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five questions with deborah marcero

I’m starting a new series called Five Questions in which I’ll be interviewing a different author or illustrator every week.  The first interview of the series is with the lovely and very thoughtful Deborah Marcero, author/illustrator of Ursa’s Light.  I hope you all enjoy getting to know the person behind the book and the "story behind the story" as much as I have.


What five words do you think best describe your work?

Graphic, Modern, Emotive, Whimsical, Quiet


What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading “The River” by Alessandro Sanna, “Cloth Lullaby, The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois” by  Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, and “Komodo!” by Peter Sis.


What were some of your favorite books as a kid?

My favorite stories were the ones that my dad would tell us before bedtime.  He would make up these wonderful stories on the spot; I still vividly remember the characters he painted in my imagination.  I also remember loving "Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile" and "Curious George".  I grew into an avid reader, and in Elementary School my favorites were "Where The Red Fern Grows", "The Hundred Dresses" and "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry".  Those books still live inside my heart today. 


I read that you were a lead literacy teacher in the Chicago public schools.  What were some of the most important lessons you learned as a teacher?

I learned so many lessons as a teacher in CPS.  I learned kids have a difficult time learning and engaging when they don’t feel safe.  And they so often didn’t feel safe.

I learned that teaching fiction writing was probably my favorite unit. When we would write stories together as a class, everyone lit up. There was such joy and enthusiasm for the whole process. What astonished me even more was that the next year, they would say, “Ms. M. remember when we wrote that story together about Jerome?”  And they would retell it to me, down to every last detail.

I learned that a good story has the power to teach and connect all of us. 

Finally, when I led the Young Authors enrichment after-school program, I built a curriculum to lead students through the process of writing and illustrating their own stories.  In creating and teaching this curriculum to students, I realized that writing and illustrating books was what I wanted to do. I could feel the work in me, like a sleeping dragon that wanted to wake up and set fire to the world.


If you could live in any city in the world for a year, where would it be?

I absolutely love to travel, explore and discover new places.  I am also a photographer and outdoor enthusiast, so I am drawn to places where I can enjoy a vibrant city pulse AND take advantage of the landscapes around it (ideally: water and mountains). I love to hike, kayak, swim, ski and simply walk in nature. “Walden” was one of my favorite texts in college, if that says anything. Connecting to the natural world connects me to myself – this simple deliberate act inspires, recharges and slows down time all at once.

Based on these initial criteria, right now I’d have to say it’s a tie between Vancouver, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.  Guess I’ll just have to go for two years. 


It has been wonderful getting to know you, Deborah, and it's been inspiring to hear about your impactful work as a teacher.  We are big Ursa fans and can't wait for Rosie and Crayon!


the first rule of little brothers

A lovely book about siblings, and the “first rule of little brothers” is not what you would expect.  I bought this for Avery, since she has a little brother to think about.  We try not to put too much pressure on her as “the oldest” who has to “set an example” in doing the right thing, etc., for her younger brother—rather, we tell both of them that they need to set an example for each other in making good decisions, and that they need to love each other and take care of each other.  Of course, they still quarrel a lot but for most part, they are best buds.

Any other ways that you all talk to your kids about how to maintain good relationships and solve conflicts with each other?  And, any other good books about siblings out there?

The First Rule of Little Brothers is by Jill Davis and Sarah McMenemy.


the sign on rosie's door

Maurice Sendak's books—they are the stuff of childhood.  There are few who capture the heart of childhood as intuitively as he did.  In The Sign on Rosie's Door, he delves into the pretend world of children with its energy, noisiness, stomping around, imagining, game-inventing and traversing worlds.  Their animated gestures, candid expressions and wide-eyed sensibilities are expressed so deftly in his illustrations.  Let them play, he is saying.  Let them play.

This is what childhood used to be like, before this era of myriad lessons, activities, electronic devices, workbooks and scheduled play dates.

Hope everyone is seeing more free time in their days with the arrival of summer, including unstructured time for play!


a trip to the bottom of the world

Mouse is a reluctant traveler taking a trip to the bottom of the world.  A simple narrative for early readers and bold, modern and stylized illustrations by Frank Viva.  Edited by one of my favorites in the publishing world, Françoise Mouly.

“‘A Trip to the Bottom of the World’ is based on Frank’s experiences aboard a Russian research vessel during a trip to the Antarctic Peninsula.  On this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, while crossing the Drake Passage (the roughest waters in the world), he became sick—over and over and over again.  But it was worth it.  Once in Antarctica, he saw penguins and whales—and swam in the thermal waters of a submerged volcano.”


finding wild

Such an apt book for the first day of summer.  Where to find wild?

“Wild keeps many secrets, waiting to be discovered—

like its candy: honey from bees and sap from trees,

swift-meting snowflake and juice-bursting blackberries.”

I would love to know where everyone goes to find wild in their neck of the woods.  If you’re ever in San Francisco and you find your way to Mount Sutro, take this book with you. ;)

Finding Wild was written by Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrated by Abigail Halpin.