It’s the #BookBirthday of THE BLUE PICKUP by Natasha Tripplett, Illus. Monica Mikai (Harper Collins) and we’re celebrating with TEN Questions!
But first… about the book:
A love letter to hard work and shared legacy. —Starred Kirkus
A vibrant celebration of intergenerational connection, community, and the joy of a spin around the neighborhood, this cheerful picture book also has a sweet message about holding tight to old items and traditions, recognizing that everyday wear and tear (of both things and people) means a life well lived.— Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
About the author:
Natasha Tripplett lives in Northern California, where she writes from a treehouse perched in a sycamore tree. Natasha is a Jamaican Jewish American author who is passionate about cultural representation in children’s literature. She bubbles with excitement over antiques, chocolate, coffee on the front porch, and cozy movie nights in front of the fireplace with her husband and four children.
She is the Co-Founder & Co-Coordinator of SCBWI Tapestry of Voices.
Let’s ask some questions!
Q 1. What was the inspiration for THE BLUE PICKUP?
Natasha Tripplett: I wrote The Blue Pickup as a way to bring all the pieces of my identity together. I was adopted as a baby into a Dutch family. As a little girl, I would follow my grandfather around in his workshop as he was always puttering and tinkering with things. The pickup in the story actually belonged to him. I was given the truck and fixed it up to restore it to its former glory.
My birth father was a Jamaican immigrant. I met him as an adult. I come from a very large Jamaican family who are all incredibly loving and welcoming people. I have gotten really close to that side of my family, so I wanted to honor them in the story as well. All the characters in the book are named after my family members.
We LOVE these details!
Q 2. Have you visited Jamaica? Your writing and Monica Mikai’s illustrations make Granddad’s world come alive!
Natasha Tripplett: I have been to Jamaica! It is an absolutely beautiful country. While I was there, I indulged in way too much food. I could not get enough of the patties or the plantains. I also started my love affair with Ting! I had to feature that addictive soda in the story. If you have not tried it, find your nearest Jamaican restaurant and order some. When there is Ting in my house, the whole family fights over it.
Q. 3 What’s your favorite spread?
Natasha Tripplett: My favorite spread has to be the town. Monica nailed the illustrations and that page makes my heart jump. I can actually feel the energy from the picture. I can hear the horns honking and the music playing. I love the murals on the buildings, the uniforms on the children, and the vibrant colors. I also love it because she named the hardware store Hanson’s Hardware. Hanson is my family surname, so that felt really special to me.
Q 4. What surprises did you encounter as you wrote THE BLUE PICKUP?
Natasha Tripplett: One of the things that surprised me is how much the Blue Pickup became another character in the book. I thought I was writing about an object, but it became clear that it was a character.
I think Ju-Girl (the main character) wants the pickup to be restored because she feels a real connection to the truck. The way that Monica had the pickup peaking around the corner in the scenes made it feel like it wanted to be fixed. It wanted to be part of the action.
Q 5. What surprises did Monica Mikai bring to the project?
Natasha Tripplett: I was blown away by the way Monica captured the landscape of Jamaica. The level of her detail truly made me think that I was there. Her artwork is absolutely stunning. I also love the ways in which she details time. As Granddad reminisces, her clothing choices for him reflect an earlier time period. That was something that I was pleasantly surprised by.
“Old and forgotten things…”
Q 6. They say each of our books is a tiny bit autobiographical. Are you more like Granddad or his granddaughter?
Natasha Tripplett: I am definitely more like Ju-Girl. I used to love to play in my grandfather’s workshop. I would rearrange his tools and imagine many different uses for them. That workshop sparked so much creativity in me. I built my own bead loom from pieces of scrap wood as a child. I loved to think about ways that scraps could be turned into something useful. Recently, my father found an old socket that used to belong to my grandfather. He gave it to me and I turned it into a necklace.
Q 7. What do you hope readers will take away from reading this book?
Natasha Tripplett: There are a few things that I hope readers will take away from this book. I want people to see that life’s tools extend beyond physical tools. Sometimes tools are the stories we tell or the time we spend together. All those things help us through life.
I also want people to see the value in preserving “old and forgotten things.” Having those touchpoints that connect us to our past is important. The Blue Pickup became a vehicle to show Ju-Girl who she is and where she came from. It sparked memories for Granddad that he shared with his granddaughter. It also allowed her to see who Granddad really is.
On Writing –Where and Why?
Q 8. Do you really get to write in that beautiful tree house? Tell us more!
Natasha Tripplett: The tree house! Yes, I really write in my beautiful tree house. I call it The Writing Studio. It is such a cozy place to inspire all kinds of stories. It keeps me in touch with the child inside of me. The tree house used to belong to my children. After years of playing in it, they abandoned it. I thought that it would make a wonderful place to sneak away and write in, so my husband lovingly finished out the interior for me.
He added power, insulation, a ceiling fan, new flooring and shiplap walls. The sycamore tree that it sits in comes through the tree house. I added some sparkling lights to highlight it. I keep some of my favorite mentor texts in there for inspiration. One of the windows looks out over a protected wilderness area so I often see wild turkeys, deer, cows and sometimes wild boars.
The tree house actually has a better view than our actual house. I keep some fun things in there to make me smile. I have an antique copper owl that sits on the shelf and watches me. His name is Sir Thomas Brimsley. I hung on the walls some artwork done by my niece, and a needlepoint done by my cousin. The tree house is truly a magical place.
Q 9. Why is writing important to you?
Natasha Tripplett: Writing has always been a way for me to express myself. As an adopted child, I often had big feelings that I was uncomfortable verbalizing. I used poetry and journaling to get those feelings out. Writing became my safe place.
I love writing for children because it allows me to escape into a beautiful place inside my own imagination. When I write, I am not bound by the realities of this world. If I want to write about a place void of gravity or hatred, I can. I can use words to paint the world I am curious about. I hope that my books bring an element of whimsy into a child’s life.
Q 10. What’s next for you? Any new projects you can share?
Natasha Tripplett: I have a few new things in the works. On April 9, 2024, my second book will be published by Chronicle Books. It is called Juneteenth Is.
This story shares one family’s tradition of celebrating and commemorating the events of this important holiday. I am so lucky to have gotten the chance to work with Daniel J. O’Brien as my illustrator. He did an outstanding job with the artwork. I can not wait for everyone to see it.
There are also two more titles that will be published in 2025.
Happy #BookBirthday to Natasha Tripplett and THE BLUE PICKUP!
To learn more about Natasha and her work,
Visit her website: natashabooks.com
And follow her on social media:
And Insta: natasha_stories
Up next on the blog:
Feb. 14th – Interview with Kate Cosgrove
and prepping to illustrate JUST FLOWERS