Ariel Bernstein is a children's book author. Her debut picture book, I HAVE A BALLOON illustrated by Scott Magoon (Simon and Schuster/ Paula Wiseman Books) is available now. Her upcoming chapter book series, WARREN AND DRAGON, illustrated by Mike Malbrough (Viking Children's) will be released Summer 2018. You can find more about Ariel at http://www.arielbernsteinbooks.com, and on Twitter and Instagram at @ArielBBooks.
Marina Raydun: Rumor has it, you have quite a few favorite children’s books. Is there one you can single out as an absolute childhood favorite?
Ariel Bernstein: If I have to pick one, it’s probably THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin. When I was younger, I identified with the character of Turtle and loved seeing the story through the chapters from her point of view. When I read it again as an adult, I appreciated how Raskin made all of the character personalities so distinct and layered. Plus, with every read I discover clues I’d missed before.
MR: What is the first book that made you cry?
AB: I don’t often cry when reading books. I imagine if I had cried when reading a book, it was when I read THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, knowing what had happened afterwards.
MR: As a parent, what do you look for in a children’s book?
AB: I look for re-readability. If I take a book out of a library or buy one, I want a story that my kids will enjoy multiple readings of, and one that I will be okay reading multiple times!
MR: Do your test drive your ideas on your kids?
AB: I don’t. It’s hard to explain to my kids what my book will ultimately be about when I first start writing, as I often figure out a plot as I write.
MR: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
AB: Sometimes when writing I get stuck figuring out what should come next. Taking a break and reading a few pages from another book usually help.
MR: Any unusual writing quirks?
AB: I don’t think this is so unusual, but I often get my best ideas when I’m out taking a walk.
MR: One of the most prominent features of children's literature is illustration. Do your characters, as they are drawn, match the portraits you must have had in your mind’s eye while you were writing them?
AB: Actually, I rarely have a visual idea of what my books will look like! When I write a picture book, I know the illustrations will be completely up to the illustrator and editor, so I don’t need to figure out what it should look like. When I’m writing chapter books, I don’t know which images or scenes the illustrator will choose to draw. I don’t really write with that in mind.
MR: I Have a Balloon is marketed as a book for ages 4 to 8. That’s a bit of a range in kid years, I would say. Which age, have you found, has the most to say about the book at readings?
AB: I’ve read the book to kids ages two through ten, and luckily I’ve had great experiences reading to all ages. All of the kids end up having questions, no matter their age, so I can’t really say one age group over another responds to it more.
MR: What subject would you never write about as an author?
AB: I’ve never thought to rule any subject matter out, but there are plenty I just haven’t imagined writing about.
MR: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?
AB: What does it feel like to have had such a long career as a children’s book author? (Obviously I need to write a lot more books if I want to be asked this question one day!)
I Have a Balloon is available here: https://goo.gl/v8SbjD