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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Happy almost #BookBirthday WAITING TO WELCOME: A New Baby Story from West Africa + 6 Qs with authors Samantha Cleaver & Reuben Nantogmah

July 2, 2024

We have been WAITING TO WELCOME this wonderful book by Samantha Cleaver & Reuben Nantogmah (Illus. Bri Marie McNish/ Feiwel & Friends) for so long, and the wait is over! It’s time to celebrate their book about an important celebration.

But don’t take my word for it:

“A story about a Ghanaian naming tradition, from the enthusiastic perspective of an impatient child…

A joyful tale, steeped in cultural meaning.”


Let’s ask some questions!

Q 1. What was the inspiration for this story?

SC & RN: When the world shut down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had three young kids. Samantha, an expert in read aloud and an educator, started “homeschooling” the kids each morning.

Part of each day was a themed read aloud. Samantha went looking for books about west Africa to teach the kids about their west African and Ghanaian heritage, specifically an outdooring ceremony, but couldn’t find any. She approached Reuben about writing a story about an outdooring, and Waiting to Welcome was born! 


Q 2. What was the research like for this project? Are there parts that are autobiographical?

SC & RN: The research for this story was very fun! We had to delve into Reuben’s memories, connect with family in Ghana to ask about specific details related to outdoorings, and look at online resources and videos to make sure we got the details right. 

Q 3. What’s the process like collaborating on a picture book with your partner? Any tips? Do you have different approaches to the project each time?

SC & RN: Definitely, each collaboration is different (we can say that because we are now working on our third book collaboration). For Waiting to Welcome, our collaboration involved waiting until the kids were in bed and then talking through the story and edits in our living room. Writing and editing replaced TV watching for a while! 

In terms of tips, it’s important to keep the goal in mind and advocate, but not get hung up on, details that are more a matter of preference. For this book, authenticity was very important for us, so we had to keep that top-of-mind when working together. 


Q 4. What surprises did debut illustrator Bri Marie McNish bring to the book?

SC & RN: We love how Bri brought the story to life. Everyone we’ve read the story to loves the puppy that she added to each scene and we hope that readers really connect with the character she created and the funny, sweet details she added to each scene.

In terms of surprises, we had imagined a more traditional outdooring and Bri really took a modern spin on the illustrations, which we love. 

Interior illustration by Bri Marie McNish from WAITING TO WELCOME written by Samantha Cleaver & Reuben Nantogmah (Feiwel & Friends).

Q 5. What do you hope readers will take away from WAITING TO WELCOME?

SC & RN: We hope WAITING TO WELCOME sparks lots of great conversations and stories when parents and kids read it together.

Yes, it’s about a west African outdooring, but we hope that parents can share how they chose their child’s name, or how they celebrated their own child’s birth. An outdooring is just one way of welcoming someone new, so we hope this book invites people to share their own welcoming traditions. 

SC & RN: Picture of our youngest that was used in her outdooring. Since we don’t live in Ghana, Reuben’s family hosts an outdooring to welcome each baby and uses photos to bless the baby.

Q 6. What’s next for you? Anything you can share?

SC & RN: Our next book, My Smock is a Story, about a little boy discovering the traditional Dagbani smock, is coming out October 8 from Harper Collins, illustrated by Keisha Okafor. 

Congratulations Samantha Cleaver & Reuben Nantogmah

and Happy (almost) Book birthday to


To learn more about their books,

check out their website: www.samanthacleaver.com

Sign up for their newsletter at: https://www.samanthacleaver.com/picture-book-writing

and follow them on Insta: activereadingmama

Next up on the blog:

We celebrate the late #kidlit author Katey Howes

and the #BookBirthday of REINDEER REMAINDERS

with illustrator Marie Hermansson.

No comments on this post yet.

  1. Erin, Great interview. Thanks Samantha & Reuben for sharing about the origin and process for writing this book. I’m looking forward to having Reuben on my blog to celebrate WAITING TO WELCOME too! Congratulations on your prolific partnership!