This month we’re talking to award-winning author Vita Murrow, creator of Power to the Princess and High-Five to the Hero. What if heroes and heroines were celebrated for the power of their hearts instead of their crowns and swords? In these stunning anthologies – elegantly presented in clothbound hardcover with gold-toned metallic debossing – 15 favorite fairytales have been retold for a new generation. Order copies of Vita’s books here.
What prompted you to write this book?
The motivation or this book came from a convergence of inspiration. I had just finished writing “Power to the Princess” and had enjoyed re-envisioning fairy tales from an inclusive and feminist point of view. I’d noticed that pushing against gender limiting stereotypes for girls and women, I simultaneously was creating a broader narrative for the boys and men in these stories too. This got me excited to do more. I thought; I could do a whole book of this, and have a lot of fun stretching the limits of representation for boys and men in this storytelling tradition.
At the same time, the New York Time had just published an OpEd by writer/actor/comedian Michael Ian Black which asked pointed questions about what kind of world we might live in if there were broader expressions of masculinity available. The piece was thought provoking and eloquent but what captured my attention most was the feedback the piece received. There were so many differences voices and points of view wrestling with these ideas and I thought “this is meaty!”
What research did you do for your book, and what was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating it?
Because I don’t have lived experience as a boy or a man, I turned to my community for help. I assemble a focus group of people, who identify as male, ages 18-60 to learn from them.
One stand out learning I discovered, was that my focus group wanted expressions of masculinity that included meaningful relationship between men. They sought examples of how men engage with one another in intimate and loving friendship. Men shown and seen as more than superficial sword wielders, but as people with strong emotional forces too.
Since this is book number 2, how did you and the illustrator work differently than you did on book 1?
Julia and her perspective have been just amazing. She brings whimsy, spirit and warmth to her work and to these stories. I always prepare a mood board so that the art and design team can see inside my head, but also am excited to see where the stories lead Julia. Halfway through I was receiving a lot of art work and I noticed the guys in the story all looked like people I knew. I reached out to Julia to see what her inspiration was, to see if I was correct in thinking these characters were inspired by real life. She sweetly shared that she had drawn indeed drawn on all the men in her life who she holds dear as the basis for her art.
What do you hope kids will take away from your book?
That limiting gender stereotypes hold all of us back. How when we stretch and break those apart, there is more room for everyone to shine equally. To access one another equally, and for all of us to achieve our full potential, equally.
What are you working on now?
I’ve turned my attention to the natural world. I’m working on a collection of stories set in regions at the front line of climate change and a series about the secret underworld beneath trees.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Oh that’s easy, spending time with my friends and family. When I finished writing these companion books, I realized I’d really written about my dear and friends and the people in my family who I admire. And what do I like to do with my lovelies? Bake! I’m an avid baker and so enjoy challenging myself in the kitchen by learning new techniques in classes and in taking on ambitious recipes. Last holiday season I made a beautiful peached-pear tart and a Scandinavian Kanellängd -which took days to make and was devoured in minutes!
About Vita Murrow
Vita Murrow is an educator, an artist, a writer and a mum. Vita has a quirky sense of humor and an eye for the weird. When she was in 8th grade she was rejected from a special writers’ retreat for kids. But that didn’t stop her from pursuing her passion. Since then Vita has been a teacher, a producer, a film maker, a program director and even a puppeteer. She’s also had jobs in an office which were pretty fun. She currently works as a children’s author reinventing old stories for a new generation and crafting wordless pictures books together with her husband Ethan Murrow. Their recent book The Whale was nominated for a CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medal. Vita loves working with other artists and writers and is always looking to share a chocolate chip cookie with someone.