Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Crystal Kite Interviews: Debbie Levy's I DISSENT: RUTH BADER GINSBURG MAKES HER MARK wins in the Atlantic Division (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland)

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark 

by Debbie Levy 

Lee: Please tell us about your Crystal-Kite Winning Books!

Debbie: I Dissent begins like this: "You could say that Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life has been . . . one disagreement after another." 

The book tells RBG's story, from childhood to her tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court, through the lens of her many disagreements--disagreements with unfairness, with discrimination, with inequality. The theme here is that disagreeing does not make you disagreeable--and that important change can happen one disagreement at a time. 

From objecting to school rules that required girls to take sewing and cooking while boys got to learn how to use tools, to arguing in court as a lawyer for the ACLU in the 1970s against rules and policies that treat women and men differently for no good reason, RBG has used dissent as a force to change society. Her example shows kids (and adults): go ahead and say no. Dissent. Push back. But: do it in a way, if possible, that causes people to join with you. Listen to the arguments on the other side of your position. Choose your battles. Think before speaking. 

Is it any wonder that I thought she was a great person to introduce to young people in a picture book? When we--the people at Simon & Schuster, my agent Caryn Wiseman, me, and the illustrator Elizabeth Baddeley--realized in 2015 that there wasn't yet a picture book about RBG, we were surprised. And then we worked really hard and really fast to make our picture book the first one. 

A couple of other things that were intentional in creating this book: Early on, once I realized the "I dissent" theme for telling RBG's story, I also realized that this presented a fun opportunity to fill the book with lots of great vocabulary words. So I Dissent stresses lots of vivid synonyms for "dissent," and they are rendered in Elizabeth's strong, bright hand lettering. I also realized that RBG, known as a very serious person, is so much more--she can be quite funny, and she certainly appreciates humor. So while the book doesn't portray her cracking jokes, both text and illustrations include humorous touches, to capture the humor and fun of Ruth Bader Bader Ginsburg. 

Having I Dissent recognized by my SCBWI colleagues through the Crystal Kite Award, in a field of many outstanding books and in a vote by so many talented writers and illustrators, is so meaningful and rewarding.

Author Debbie Levy

Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you’ve gained by being a member?

Debbie: I have been a member of SCBWI for many years--at least fifteen, maybe more. When I started writing for children, SCBWI offered information, instruction, and advice through its publications, conferences, and informal gatherings. It offered a community and new friends. And as I've gained more experience as an author, you know what--those same offerings still make SCBWI an indispensable part of my writing life! 

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children’s book writers and illustrators?

Debbie: If they're reading this, presumably they're SCBWI members, so they've already taken the first piece of advice I would have given them!

Thanks Debbie, and again, Congratulations on I Dissent winning the Crystal Kite Award!

You can find out more about Debbie at her website, debbielevybooks.com

Illustrate and Write On,

1 comment:

Debbie Levy said...

Thanks for this opportunity to talk about my book, Lee! And thanks again to my colleagues for choosing I DISSENT.