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da Shop Talk with Michelle Sterling, Picture Book Author

da Shop Talk with Michelle Sterling, Picture Book Author

We immediately fell in love with When Lola Visits as soon as it arrived in the bookstore!  This vibrant picture book lovingly depicts the relationship between a young Filipina, her lola, and the memories they make together on warm summer days.  We're so excited to share another da Shop Talk Q&A with Michelle Sterling, the author of When Lola Visits, to talk about her long-held joy of picture books, her experience as a debut author, and the inspiration for her beautiful book.

So Michelle...
We are so excited to see this beautiful representation of Filipino culture in your book. Can you tell us a little about the backstory/inspiration of When Lola Visits?
Believe it or not, it all started with a bowl of peaches on my kitchen counter!  I walked past them one summer day and I could tell they were ripening nicely because they smelled sweeter than the day before.  They made me think about all of the different smells from my childhood summers and I thought, could there be a story here?  Could it be a story about a Filipino American family?

What authors/stories inspired you as a young reader?
I loved all kinds of books but I think some of the ones I remember reading over and over again were Beverly Cleary’s stories.  One of my favorite picture books was one I received as a gift — it was Mrs. Wobble the Waitress by Allan and Janet Ahlberg.  As a teenager, I loved Anne of Green Gables.

Photo Credit:  Michelle Sterling

Aaron Asis' illustrations are absolutely stunning and compliment the highly sensory storytelling with energy and emotion.  Can you share a little about the experience of seeing the relationship of this young Filipina and her lola brought to life?
It was such an exciting process!  There were several times when I almost cried — tears of joy, of course.  Aaron’s brushstrokes really breathed life into the story, and he captured the warmth, vibrance and joy of Filipino culture.  

In this story, lola's visit brings so many great summer traditions, many that invoke the senses like tastes and smells and sounds. Are there any traditions from your own childhood summers, perhaps from your own lola, that you have continued into your adulthood? Or meals that make you feel nostalgic?
One of the dishes my lola was known for was her pancit molo (a Filipino soup with wontons), so any time I have that, I think of her!

Photo Credit:  Michelle Sterling

As a debut author, what was it like to meet your book in person for the first time? To see it out in the wild?
It was surreal — just such a special moment!

You write about children's books at your lovely blog " Avery and Augustine."  What sparks your excitement in a picture book?  What makes you go beyond picking it up and flipping through it to really connecting with a book and featuring it on your blog?
I think what makes me most excited when opening a picture book is a funny or intriguing first line, and then beautiful, immersive art always draws me in, and makes me want to stay in those pages.

And lastly, what are you reading these days?
So many things — picture books, always!  I’m enjoying Isabel Roxas’ The Adventures of Team Pom: Squid Happens.  And I’m always reading books about food and food history.

Mahalo nui loa to Michelle Sterling for giving us the gift of her time and words. You can connect with Michelle at on TwitterInstagram, and at her website,  Michelle's book, When Lola Visits, is available from our online shop or for special order.