THE STAIRCASE ON PINE STREET
BY MARIANA LLANOS
1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s book is about.
The Staircase on Pine Street is a story that will touch your heart with its tenderness, humor, sensitivity and page-turning narrative. I have crafted a beautiful story of family love to share with readers of all ages. Ten-year-old Lilly has to learn to live with her grandfather’s diagnose of Alzheimer’s disease. Lilly and Grandpa Leo have a close, loving bond but ever since he’s been diagnosed, things have drastically changed. Alzheimer’s is taking away her grandpa’s memory. Lilly feels that there is nothing she can do to help. Until one day, Grandpa Leo gives Lilly an important assignment: to find a long-forgotten treasure. Lilly— with the help of her best friend, Mei Ling— goes on an exciting quest where she discovers more than she could have ever imagine.
2) What inspired you to write this book?
Something funny happened when I started writing this book. The main character, Lilly, popped up in my head with a blank piece of paper asking me to draw on it. Something like The Little Prince. Then I realized she was at a park talking to her grandfather. I learned that her grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease. Then it all came to me, I remembered my own grandmother who wasn’t officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but I’m convinced she was in on the early stages when she died. She inspired me to write it, like a tribute to grandparents everywhere.
3) How did you come up with the title or series of your book?
I picked one of the elements of the book. I didn’t want to give away too much, because there’s a mystery surrounding the story, but I didn’t want it to be bland either. I think The Staircase on Pine Street have a little mystique in it.
4) Why did you pick this genre?
I think it’s just the way I write. I don’t think genre when I write. But I like it that my writing in mainly geared toward children. It’s hard to impress children, and I feel like a champion when I do.
5) School visits is a large part of your portfolio, including your Spanish visits for immersion schools. Tell us a bit about them and what do you hope to gain from them?
Yes, this past year I’ve been visiting schools around the world: Nigeria, India, Canada, Mexico, Pakistan, Australia, Argentina, and Ireland. And around the US: Illinois, Florida, California, Montana, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and more. Also I’ve done visits in person in Oklahoma City, where I live. My goal is to inspire children to write and read. It’s amazing to see how children relate to my stories, no matter where in the world they are. This visits have an unmeasurable educational value for children (and me!) as they get to talk to a real author, ask questions about the book, the process, and life as a writer. Also, for me, as an author, school visits are a great way to build an audience and be in touch with their needs.
6) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I was a classic literature geek. I read anything that was on my parents bookshelf: classic tales by the Grimm brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, Alice in Wonderland, The Little Prince, short tales by Oscar Wilde, Hemingway, even Shakespeare. It wasn’t like it is today where children’s literature is so defined as a genre. Well, at least not at my house.
7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
Hearing from people that have read your book and knowing that I’ve touch them. I received a message by a gifted 5th grader the other day, regarding The Staircase on Pine Street: “Your book was the first book that made me cry. You lied when you say it will touch my heart. It drilled a hole straight through my sensitive, emotional, heart. Also, can’t wait for the Skype lesson!”
Do I need to say more?
8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope this book helps them appreciate their grandparents, and enjoy them while they have them close. Lilly and Grandpa Leo’s relationship is sweet, they’re friends and partners, and I hope children learn from it. I also want to create awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, and help children understand it and be empathic with people who have this disease.
9) You heavily promote #weneeddiversebooks and #biligualkids. Please tell us more about them and why it is so important to you.
These two hashtags where created by people who are serious about promoting diverse literature and bilingual literature. In the case of #weneeddiversebooks, I jumped in the wagon immediately after I perused through their website and learned the lack of representation of minorities in children’s literature, not only ethnic, but also gender, religious, disabilities, etc. I want my children to grow in a tolerant and inclusive world. In the case of #bilingualkids, well, my family is bilingual and I’m always looking for more resources to motivate us. I also use it to promote my own books in Spanish. I started my own hashtag: #multiculturalbooksmatter to help highlight the need of multicultural characters in our literature.
10) What are you working on now?
I’m working on two stories: A Superpower for me, a picture book to help children understand the power of the vote. I’m already working on the illustrations and I hope to have it out by the beginning of the new school year.
The other story I’m working on is about a girl who is afraid of a boy with Down syndrome because he’s ‘different’. Through the story she learns that they are more alike than she thinks. This story is still in development.