Friday, January 4, 2013

Author Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

As a child, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen thought she would become a doctor, a lawyer, a carpenter, or a UN ambassador. She did not see CHILDREN'S BOOK AUTHOR in her future. Readers around the world are grateful Sudipta took this career path, though. 

I invited Sudipta on Watch. Connect. Read. to discuss her books, school visits, reading, and writing. I wrote the words in red, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Sudipta! 

I am the author of too many books to list here and not bore all your readers to tears! I believe at last count I have over 40 books either published or slated to be published.  They range from picture books to non-fiction to chapter books…really, I write anything kids will read and that I find interesting.

My most recent title were two pirate picture books released in 2012. 

 Half-Pint Pete the Pirate, illustrated by Geraldo Valerio

Pirate Princess, illustrated by Jill McElmurry 

My student workshops focus on showing kids how everyone has a story, and how anyone’s story can be compelling if she can find a way to connect it to the universal. One thing I tell every group of kids I meet with is that every book is an autobiography. Obviously, that doesn’t mean I’m a chicken in pajamas (à la Chicks RunWild) or a vampire pig (à la Hampire). But the theme in each of my books is something I am deeply moved by. I know what it feels like to feel there’s something missing in my life and that I need to search high and low for it (Half-Pint Pete the Pirate). I know how it feels to be the lonely outsider (Quackenstein Hatches a Family or Hampire) or to be the one with the big dreams (Tightrope Poppy or Ballots for Belva). Being a writer has allowed me to find my voice, but more importantly, it has given me a way to be heard. That is the lesson I would most like to leave kids with whenever I speak.

Photo Credit: Sudipta
You should invite me to visit your school library because I have spent a long time learning how to talk to children without talking down to them. So often, speakers stand in front of kids and talk down to them. I’ve learned that when I speak to kids with respect, they are more open to my message, and when I believe that they are intelligent and capable, they do their best to prove me right. I always answer their questions honestly, I show them my fears and my foibles, and, in return, they open their minds to what I want to tell them. Oh, and I’m funny, too.

Some of my favorite books were written by me. Shockingly!  Seriously however, some of my favorite books have been written by some of my favorite people.  One of the best things about being an author is that not only do I get to create the literature that I think will speak to children but I get to associate with people who share the same dream. 

I am only going to give a random sampling here (because there are too many to give an exhaustive list) but here we go:

Boy and Bot by Ame Dyckman

The Boy Project by Kami Kinard

Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace

The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine

Malcolm at Midnight by W. H. Beck

Pirate Princess is my autobiography! But, again, only in the way that every book is an autobiography. True, I was never a princess with a secret dream of the high seas…But I was a Caltech-educated biologist who wanted to write books about talking pigs. So I understand having a crazy dream, or at least a dream that other people find crazy. And I also understand how much work it is and how satisfying it is to make that crazy dream come true.

Photo credit: Sudipta
Picture books are essential for childhood. There is a belief sometimes that children would be smarter if they skipped picture books altogether and started reading early readers, chapter books, and the like. But the loss of the picture book stage means the loss of books that explore issues that are relevant and important to young children. But even more importantly, because picture books are not held to readability standards (as early readers would be), they are not only more difficult to read but often more beautifully and lyrically written than books intended to teach children to read. It is so much easier to love literature when the language in books you read is beautiful—in my opinion, children who experience picture books have that much more love for books in general.

Learn how to pronounce Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Reading is a learned pleasure. It is vital that we teach our children not only to read in the technical sense, but to learn to love to read. A child who hates reading grows into an adult who doesn’t read – an adult who doesn’t read cannot know – and therefore cannot teach children around him – what the world truly holds and how that can be unlocked in the pages of a book.

From Chicks Run Wild 
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me what new project I am most excited about – because then I could have told you about Spectacles of Destiny, a new chapter book series that will launch in 2014. Destiny Sen is a fifth grader who gets a magic pair of eyeglasses that let her see little bits of the future. She spends the books either trying to get things to happen or trying to keep things from happening, depending on what she sees. I’m not excited about these books because they represent a new genre for me – though that is pretty darn cool! – but because this is a character that my daughters helped me create and is based a great deal on the two of them (and me, of course). In fact, my younger daughter is the one who came up with the title for the series – but to hear that story, you’d actually have to ask me about this…

I am giving away one copy of Pirate Princess. 

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 1/4 to 11:59 p.m. on 1/7. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 


  1. The mark of a good interview: Even when you know the subject, you learn something new. Thanks, Mr. Schu and Sudipta! (I thought Sudipta WAS a chicken in pajamas, but now I understand.)

  2. Sudipta came to my school last year and she was AWESOME! The kids are still talking about her! Keep up the good work!

  3. Great interview! Someday I'll lure Sudipta to talk to my students in my flyover state. :-P