Aya Khalil: Thanks for letting me interview you for Kidlit in Color. I read your beautiful upcoming picture book, The Moon from Dehradun, illustrated beautifully by Tarun Lak, and was completely blown away. This picture book is loosely based on your own family's story from the partition 75 years ago. Can you briefly explain this more to our readers?
Sharon Shamsi: THE MOON FROM DEHRADUN was inspired by my mother’s personal experience of the Partition of 1947, when my grandparents – and 15 million people – were forced to flee their homes in what is known to be history’s largest forced migration.
AK: Why did you write this picture book and when did you start writing it?
SS: I wanted to write this story for my children, for them to know their family’s history. I realized there was not much information about such an important historic event. After thinking about it for many years, knowing how important it was to share this story with all children, I finally began writing it around 7 years ago.
AK: Seven years ago, wow! Tarun's illustrations are incredible. What did you do when you first saw sketches and then the final illustrations? Any favorite spread?
SS: I was blown away by Tarun’s illustrations. When I first saw them I burst into tears. I was so overcome by emotion, at seeing my words brought to life by such beautiful illustrations. It was an overwhelming moment, and I am so grateful to Tarun for reaching out to me, to ask details about my grandparents. I absolutely love the cover illustration – it simply takes my breath away!
AK: They are truly incredible. What do you hope readers learn after reading your beautiful new picture book?
SS: I hope readers learn about this particular period of history and become curious to know about their own family history. It can be very empowering.
AK: I learned a lot! Your other picture book, Zahra's Blessing, featured a stuffed animal. Was it coincidental that both picture books had dolls/stuffed animals or is there a reason?
SS: It was totally coincidental. I wrote them both at different times, and it just so happened that they were released in the same year. The reason for having a doll or a teddy bear, is that most children have a toy they are attached to, and perhaps it makes the story more relatable.
AK: I love that. This topic is obviously serious and may be a bit scary for young readers, but you did such an amazing job making it kid-friendly. Do you have any tips for authors or writers who write about serious/scary subjects for children?
SS: I try to put myself in a child’s shoes. I dig deep into my own memories to gather the emotions I felt as a child. So my only advice would be to try and remember your own childhood, in order to convey the emotion authentically.
AK: Beautiful advice. Where can our readers find you and purchase your books?
SS: My books are available wherever children’s books are sold. You may purchase directly from Simon and Schuster through the link below:
THE MOON FROM DEHRADUN (Atheneum, Fall 2022) Illustrator, Tarun Lak
Learn more about Sharon here: