I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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7 Qs for Marsha Diane Arnold + ARMANDO’S ISLAND = Happy #BookBirthday!

August 8, 2023

To say we have been *waiting* for Marsha Diane Arnold‘s beautiful book, ARMANDO’S ISLAND (Illus. Anne Yvonne Gilbert / The Creative Company) to be released is an understatement!

Isn’t it gorgeous?

And we have Questions!

Q 1. *About that WAITING…I’m amazed that it’s been over twenty years since the first draft of ARMANDO’S ISLAND was written! How has the manuscript changed since then?

MDA: Interestingly, the manuscript has changed very little, which may lead someone to ask why it took so long to sell. I think sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the right time and the right editor. Sometimes that takes twenty years…or more. After reviewing a file I’d forgotten about in the back of my file cabinet, I actually realized that I started researching the story thirty years ago!

MDA: My editor at The Creative Company did ask me to add a bit more text about Armando’s early years, so the second, third, and fourth stanzas of the book are recent. Also, before starting my last submission round, I added back matter about the rainforest animals. I don’t think that addition is what sold the book, though. I had two offers on the manuscript on this last submission!

ED note: What a lesson in persistence–amiright #kidlit friends?

Before it was a book…

Q 2. Which came first—the story idea or the character of Armando?

MDA: The rainforest came first – my concern for the vanishing rainforests and the loss of habitats for the beautiful creatures there. I have research notes on rainforests going back to 1992, including a letter from the Assistant to Dan Rather at CBS News (This was when letters were still common.) The research led me to the idea of having a main character who loved the land and the animals that lived there. He would refuse to sell his land, his “island,” to developers. That was Armando.

Interior illustration by Anne Yvonne Gilbert from ARMANDO’S ISLAND by Marsha Diane Arnold
(The Creative Company)

An Ode to Conservation Heroes…

Q 3. You describe ARMANDO’S ISLAND as an “ode to conservation heroes who stand against masses, and a song to the rainforests.” What do you hope readers will take away?

MDA: I hope readers will want to learn more about rainforests and what we can do to support people and organizations working to protect them. Besides that, I would like them to realize that animals and habitats are likely in danger wherever they live. We can all do little things to help the animals and plants we share this precious earth with, whether it’s not using chemicals on lawns and gardens, putting up bat houses, or planting milkweed for butterflies. There is much we can do in our own backyards.

Interior illustration by Anne Yvonne Gilbert from ARMANDO’S ISLAND by Marsha Diane Arnold
(The Creative Company)

MDA: Look at the fear in the animals’ faces in this illustration. Anne Yvonne did amazing work, expressing their terror. This image is across from the text “In the morning, to the north, the whir of chainsaws and groan of bulldozers shook the earth.” How can we look at these images and not want to help?


Q 4. The illustrations by Anne Yvonne Gilbert are as magical as your lyrical text. What surprises did she bring to the project?

MDA: The illustrations belong in a museum, don’t they? I have two of the prints, that Anne Yvonne graciously gave me, in the entry of my home. It feels a little like a museum here. These are the two I chose:

Original art by Anne Yvonne Gilbert created for ARMANDO’S ISLAND
written by Marsha Diane Arnold (The Creative Company)

MDA: I was thrilled when I learned Anne Yvonne Gilbert would be doing the art for Armando’s Island.  The surprise – that someone of her caliber would be illustrating one of my books! I suspected her art would be spectacular, but even so, it takes my breath away. When one looks deeply at the images, the details are amazing. Her work is so well researched.

I mentioned there were two offers on Armando’s Island. One of the reasons I went with The Creative Company is that they do such magnificent work with the art. I knew that from the books they’ve published; they proved it again with my previous book with them, Lights Out. Susan Reagan did beautiful work playing with dark and light in that book.

LIGHTS OUT by MDA, Illus. Susan Reagan
“In a world marred by light pollution, this quest for true darkness is a clarion call to turn out the lights—
so that all may see.”


Q 5. Might you give us a glimpse of your process? Are your first drafts written in longhand or on a computer?

MDA: Someone else once asked me this and I responded, “Process? We’re supposed to have a process?” Ha. I used to make lots of notes in longhand and write drafts in longhand, but now I do almost everything on the computer. I do write in longhand when I make a “dummy” of my manuscript; I do one of those prior to sending any story to my agent.

About that waiting…and persistence…

Q 6. “One piece of land cannot be traded for another. Each piece has its own treasures to give.” Just as Armando’s belief in his rainforest home never wavers, you never gave up on finding a home for his story.  What would you say to kid lit friends who are disheartened by rejections?

MDA: I love that analogy, Erin. Thank you for being so perceptive.

Those rejections break our hearts, don’t they? I get them all the time. It’s not unusual for me to have ten or fifteen rejections on a manuscript. These are manuscripts that I love, my agent loves, the members of my writers group love…and sometimes editors love, but they cannot take it because they have a similar story coming out or…they don’t love it enough.

I would love to say, “Never give up,” but we writers need to learn when to step away from a story, when it’s not quite perfect enough for our precious readers, or when it’s time to file it away, at least for awhile. Remember, we have many stories to write! For those stories in the file that keep calling us back, it’s fine to look at them again, to rethink, to rewrite, and to see if the phoenix can rise.

What’s Next?

Q 7. What new projects are you working on now?

MDA: I’m very excited about a new book that’s coming out in 2025, but I can’t share as it hasn’t been announced in PW yet.

ONE SMALL THING by Marsha Diane Arnold, Illus. Laura Watkins (Beaming Books)

MDA: I’ve been busy doing PR for two new books this year, One Small Thing and Armando’s Island. I’m also kept busy with manuscript consultations. I do love working with aspiring writers, but I’m eager to get back to my own stories. There’s one about wildlife, one about snuggles, one about a detective, one about…oh, so many stories to tell!

We can’t WAIT!

Or maybe we can…

What do you think, #kidlit friends?



are both GreenPB23 picture books.

To learn more about Marsha Diane Arnold and her books:

Check out www.marshadianearnold.com

And follow her on social media:

FB: MarshaDianeArnold

Twitter: @MarshaDArnold

Insta: marshadianearnoldauthor

Happy Book Birthday to Marsha & ARMANDO’S ISLAND!

Up next:

Benson Shum’s The First Day of Howlergarten 

(Which ALSO pubs TODAY from Penguin Workshop)

–and there’s a GIVEAWAY!

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