Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures by Tricia Springstubb and Elaheh Taherian

Hello, Tricia Springstubb! I always love running into you at conferences and bookshops. I’m grateful you returned to Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate story. What have you been up to since the last time you visited on April 30, 2015? 

Tricia Springstubb: Hello, dear John! I’m so happy to be back here talking story and connections with you again. Since last time, I’ve finished my Cody chapter book series, four books illustrated by the genius Eliza Wheeler, and also published my middle grade novel Every Single Second. I’ve visited dozens of schools and libraries and met so many incredible teachers, librarians and young readers. AND I’ve become a Nana three times over! Reading to my grandbabies has made me more appreciative than ever of the power and pleasure of picture books.

Speaking of which—would you by any chance like to see the cover of Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures

Congratulations! WOW! Yes! Yes! Yes! Please share the cover! 

Oh, I love it, Tricia! What ran through your heart the first time you saw Elaheh Taherian’s finished illustrations? 

Tricia Springstubb:
I saw Elaheh’s illustrations from earliest conception to finished art, and each time they took my breath away. Her style is playful and inventive yet infused with all the old-fashioned warmth of the picture books I loved as a child. I’m deeply, deeply grateful for her understanding of Khalil’s culture. When I saw the final art, my heart sang. Just can’t wait to share this book!
Click here to explore Elaheh Taherian's website

It is a beautiful story and book. I've read it multiple times. What planted the seed for Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures?

Tricia: I thought about this book for a very long time before I knew how to write it.

It began with a story my good friend Nicki, a children’s librarian, told me. Nicki loves gardens and kids in equal measure. One spring, whenever she went out to work in her garden, the little boy next door would come over and patiently dig beside her. This went on for days before he confided in Nicki that he was trying to find buried treasure. That night, Nicki went out to the garden and buried a tiny treasure for him to discover…

I loved this story of kindness and inter-generational friendship so much, and I tried many times to write it but always failed.

Meanwhile, my husband and I became friends with an Iraqi refugee family here in Cleveland. We’ve shared many meals and celebrated many milestones together. There are four children, and at first we asked them to help us learn Arabic as they learned English. We soon gave up—they learned so much more quickly than we ever could! They miss Iraq and their big family there, yet they grow by leaps and bounds. My husband and I have learned worlds (literally) from them—their friendship is an enormous gift--and they have helped me think about the many ways we connect, including language. I realized then that the little boy in my story wanted to give a gift to the gardener, too.

The oldest among our four friends is named Khalil which, I was delighted to learn, can be translated as “friend”. The book is dedicated to him and his siblings.

One last note: Mr. Hagerty is inspired by my cranky grandfather. The only time we ever saw him truly content was when he was sitting in our backyard in a lawn chair with a Budweiser in his hand. (I decided to leave out the beer!)

Please finish the following sentence starters: 

I hope Khalil and Mr. Hagerty starts many conversations about ways we can all plant seeds of friendship and kindness.

Story is the most human thing about us. 

Mr. Schu, you should have ask if I’ve ever found treasure. I’d answer yes, more time than I can count. The best treasures, of course, are the ones that found me when I least expected.

Look for Khalil and Mr. Hagerty and the Backyard Treasures on May 26, 2020. 

Tricia Springstubb is the author of Phoebe and Digger, illustrated by Jeff Newman, and the Cody series, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, as well as several other children’s books. She is a former children’s librarian at a public library in Ohio.

Elaheh Taherian graduated with an MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and also has an MFA from Art University in Tehran, Iran. The illustrator of several children books, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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