My interview with June Smalls


If you could create an Olympic event, what would it be?

📚Oh, I’d create something kids could practice most anywhere after watching. Like make lasso throwing an Olympic event or Olympic limbo.

Which is of the seven dwarfs is your favorite?

📚I wasn’t a huge fan of Disney’s Snow White, but either Grumpy or Sleepy. I can really relate to sleepy!

Best way to cook a potato?

📚Fried breakfast potatoes are the best!

Do you have a favorite website?

📚I guess I’d have to say Twitter. That’s the one where many of my book friends are.

Now, let’s talk about He Leads. This book is all about the Mountain Gorilla. Can you tell us a little bit about this wonderful creature?

📚Gorillas are social creatures living in groups called troops. The silverback is the leader, protector, and often the father of most of the young. 

Gorillas can be fierce when they need to be, but mostly like to hang out with their family and friends in the group while munching on dense vegetation. They travel throughout the day and build nests to sleep in each night, which is how humans can sometimes track them. They are elusive creatures who would fade into the shadows to avoid danger if that is an option.

Your writing style is powerful, beautiful, and lyrical. Why do you feel it was important to use this style of writing?

📚Thank you for the compliment. I felt like lyrical was the best paintbrush for the LEADS series. It started with SHE LEADS: THE ELEPHANT MATRIARCH. It sets a mood and gives a feeling rather than just diving into the facts. 

When teaching children about animals and their life cycles some hard topics arise. Predators, poachers, death or even just ‘retiring’ from the leadership position can be topic that need to be introduced gently. The reader can ask more questions if the wish to know more, but each piece is touched upon briefly and succinctly as a natural part of the animal’s life. Books are a perfect vessel to introduce topics and start needed conversations about the real world and its issues or imperfections.

Your book is filled with amazing facts about the Mountain Gorilla. Can you tell us about your research process, and what you think the most important part of the research process is?

📚All research is important. I like to start wide. I watch videos and documentaries just to get a lot of facts, visuals, even knowing their sounds and mannerisms gives me ideas or makes me think of what would be interesting, what is necessary, and how I could describe what I see.

Then I go deeper into books and articles, looking for those specific facts to fit the manuscript. I try to keep a working bibliography as I go so it is easier at the end of the process. I wish I had always had that habit!

Besides reading your book, how else can children learn about Mountain Gorillas?

📚There are so many great organizations from zoos (some of which work directly with veterinarians and conservationist working in the wild), conservation centers, to well researched shows and documentaries. Plus, children can always ask their local librarian where to find out more! Who knows what they’ll find.

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