Interview with Christy Mandin

Welcome to another #ChatWithThePBLady 🥳🎉 Today’s chat is with Christy Mandin. We talked about her wonderful book LUCKY.

📚 Do you like rollercoasters?

Absolutely not. I’m a highly sensitive person who is more than happy to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. 

📚 Can you tell me about one of your favorite family vacations?

We’ve moved to various states since having children and we’re all major homebodies so I guess you could say we move to places instead of vacation there. We like to sleep in our own beds so day trips are our sweet spot. When we lived in Georgia one of my favorite day trips we’d take every fall was to Helen, Ga. to visit the candy shops and a kooky little place called Goats on a Roof. It’s exactly as it sounds – a little building with goats on the roof, complete with a bucket and lever system to feed them on the roof. 

📚 If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be?

A pie party. I’ve always wanted to throw an early autumn harvest party where everyone just brings their favorite pie and we sit around a cozy fire and listen to a bluegrass band play under string lights. Very chill. Very cozy. 

📚 Who or what inspired you to start writing and illustrating children’s books?

I’ve always wanted to be an illustrator for as long as I can remember. I grew up an only-child far out in the country in the 80s so there was always a healthy dose of books, Disney VHS tapes, and Saturday morning cartoons that inspired me. Mary Blair, Quentin Blake, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, Barbara Cooney, and E.H. Shephard are some of my illustration heroes. But I’m not sure I really believed I could be a professional writer too until my editor at Harper Collins showed interest in the story behind one of my illustrations and encouraged me that I am, in fact, a writer. She really opened the floodgates. 

📚 Now, let’s talk about your beautiful book LUCKY. Please tell us about your book and where the inspiration for writing it came from?

Lucky began as a mock book cover – a challenge to bring to life a simple round character. How do you move and pose a hard round object so that it has personality and feels alive? It was a fun challenge. My editor saw the illustration on instagram and we went through 5 or 6 rounds of revisions to get her story just right. 

More specifically, my home is near the water in Florida. Not a beautiful beach – a 100 acre dead lake. When we moved here 5 years ago our canal and the lake it empties into had been so polluted that the Florida Fish and Wildlife recommended anyone coming in contact with the water wear gloves. It was a toxic mess. But our city worked hard over the last 5 years to rehabilitate and clean up the lake. The fish have returned, snails as big as my hand are back, turtles everywhere, and the water is clear! Lucky’s pollution hook was born out of my love of nature and a fascination with indicator species who alert us to the health of an ecosystem. Oysters are one of those indicator species so Lucky was the perfect character for a book about the importance of community, friendship, and paying attention to the world around us. 

📚 How would you describe Lucky’s personality? What makes her such a likeable character?

I think Lucky is a great character because she’s multi-dimensional and not perfect – just like the rest of us. She gets caught up in her own world and plans, loses her temper, and is a bit materialistic. But she’s also able to see when an imbalance of those things doesn’t work out so well and the value in something richer – community. 

📚 This story is both humorous and meaningful. How did you find the right balance between the two? Was it difficult?

I find it extremely challenging to write funny stories. But illustrating funny moments and expressions feels much more natural. So I think the balance between the two comes from writing a meaningful story and then illustrating it in a funny way. Lucky’s expressions really bring home the humor, I think. 

📚 This book has wonderful backmatter with suggestions of how children can help prevent ocean pollution. Can you share one thing that children can do if they want to help the environment?

Start where you are. Jane Goodall encourages us to not think globally but act locally. If you think about the big problems facing the world they seem impossible for one person. And they are. So just do your little bit right where you are. Look at your own ecosystem (your room, your backyard, the sidewalk in front of your apartment) and see what needs a little extra care. And start there. Your little bit won’t fix any global problems but it might make things better for the living things near you. And that matters. 

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