About a year ago, the most adorable book came home with Elsa in her backpack. My 5 year old had picked it out with the help of her classroom teacher and school librarian. The book? Gaston. The author? Kelly DiPucchio.
Gaston - published in 2014, but new to our family - quickly climbed my looooong list of favorite picture books. (Here's a favorite Gaston moment, as highlighted in my #ChildrensBookWeek roundup.) Today, this book is one of my favorite gifts to give when helping new parents build their baby's library. I also love giving Antoinette, DiPucchio's sequel to Gaston (published in 2017). Both books feature gorgeous and unforgettable illustrations by Caldecott Honoree Christian Robinson.
DiPucchio's adorable white pups Gaston and Antoinette, and their family tales, are emblematic of what this fabulous author does so brilliantly. She masterfully delivers characters that warm our hearts and solve problems with ingenuity, determination and hope.
An adventurer with an enormous imagination, Manny dons super hero capes after school to fight bad guys of every ilk. Whether taking on zombie bears or unsavory sea creatures, Manny stands up and conquers with gusto.
He is strong. He is brave. He is fearless.
However, Manny's invincibility is tested when the mean, towering Tall One at school picks on a classmate one-eighth his size. Will Manny stand up and face injustice? Or will he stay silent and glued to his seat?
The story - which hit awfully close to home for me this week - resolves in the most thrilling manner as Manny, buoyed by his invisible cape and true courage, not only overcomes his personal fears but also motivates an entire lunch room of kids to stand up for what is right.
It's now my distinct pleasure to introduce Kelly DiPucchio (@kellydipucchio), author of the aforementioned titles, and more than a dozen more. A huge thank you to you, Kelly, for sharing Manny with us all, as well as answers to these three Author Spotlight questions.
3 Questions with Kelly DiPucchio
My girls hung on every word of Super Manny Stands Up! and were especially drawn in by the colored capes and their unique purposes. How did this idea, and the themes of the evil forces, come to you?
Thank you! I’m delighted to hear your girls enjoyed the story. To be honest, I’m not completely sure how any of the themes in any of my stories come to me. When I’m truly in the zone, I’m pretty much taking dictation and writing down the stories I’m hearing in my head. That being said you can find some connecting threads within the different evil forces I created for Manny. For example, when Manny is wearing his blue cape he’s busy saving the world from an ocean of unsavory sea creatures. It’s not a stretch to see the link between the color blue and his aquatic enemies. Likewise, when Manny is taking on the forest giants he’s naturally wearing a green cape. I also imagined everyday items Manny might have in his home that could become potential adversaries like teddy bears, pillows and cardboard boxes. Those items ultimately transformed into zombie bears, cloud monsters and alien robots.
The pacing makes for a great read-along experience. The moment Manny stands up for the Small One is perfect (from the first use of his tiny voice, until it builds and the whole lunch room joins). How do kids respond to this scene when you read the book aloud?
I have read Super Manny to smaller groups at bookstore events and it’s been fun. Like with any new book, it takes me several reads to find that “sweet spot” – knowing when to pause, how long to pause, when to raise my voice and when to whisper. But the tension in this particular story really does have a nice build so it’s been great watching the different expressions on the children’s faces as the lunchroom drama unfolds.
Why do you think it is so hard for kids (and adults) to remember their invisible capes and stand up when things aren't right?
In a nutshell, FEAR. Kids (and adults) are often leery of drawing attention to themselves for fear they’ll be judged. It takes a lot of strength and bravery to allow yourself to be vulnerable – to put someone else’s needs above your own need to feel safe. When kids see courage and kindness being modeled by their parents and peers it empowers them to override their fears and to be more empathetic. There’s also strength in numbers as we see in Super Manny Stands Up! I hope that kids hearing the story realize they, too, can be a catalyst for good and a superhero like Manny by standing up when things aren’t right.
Super Manny Stands Up! can be purchased in bookstores nationwide, as well as online through the bookseller of your choice. You also can enter to WIN an autographed copy!!!
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