Happy Book Birthday to Meeg Pincus’ non-fiction picture book, MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY. 75 years ago, Miep Gies rescued Anne Frank’s diary, after security police raided the Frank’s secret annex on August 4th, 1944. I am so thrilled to celebrate the August Book Birthday of this wonderful KIRKUS & SLJ starred picture book that tells Gies’s story.
First things first: Click HERE to watch the cool trailer.
And now…Welcome, Meeg!
Meeg Pincus: Thank you so much for inviting me!
I see that you use your full name, Megan Pincus Kajitani, when you write for adults, and your nickname, Meeg Pincus, when you write children’s books. Since I recently interviewed Huda Essa (COMMON THREADS/ Sleeping Bear Press 2019)https://erindealey.com/diversity/meet-kidlit-author-huda-essa/ , who also wrote TEACH ME YOUR NAME, I’m compelled to ask: Would you please teach us your name?
Meeg Pincus: Of course! (Huda’s work is great, by the way!) My name is pronounced “Mee-G” (like “league”) “Pink-us.”
Meeg is short for Megan (pronounced “Mee-guhn” like “vegan”). I got so tired of correcting people who called me May-gan or Meh-gan all my life, that I decided to use my longtime nickname, Meeg, when I started writing for children. In addition, I decided to use my (Jewish) maiden name, Pincus, alone, rather than my added (Japanese) married name, Kajitani (pronounced “Kah-jih-tah-nee”). I love my husband and his name and cultural background, but Pincus Kajitani makes a very long last name, especially for kids—and Kajitani is mispronounced even more than Megan!
My whole family gave the thumbs-up to Meeg Pincus, children’s author—and it feels quite liberating and just right!
Speaking of names, MIEP rhymes with “keep” and GIES sounds like “geese”– The “G” sound in Dutch is harder than in English, so it sounds more like a K, but not as hard as a “K” sound in English.
Q1. How wonderful that you actually got to meet Miep Gies, and interview her. (WOW!) That being said, what was the most surprising fact or discovery you’ve made while writing MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY?
Meeg Pincus: I didn’t know until researching for my own book (20 years after meeting Miep) how she actually got to Amsterdam. As a child in Vienna during World War I, she was 11 years old, starving to death with such vitamin deficiencies her teeth were crumbling. In desperation, Miep’s parents sent her on a train to Amsterdam, along with many other starving children, where they were told that kind Dutch families (strangers) would nurse the children back to health and keep them safe through the war.
Oh my goodness. So some equally kind and wonderful Dutch people had helped Miep, long before she helped Anne and her family?
Meeg Pincus: Yes, and the war lasted so long that Miep came of age with her kind Dutch family. By the time she could go safely back to Vienna, it wasn’t home to her anymore. So, she asked for (and received) her parents’ blessing to stay with her Dutch family and make her life in Amsterdam.
As with so many of the impossible wartime situations I read about in researching this book, I found myself often thinking of both how her parents must have felt putting their child on that train, and how her childhood was defined by kind strangers taking her in and caring for her, just because they felt it was right. Then, that’s what she grew up to do.
Wow. I can see this book being a mainstay in classrooms and libraries everywhere! Check out the reviews:
“Pincus narrates…accurately, not understating…but not allowing the horrors to overwhelm the intensely heroic accomplishment of this kind, courageous woman, employing quotes from Miep’s own writing… A beautifully realized homage.” —KIRKUS, starred
“VERDICT This book somberly and beautifully depicts what life was like for the Franks and others who fell inside the Nazi sphere of influence during World War II. A truly valuable resource.” —SLJ, starred
Congratulations, Meeg! This leads me to your path as an author. Fun fact–I read that you and your family can belt out songs from musicals on demand. (As a theater teacher, I’m with you all the way!) And it makes me wonder…
Q2 Which of these Broadway show titles might best describe your path as an author? Explain why.
a. Into the Woods
c. Fiddler on the Roof
d. How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Meeg Pincus: Love this question, Erin, and a, b, and c are three of my favorite musicals! I’m going to say Into the Woods (and not just because it was my senior musical at my performing arts magnet high school—I was Cinderella’s stepmother!). I think it’s thematically quite fitting of my own author path.
Remember Blue Books?
I’ve loved writing since I was a child using my professor mom’s exam blue books to create my own books. Then, for 20 years, I worked in many writing jobs, kind of wandering through the woods of this profession. I wrote for magazines, newspapers, educational organizations, academia, companies, and many book anthologies (plus, I edited for an educational publisher, for trade nonfiction books, and more). I enjoyed these pursuits, but never quite felt “at home” as a writer until I finally arrived in children’s nonfiction a few years ago.
Looking back, I see consistent breadcrumbs on my path: creative nonfiction, research, educating and tapping into emotions through stories. Now, having traveled the winding, sometimes murky, path through the woods makes it all the sweeter to be here.
As the song says: “Into the woods/to get the thing/that makes it worth/the journeying…”
Q3 Speaking of journeys in creative non-fiction, can you tell us about your upcoming book, WINGED WONDERS (Sleeping Bear)?
Meeg Pincus: Oh yes, thank you for asking
WINGED WONDERS: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery is a nonfiction picture book about all the people from Canada to Mexico who helped figure out the path of the Great Monarch Butterfly Migration. The story uses a questioning structure to spark kids to question how many people, decades, and environments may be behind a scientific “discovery” like this one. The back matter offers tips for kids to help monarchs today.
I’m thrilled to be working again with MIEP’s editor, Sarah Rockett, and with illustrator Yasmin Imamura on that book, coming in Spring 2020.
For those who have been reading my blog lately (thanks), and know that my Book Birthday is next month ( SNOW GLOBE WISHES /Sleeping Bear/ Illus by Claire Shorrock, Sept. 2019) just got a starred review from KIRKUS!) this last question is no surprise:
Q4 If you had a magic snow globe that could grant one wish, what would your Snow Globe Wish be?
Meeg Pincus: Oh, my wish would be an end to the “othering” that causes prejudice and violence—to have all people see that all living beings are equally deserving of love, respect, and safety. I think if everyone could magically understand that we are all truly interconnected, that could solve almost every problem facing people, animals, and the planet.
“Othering” is such a good way to put it. I love this wish. I hope it comes true very soon. And thank you so much for letting us celebrate Miep, as well as you, and your books, Meeg.
To learn more, check out Meeg’s blog and books at MeegPincus.com and wish MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY a Happy Book Birthday on Twitter @MeegPincus.
And don’t forget to order MIEP AND THE MOST FAMOUS DIARY from Run for Cover Bookstore. ; )