Maybe You’re Quiet… and a We Belong Launch Party!

Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)

I’m sharing my forthcoming rhyming picture book today and inviting you to my launch party!

A picture book always has an editor’s careful fingerprints all over it. But We Belong, my new book coming out March 1, wouldn’t even exist without Carolrhoda Associate Publisher Carol Hinz. Back in 2017, Carol asked if I might be interested in writing a preschool picture book on intersectionality. In 2018, Carol rejected my (non-rhyming) manuscript sparked by the discussion we’d had, but she wrote, “I love, love, love those two stanzas of rhyming verse you wrote…! What would you think of potentially writing an affirming book for young children all in verse?” And that was the seed of We Belong.

Writing any book always changes me, because I think deeply about a topic and ponder it from so many angles. This particular book forced me to confront a lot of my own unconscious prejudices and biases. For instance, I freely admit to a bias toward quiet people. I’m an introvert myself, and loud people drain me. This bias is likely also a holdover from my teaching days. Quieter kids were easier for me to teach. I’m not talking about passive, unengaged kids. Just kids whose volume doesn’t go to 11. And yet… 

Maybe you’re quiet.
You wonder.
You dream.
Thoughts trickle softly, clear as a stream.

Maybe you’re loud.
Ah-CHOOOOOO !
Rat-a-TAT !
Nobody says, “Can you repeat that?”

Quiet and loud both deserve our applause.
What makes music sing is the sound
and …

the pause.

Fireworks grab us with

BANG !
BOOM!
POP!

and the soft, smoky sizzle
when the big noises stop.

I really believe these words. And all the verses in this book. Every quality has value, and people all along the continuum of any quality have value too.

It can be hard to know what’s okay to say, and I’ve definitely made mistakes! In an effort to celebrate and acknowledge our differences, I’ve told someone they had a beautiful accent and asked where they were from. I was interested and trying to engage someone who got stuck in the U.S. when Covid hit, but they might’ve felt it was just a reminder that they’re not “from here.” 

Embracing our differences is important. But feeling safe and valued is even more essential. As I work on my language and actions, I’m thrilled to say to kids, “I value you, just as you are. No matter what you look like, where you’re from, or how you express your gender. You belong.”

We Belong publishes March 1st, and I’m so grateful to Carol Hinz and editor Shaina Olmanson, who also worked on the book with me. It’s available for pre-order in all the usual places, and you can order signed copies from Red Balloon Bookshop. Better yet, register for my free launch party, where we’ll write a collaborative poem! I’d love for you to be there!

from We Belong (Carolrhoda, 2022). Text by Laura Purdie Salas. Art by Carlos Vèlez Aguilera.
This is from a printing file and has gutter overlap, but it gives you a sense of the gorgeous art by Carlos Vèlez Aguilera!

And for lots of wonderful poetry, don’t miss the Poetry Friday Roundup with Elisabeth Norton at Unexpected Intersections, which is interesting, considering how We Belong came about ;>)Save

32 Responses

  1. Hi Laura,
    I am eager to see your newest book! I can tell I am going to like it a lot.

  2. Well, you were right, Laura, this does read like a song from the heart. I am pre-ordering for my b.d. on your release day. I get 2 books every b.d. Thanks for showing all sides and sharing your story and work you are doing personally and professionally. Congratulations to all involved in bringing this book to readers and singers. Stay well all!

    1. Can’t tell you how honored I am to be a birthday book! Seriously. That means a lot. Thanks, Annie!

  3. Laura, congratulations! Wow, your words sing! I love and feel the emotion in your last spread. I know I’m going to love the rest of the book, too. Thank you for sharing so much of your book and the backstory. I’m looking forward to reading your beautiful and much needed book. I think you’ll be winning awards with this. I’m happy and excited for you. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Gail–hoping it reaches the readers who really need to hear this–who maybe aren’t already hearing LOTS of people telling them they belong and they are enough. <3

  4. WOW! First, congratulations. This book is so important. Are you sure it’s not for grownups?! I feel like I need this book on my middle school shelves to bridge the grownups and kids. And, that illustration! Oh, my stars.…I’m pinning it for the beautiful words and stars. I’m so happy this book is coming out. Thank you.

    1. I wanted to share the fireworks spread, which dazzles me. But since all the art of the actual pages I have has the gutter overlap, etc., I didn’t want to share a lot of it. Carlos’ night/space scenes especially make me happy–the book is, of course, primarily art of kids, as it should be. I hope some great teachers will share it with older students, too. The message is definitely one we ALL need–and I’m 55–hahaha. Thanks, Linda!

  5. Hooray for this book and for your transparency about continuing to be a learner!

    1. Thanks, Mary Lee–sometimes I’m afraid to say anything at all, bc I know I’ll unintentionally say the wrong thing at some point. But I know that’s not the answer, either.

  6. Woot! Congrats on your newest book baby! It ‘belongs’ on bookshelves everywhere so all ages and stages of humans can learn and grow. The artwork looks amazing. 🙂

  7. Congratulations, Laura–this is an important one, and thanks for your personal stories. As I commented to April, it’s so important for those of us who are trying to notice and combat our ignorance, our safety, our privilege, to share out loud. We learn from each other, we normalize learning from mistakes. Hearts cracked open aren’t comfortable, but they’re bigger.

    1. Thank you, Heidi. I am going to remember that final sentence and try to get better with being uncomfortable. I don’t really like it, But I think it’ll help me if I remember that it’s a necessary step for growth.

  8. I love what you’ve shared, Laura, from your new books and personal thoughts., I also love that it is for the younger children. I imagine teachers will love sharing and having good conversations about it. I have a niece from Korea who continues to get the question, “Where are you from?” And it continues to feel terrible.

  9. Another beautiful book! I can’t wait to add it to my collection. I enjoyed reading about the inspiration for the book, and you are definitely the perfect person to write it! xo

  10. Congratulations on this new book Laura! I loved hearing about your inspiration and the creative evolution of this project. Thanks for sharing this with us today and for being part of this week’s Poetry Friday party!

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