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 with Natasha Tripplett + JUNETEENTH IS = Happy #BookBirthday!

April 9, 2024

Happy #BookBirthday to JUNETEENTH IS by Natasha Tripplett, Illus, Daniel J. O’Brien (Chronicle)!

“This story strikes a balance between the celebratory aspects of the holiday and its historical origins. The strength of family and the power of community come through clearly.” — KIRKUS

“This story offers a poignant and deeply meaningful look at the holiday through the eyes of one extended family. Tripplett’s text is a heartfelt ode to the holiday… O’Brien’s smooth, emotion-packed illustrations are the perfect counterpart, uplifting the text and sharing a story of their own.”

You may remember our #BookBirthday celebration for Tripplett’s previous release, THE BLUE PICKUP Illus. Monica Mikai (Harper Collins) last February. I’m thrilled to have her back to talk about this very important book, JUNETEENTH IS.

And we have Questions!

“Sometimes life lines up…”

Q 1. Both THE BLUE PICKUP and JUNETEENTH IS feature a young girl and her grandfather. Coincidence? Autobiographical? Purposeful?

Natasha Tripplett: As a writer, I notice that sometimes I will go through a season where a specific theme will surface multiple times. I try to take note of that because sometimes I am unaware of something that is on my heart. This is what occurred with these two stories. I wrote them and sold them around the same time. Coincidentally, each one was sold during the months of my two grandfathers’ birthdays. Sometimes life lines up like that.

Stumbling upon Important History

Q 2. What are your first personal recollections or strongest memories of celebrating Juneteenth?

Natasha Tripplett: Juneteenth was not a holiday that I knew anything about until I stumbled upon a parade while I was in college. I remember asking someone in the crowd, what the parade was for. From there I went home and researched what Juneteenth actually commemorated.

Like many Americans, I was shocked that this history was not taught.

I could not believe that I had never heard of it before.

As a parent, I want my own children to know about their history. We celebrate by having friends and family over for a large cookout. Most of the dishes that are shown in the story are present at our family’s celebration.

Juneteenth spread. (ED Note: We’ll be right over!)

I was excited to see that Daniel’s depiction of the barrel smoker in the book looks exactly like my husband’s barrel smoker in our backyard.

Chef Larry on the BBQ !

Q 3. What’s your favorite spread, or line of text?

Natasha Tripplett: It is so hard to pick a favorite! ONE of my favorite lines of text says, “Facing the rising sun, peeking over the hills. Jubilee has begun.” This line was inspired by the song, Lift Every Voice and Sing – often referred to as the Black National Anthem.

Interior art by Daniel J. O’Brien from JUNETEENTH IS by Natasha Tripplett (Chronicle)

There is a line in the song that says, “Facing the rising sun of our new day begun. Let us march on till victory is won.” In the story, there is a theme of freedom. Jubilee is considered the year of freedom, when all debts are paid, and slaves are set free. Juneteenth embodies that theme.

The song also references marching until there is a victory. That theme is also evident throughout the story. There is marching in parades, for civil rights and in protest. The text implies that we will keep on marching. I am proud to honor a song that has meant so much to me and elevate its meaning in the story of JUNETEENTH IS.

Revision and Perseverence

Q 4. How many revisions did your manuscript go through before you sent it on submission? Can you give us some details?

Natasha Tripplett: I wrote and rewrote this story numerous times. The book that was finally published was the 17th iteration of the story. Of course, that version had multiple revisions with my agent and editor, but the storyline stayed the same. The 16 other drafts looked nothing like what was finally published.

At one point, the story was about a little girl, candles, and her neighborhood – none of which has anything to do with Juneteenth. Lol! Ultimately, I kept pursuing this story because it would not leave me alone. I was determined to get it right and that perseverance paid off.

Q 5. Were there any surprises from the illustrator, Daniel J. O’Brien?

Natasha Tripplett: Daniel did an incredible job with the artwork of Juneteenth Is. He found things in the text that I did not even know were there. I absolutely LOVE the way he uses photographs to bring the story to light.

Pictures are a big deal in my family. We try to document as much of life as we can. In fact, my friend’s children often text me to send them pictures of themselves because their own families don’t take many pictures.


Interior art by Daniel J. O’Brien from JUNETEENTH IS by Natasha Tripplett (Chronicle)

Natasha Tripplett: Daniel created his own storyline alongside mine. The father in the story is an amputee and uses a prosthesis. He also has a hearing aid.

If the reader is wondering what his backstory is, Daniel gives us a hint with a photograph of President Obama giving him a purple heart for being wounded in battle. I found this page to be incredibly moving. Daniel gave us a bunch of Easter Eggs like that in the story. It is one that readers will want to look at multiple times.

“Something to Say”

Q 6. The only name in the story is “Stevie.” Can you tell us a little about that?

Natasha Tripplett: I love adding shoutouts to people I admire. This was a nod to Stevie Wonder and his song “Something to Say.” The song talks about the importance of not listening to people who say you can’t do something or be someone. While the song speaks to a romantic relationship, it resonated with me as an anthem to not pay attention to those who are working against your success.

Interior art by Daniel J. O’Brien from JUNETEENTH IS by Natasha Tripplett (Chronicle)

Natasha Tripplett: As Black people, we have had to push past the negativity and not give into the situations that have tried to hold us back in life. That is why we celebrate Juneteenth. We can admire just how far we have come since we walked out of those cotton fields.

Thank you, Stevie!

We can celebrate a story that unites us as people and acknowledges our collective progress. “Something to Say” reminds us of our strength and that we refuse to be held back. Thank you, Stevie Wonder, for your music.

What’s next?

Q 7. Are you able to share anything about the two titles coming in 2025?

Natasha Tripplett: I am beyond excited about my 2025 titles. Both are being published by WaterBrook.

PLANTED WITH LOVE – illustrated by Adrianna Predoi, will be published in the Spring of 2025. It is about a young boy’s journey through foster care.

The second book, DOWNTOWN DOORS – illustrated by Leah Giles, will be published in the Fall of 2025. This story explores the overwhelming idea of how a child can address big issues like food and housing insecurities.

Interior art by Daniel J. O’Brien from JUNETEENTH IS by Natasha Tripplett (Chronicle)

Happy #BookBirthday to Natasha Tripplett and JUNETEENTH!

To learn more about Natasha and her work,

Visit her website: natashabooks.com

And follow her on social media:

FB: natasha.tripplett

TwitterX: @TashaTripplett

And Insta: natasha_stories

Up next:

We’re celebrating the #BookBirthday of Henry Herz’ I AM GRAVITY, Illus.  Mercè López (Tilbury House)!

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