are they involved with your process?
They are my first readers, generally. It helps to have a built-in test audience. Sometimes they give me feedback or ideas for making a piece better, and sometimes unwittingly they inspire an idea for a book. My second picture book, Bella and Stella Come Home, is based on my daughter. It’s about a little girl whose stuffed animal looms large in her imagination. When the girl moves to a new house, she brings her friend with her to explore, and to help her get over the newness of it all. That came right from watching my daughter hop around the empty rooms of our new house with “Spotty Dog” in tow.
Was an author what you wanted to be ‘when you grew up’?
No, I wanted to be a famous actress or a pop-star. But I get stage fright and I’m tone deaf, so writing was a better choice. I wrote poetry and short stories when I was a kid, and continued to write in college, but I suppose I never seriously considered it as a career until I met my husband Chris, a children’s book illustrator.
What do you enjoy most about being a children’s author?
Hmmm. Good question. I think it’s the process itself that makes me happiest. It can be frustrating some days, when it’s not flowing or a writing session seems more struggle than spark. But when it is working, and I hit upon something truly interesting, it’s a great feeling. Conjuring characters and stories people care about and connect with is the closest thing to magic I can think of. Storytelling is fun. I can’t imagine a better job, really.
What can we expect from you next?
Up next for me is picture book called Monster Trucks releasing in 2016 with Harper Children’s Books, as well as a fourth collaboration on a picture book with my husband Chris. It’s about a middle kid. (Middle kids need their own book.) Please also expect a novel from me in the near future, if you wouldn’t mind. I’m working on one now, and if I know you’re expecting it… well… then I have all the more motivation to finally get it done. <grin>
Now it’s your turn! To win a signed copy, please follow this link to Facebook, and click the ‘Giveaway’ tab. You will have several opportunities to enter! Valid email address required to enter, must be a US resident, giveaway ends on September 25, 2014 at 6pm ET. A winner will be drawn and the winner notified via email, Stephanie Bernaba’s Blog Facebook page, and Twitter. Winner must respond within 24 hours or a new winner will be drawn.
BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA’S
“A rollicking, rhyming salute to the grandmother-grandchild bond. . . . While the cake is baking, there’s hot chocolate to drink and frosty windows to draw on. ‘Old-time music, soft and sweet, / Skippy notes and tapping feet. / Learning songs that Grandma sings— / When the kitchen timer rings!’ But this cake isn’t for eating; the siblings carefully decorate and wrap each piece as gifts.” –Kirkus Reviews
“This gentle story will leave children feeling warm and fuzzy. It’s perfect for individual sharing, storytime, baking time, and pretty much any time.” –School Library Journal