Cover Reveal: THE HOME BUILDERS by Varsha Bajaj
Houston author and dear friend of the shop Varsha Bajaj is on some kind of roll. When she's not in the news for scoring an exciting #ownvoices publishing deal with Nancy Paulsen, she's penning delightful middle grade novels. And when she's not doing that, she's creating incredible picture books. Her next release in that last category is called The Home Builders, and it's hitting shelves on February 12. It's a beautiful story with beautiful illustrations, and we can't wait to help Varsha launch the book here at the shop in February. We're delighted to reveal illustrator Simona Mulazzani's gorgeous cover below. Bask in its loveliness for a minute or two, then keep scrolling to read our Q+A with Varsha. Then, pre-order your copy at the bottom of the page. Trust us on this one: It'll hold a special place on your shelf for a long time.
What was your inspiration for The Home Builders?
Back in the fall of 2015, a family of beavers had built a shelter in the bayou near my house.
Every morning, Scamper, my dog, and I would pause and observe while on our walk. The babies were adorable. My daughter had recently left for college. My nest was empty and somehow this Mama beaver taking care of her little ones made me nostalgic.
Once home, I’d put the thoughts aside and begin working on my middle grade novel.
My desk at the time overlooked the oak tree in my front yard, and lo and behold a sparrow noisily started building her nest in its wide-open branches. That Mama bird was hustling. Then a few days later, a wasp made a mud nest by my front door. It was a conspiracy of homebuilders distracting me!!
I gave in and started brainstorming about creating homes, empty nests, children, keeping kids safe, and letting them fly.
I gave myself an hour every morning before I moved on to the serious business of writing my middle grade novel. Approximately 29 or 44 drafts later (who's counting?), I had a manuscript with legs.
You write picture books as well as middle grade novels, two entirely different mediums. Do you approach the work differently? If so, how?
I do approach the two forms differently. Picture books feel more like poetry. Even the ones in prose have a rhythm and a cadence of their own. They must work on two levels. The level of the child and of the adult reading it aloud and that is one of the reasons they are so difficult to write.
I settle in when I write middle grade. I know I don’t have an illustrator who shares the burden of creating the world and the characters. It’s all me and my words.
There are similarities too; both picture books and middle grade novels have a plot and a narrative arc. They both have to have a beginning, middle and end.
What are a few of your favorite picture books that you read to your children?
We would go for story time at our local public library and come home with tote bags full of books. They were happy, happy days.
My kids and I loved reading Doreen Cronin’s Click, Clack, Moo and Duck for President. We had memorized Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? By Eric Carle and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
We read The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson when the kids were in elementary school and I will never forget both the silence and the conversation afterwards.
I could go on forever and I am sure that I am forgetting so many of our favorites.