Jen: Hi Jonah Winter, what inspired you to feature Hillary Rodham Clinton’s life in the new picture book, Hillary, for kids ages 4-8?
Jonah: Hillary is an inspiring figure, who has led an impressive life – that’s generally the sort of person about whom I write picture books. Also, I believe that she will succeed in becoming the first female president of America. I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to write about a person in the process of making history. And I can only imagine how important her story would be for little girls, whose horizons are expanding astronomically, the closer Hillary gets to the presidency. But Hillary’s toughness is what “inspired” me to write this book, and I believe it would be inspiring to children – that, and her unparalleled grace under fire.
Jen: In her early years, how did Hillary stand out from the crowd?
Jonah: Well, as I say in the book, she was “scrappy.” She often found herself in leadership positions, as she liked to be in charge. She was smart, industrious, and interested in politics and public service.
Jen: How much research was needed in order to best portray Mrs. Clinton’s inspirational life?
Jonah: In a 32-page picture book for very young readers, there is only so much information that can be included – given the format of just a couple sentences per page. Too much information causes young readers to disengage. The writer’s job is to create a compelling story, one that has some thematic and emotional center, something that will engage kids. The notion of a woman who is tough and can keep on going despite repeated body blows and setbacks is something any child can understand. I read a bunch of books, I set the books aside, and then I write the story. That’s my process.
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Jen: What are some of Hillary’s most stellar accomplishments that ultimately may lead her to becoming the first female president of the United States?
Jonah: Well, the fact that she transformed the position of First Lady into a more active role than had previously ever been imagined – I would consider that an accomplishment. And I would absolutely consider the fact that she was Secretary of State an accomplishment – and that she was the first First Lady ever to be Secretary of State, and that she was a tireless and respected Secretary of State, who helped to restore America’s standing around the world. She also rose up from the humiliation and scandals surrounding the last four years of her husband’s presidency to become the first First Lady ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate – she was like a phoenix. And is it not an “accomplishment” that she has become the first woman ever in America to be the presidential nominee for a major political party? Anyone who cares about women’s rights and women’s “firsts” cannot help but view the afore-mentioned things as extremely important accomplishments.
Jen: What life lessons will children learn from reading Hillary?
Jonah: Work hard! Never give up! Stand up to bullies! (But don’t lower yourself to their levels!) Women can be just as powerful, tough, and strong as men – and way smarter! A girl can grow up to be president!
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