BookLife Talks with Rhonda Gatlin
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'Aggie's Purple Hands'
Gatlin's follow-up to Granny's Cobbler: A Counting Book takes readers back to Hartford, Ala., to teach a "legacy of love."
What is the story behind Aggie's Purple Hands—what inspired you to write it?When I was visiting my grandparents as a child one summer, I wanted to help my extended family make scuppernong jelly. I was given a job that I was proud to do, but I didn't realize that it would turn my hands purple. I was devastated. My papa arrived and saved the day with a pair of gloves. His presence and this gift gave me such a feeling of joy and security. In writing Aggie's Purple Hands, I wanted to share the family feeling of this true story with children who might otherwise never experience it.
How did you collaborate with illustrator Eduardo Kraszczuk?
I met Eduardo via Mascot Books, my publisher for Aggie's Purple Hands. When I gave him a picture of me at six years old, he produced a sketch that was pure Aggie. It was just what I had wanted: cartoonish and very colorful. We developed each additional character from family pictures I sent to him. Eduardo understood my characters and sometimes enhanced them with his own ideas.
Who is your ideal reader and why?
The target audience for Aggie's Purple Hands is children from five to 11 years of age. This is a teaching book that works nicely in schools to help children understand solid and liquid measurements. Parents and grandparents can also read the story to younger children to establish what I call a "legacy of love." If I had to pick anyone to give my book to it would be my grandson Oliver. I would like for him to share in the way my family had a legacy of love.
Why or how do you think this book is particularly relevant to children and parents now?
Aggie's Purple Hands teaches an important lesson and shows how families can come together to make something delicious.
This is your second book based in Hartford, Ala. To what extent does Hartford inspire your writing?
My father moved us every two years because of his job, but Hartford, where my grandparents lived, gave me stability. The community and my grandparents made me feel safe. I enjoyed my summers there making scuppernong jelly, picking pecans, and shelling peas. I discovered my roots and deepened my family connection. Hartford inspired my first book, Granny's Cobbler: A Counting Book, and now Aggie's Purple Hands.
What was your journey to becoming a children's book author? Did your professional experience as a teacher help inspire your writing?
My journey as an author was always in the back of my mind growing up, but I did not have time for it until I retired. I taught primary schoolchildren the writing process and to use their own experiences to write what they know. I used this same process in writing Aggie's Purple Hands.
What is the one thing you most want to tell readers, other writers, booksellers, publishers, or agents about you or your book?
I want to show children of today how they can interact with and enjoy their family and to share the love Papa showed for Aggie with his resourceful idea to use gloves and save the day.