You have two books that released this year. Could you tell us a little about them?
HOPE IN THE VALLEY (Macmillan) is a middle-grade novel about a girl who is growing up in the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” in 1980. The neighborhood is changing rapidly and becoming the area we now know as Silicon Valley. The novel explores the roots of our housing crisis in California but is about a girl finding a way to serve her community by weaving together past and present for the sake of the future.
HOLY NIGHT AND LITTLE STAR (Penguin Random House) imagines the Nativity Story from the perspective of a little star in the galaxy. It’s a picture book collaboration with Khoa Le, a marvelous illustrator who worked with me on BARE TREE AND LITTLE WIND, an Easter picture book.
What drew you to tell these stories?
Both the books feature characters who don’t like things to change. I, too, am a person that likes to stick with the familiar. Change is stressful for me!
You’ve published fourteen books, have been nominated for the National Book Award for YOU BRING THE DISTANT NEAR, and have recently had RICKSHAW GIRL adapted into film. After three decades as a children’s author, I’m curious: How are things different from when you first started? What keeps you going?
The industry has changed significantly, but some things stay the same: relationships matter, and craft matters. Both of those things keep me going.
What book has been the most influential in your life? Why?
I wrote a nonfiction book for grownups called STEEPED IN STORIES about seven favorite children’s books that formed me as a child and that I still reread every year. These include LITTLE WOMEN, THE SILVER CHAIR, A LITTLE PRINCESS, HEIDI, EMILY OF DEEP VALLEY, THE HOBBIT, and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. You may find out more here: steepedinstories.com.
You say, “One of life’s greatest joys is to create spaces where young people feel safe, welcome, and beloved. Stories are one such space.” Could you talk about how your new books might be a safe haven for young readers?
I like to leave room for a child reader to decide what they think and feel, especially when they are facing competing goods. BookPage said these wonderful words about HOPE IN THE VALLEY, and I sincerely hope they are true: “Many books advocate for listening carefully to people of opposing views while following one’s own beliefs, but few do it better than Mitali Perkins’ exceptional Hope in the Valley. ”