In this spotlight, I’m delighted to be interviewing Samuel Narh, author of Maisie’s Scrapbook.
Title: Maisie’s Scrapbook
Author: Samuel Narh
Illustrator: Jo Loring-Fisher
As the seasons turn, Maisie rides her bull in and out of Dada’s tale tales. Her Mama wears linen and plays the viola. Her Dada wears kente cloth and plays the marimba. They come from different places, but they hug her in the same way. Most of all, they love her just the same. A joyful celebration of a mixed-race family and the love that binds us all together.
I knew from the end pages that I was going to like this book. There was an instant feeling of authenticity and this flowed through the book.
Using examples across the seasons, we see how the different cultural backgrounds of Maisie’s parents mean they have different ways of doing things and even different clothes. But on a fundamental level, on the things that really matter, like how they love one another, they are united.
My favourite spread was Jo’s beautiful illustration of Maisie and her dada looking at the night sky and seeing “turtles swinging on chandeliers”. This book is all about perception and there’s a lovely symmetry in this spread.
In the below interview, Samuel says he wants to touch as many people as possible across the world with his stories and I have no doubt, Maisie’s Scrapbook will move many people.
Over to Samuel…
Can you tell us a little about Maisie’s Scrapbook and the inspiration behind it?
Maisie’s Scrapbook is a book about cultural diversity within a family. Maisie’s parents have two different cultural backgrounds and that helps mold her unique personality. She enjoys the best of both cultures and she is deeply loved by her parents.
My daughter and family inspired me to write Maisie’s Scrapbook. I am an African and my wife is an American, therefore our family closely mirrors Maisie’s family.
However, every family is like Maisie’s family. In my experience, there are no parents who are culturally identical to each other even when they are from the same country. We are all like Maisie.
Did you always want to be a writer/storyteller?
Yes. I was born and raised in Ghana. I grew up in a culture that treasures storytelling as a means to educate and entertain young children and adults. I am a natural storyteller. I love to paint stories using words. I am aiming at touching and moving as many people as possible across the world with my stories.
What were your favourite books growing up?
As a child I really loved Ananse stories and books with this legendary character.
Ananse, the spider, is featured prominently in Ghanaian folktales.
He is always aiming at gaining an unfair advantage over his neighbours. He is considered the wisest creature in the world in Ghanaian folktales. Ananse is a renowned trickster and an opportunist. The tales are meant to develop good morals in children/adults, because at the end Ananse usually fails to accomplish his selfish aims. There are variations of Ananse stories in the Caribbean. However, these stories originated from Ghana.
Can you tell us a bit about Lantana and your publishing journey? How long did it take from idea to publication day?
Lantana Publishing is an exceptional publisher. I really enjoyed working with Alice Curry, as the editor, and Jo-Loring Fisher, as the illustrator, to publish Maisie’s Scrapbook. This picture book has already received a Starred Review from Kirkus.
The feedbacks from people who have copies of Maisie’s Scrapbook have been heartwarming to me. It took about 3 years to write the manuscript and 1 year for Lantana Publishing to release this children’s book.
What is next for you in terms of writing?
Elle of Portuana is in the works and it should be published latest by the end of next year. It is a story about a shrewd child, who is also environmentally conscious. I also have other manuscripts that I will complete in the next few years.
What advice will you give to someone trying to publish a picture book?
A piece of advice that I will give to someone trying to publish a picture book is that there are numerous publishers in the industry. Your manuscript might not be a good fit for one but it does not mean that it is a bad fit for every publisher.
Thank you, Samuel for such a fascinating and thoughtful interview. I think your advice to aspiring writers will be very comforting and what many need to hear!
There have been many conversations in the industry recently about the place of diverse children’s fiction and I strongly believe that diverse fiction is for everyone. For me, Samuel summed this up when he said “we are all like Maisie”. Every family is unique, with individual qualities, and the power of diverse fiction is that it can touch the lives of everyone.
Publication date: 7 March 2019
Samuel Narh is a Storyteller and a Children’s Book Author. He was born and raised in Ghana. He lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter.