Sweet on Books Interview
with Renee Khatami, author of the Little Pink Book
Where did you get the idea for a book about color?
Funny enough, it was during jury duty. With sketchbook in hand, I began playing with rhymes and images to introduce one color at a time to toddlers through their senses. This was a great way to create a book using my background in design and art education.
Why was pink your first color choice?
That’s a good question! Originally I thought to do black because of its mystery and graphic qualities. My editor at Random House though, had the good sense to start with pink. Pink is perfect for spring and beginnings.
How do touch/feel and scratch/sniff elements influence the reading experience?
Involving the senses in reading is crucial to learning. And kids learn so very differently. Using your senses enhances the experience and memory in unique ways. If you miss something in one modality, you may get it through another. It pains me to see picture books as e-books!
What are you working on, currently?
LITTLE BLACK BOOK is due next summer/fall. There will be a black bunny to pet (a wink at Random House’s most famous touch and feel!) and other treats and surprises based on a small child’s world. I would love to do more individual colors, and introduce more themes sensorily.
What made you want to be a writer? Illustrator?
I have always loved the combination of image and words. I call myself a “bookie” because I love to make books. My parents actually got together by sharing an art book for a class. If not for that book, I might not be here. My mom let me color in her childhood books (very nice of her!).
How do you get your ideas?
My ideas evolve from my life experience. I have two very different children and I noticed how they approach the world so uniquely, yet they both loved the same scratch and sniff book. Also, I grew up with a foreign father, an anthropologist, and we traveled a lot. So I saw how other people did not live like us, yet we shared similarities.
Do you do research?
I enjoy research, so for example I will investigate the particular color -- scientifically, culturally, and historically. The more you research, the better your decisions about your subject matter. I also like to see what’s out there in the book market. I love browsing bookstores.
Do you have a special place you like to write/create?
I am very fortunate to have a quiet little studio, but to be honest I also work quite a bit with my laptop on the go. A quiet place is essential though!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers and artists?
I would say, try something different by reconfiguring your strengths and desires every so often, when you know you need a change. I was stuck in a rut with design, and not as happy as in the past. I went back to school and took the plunge to do my own book. Of course it helps immensely to have an old colleague and friend as my agent.
Do you have a favorite children's book?
My favorite children’s book is MR. DOG by Margaret Wise Brown with ethereal artwork by Garth Williams. That book was my friend as a child. I still have it with my crooked writing all over it! My absolute favorite authors are Leo Lionni and Eric Carle. Both ingenious.
WOULD YOU RATHER...
Read or write? Write
Call or text? Call
Fly or drive? Drive
Beach or ski? Beach
Time travel back or time travel forward? Travel back
E-book or traditional book? Traditional book. Guess I am like Crispin Crispian in Mister Dog, a conservative, not politically though!
TELL US YOUR FAVORITE...
Song: Defying Gravity from Wicked
Sports team: Yankees
Travel destination: Paris
Superhero: The Genie in Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Magic power: To speak/write any language
We are Sweet on Books, so we have to ask – what is your favorite sweet treat?
Marshmallows and dark chocolate, and that combination!
RENEE KHATAMI is an artist and designer who has worked in book publishing for many years, and received numerous awards for her work. She holds masters degrees from Pratt Institute (design) and New York University (art education). Renee is a bona fide Manhattanite, who lives there with her husband, two daughters, and an orange cat.