A podcast interview with Antwan Eady
The Children’s Book Review
In this episode, I talk with author Antwan Eady about his stunning and uplifting picture book, Nigel and the Moon—this year’s selection for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record.
Jumpstart’s Read for the Record is the world’s largest shared reading experience celebrating children’s early language and social-emotional development. Each year Read for the Record brings together millions of adults and children as they read the same book on the same day, building an intergenerational community through reading. Over 24 million people have participated in Read for the Record to date, and hundreds of thousands of books have been distributed to children in underserved communities across the United States over the past 17 years.
Antwan Eady is an author and a dreamer. Originally from Garnett, South Carolina, he spent many nights whispering his dreams; now, he proudly shares them with the world. A graduate of Clemson University, Antwan now lives in Savannah, Georgia.
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Antwan Eady: Hello, Bianca. Thank you so, so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Bianca Schulze: Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Day is coming up on October 27, and this year, the jumpstart team has selected your book, Nigel and the Moon, for their worldwide shared reading experience. Congratulations.
Antwan Eady: Oh, my goodness. Thank you. It is incredible. I am still processing all of it, but I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to share Nigel with readers across the world, millions of readers. It’s been incredible, and I’m looking forward to October 27 for sure.
Bianca Schulze: This is obviously the first time you’re doing this. Do you have an idea of what your day will look like on October 27?
Antwan Eady: I will be doing events in Atlanta. I do know that in October, I’ll be on like a multi-state tour. So, I’ll be in New York, Cali, Atlanta, and one other area, too, that I’m forgetting right now. But on that particular day, I’ll be in Atlanta visiting some of the Jumpstart sites and reading with all the volunteers and young dreamers, and I’ll just be on the go.
Bianca Schulze: That sounds like so much fun. And there’s going to be so many lucky kids there and grownups who love picture books, too. Well, let’s talk about the book. We’ll start with the classic question that authors always get asked. What inspired you to write Nigel and the Moon?
Antwan Eady: Oh, I love this question. I love this question because there are so many layers in the book, and each of those layers came from a different inspiration.
I always start with who I was as a young kid. I grew up in Garnett, South Carolina. And down the dirt roads of South Carolina, I would stare at the moon every night. I would sit on my parents’ porch, and with my telescope, I would pretend to be everything that I wanted to be. Right? And I would just use that darkness out there with just the trees. And I was able to imagine a dream and dream big.
But I was also inspired by grief. I wanted to turn my grief into something positive. What I thought about: I thought about the kids that we’ve lost and those that we’ve had taken from us. I thought about Sandy Hook Elementary School. I thought about Gigi Bryant and the other students in the helicopter crash. I thought about Trayvon Martin. I thought about so many kids we have lost and taken from us. And I wanted to give them a place where their dreams could live forever. That’s why there are so many different dreams in Nigel.
But I was also inspired by the question, what would you like to be when you grow up? I wanted to challenge that question. I wanted to challenge the idea of that question. I wanted to see if I could offer a different way for us to ask young dreamers to talk about their dreams. Because I wanted to be so many different things. And I’ve learned now, as an adult, that I didn’t just have to be one thing. It’s possible for me to be so many different things and to cultivate all of those passions, and we may dive into it later. But, yeah, I’ve lived a few different lives in the sense of what I’ve done as my career, and now I’m giving all of my attention to being an author. So, yes, thank you for that question.
Bianca Schulze: That was such a moving response. So my next question, and I feel like you partially answered this, but who is Nigel? What would you like us to know about him? And does he have a last name?
Antwan Eady: I love this question. Nigel is me, but Nigel is also you. And Nigel, so many of us that have had dreams, and so many of us that have had to tuck those dreams away either to protect our dreams from the world. And to just give it a place where we could keep those dreams safe. Nigel is also the shy kid, right? The shy student in the classroom who’s hesitant to raise their hand. Nigel is so many of us.
Nigel’s last name is Strong. And I love it because the idea of the last name came about when I wanted a powerful last name, and it just made sense to choose one like Strong because I see Nigel as a character who’s strong. He uses the moon as his diary. In a sense, the moon is that darkness, that safety that he experiences between himself. And the moon offers something to so many readers and offers something to me because I didn’t have the language for it when I was younger. But that distance, the darkness between myself and the moon when I was a young kid, was a safe space for me.
So, in writing this story, I wanted to offer a safe space for so many readers around the world. And even if that darkness can’t be their safe space, I hope that it at least allows readers to find the safe spaces within their own worlds.
Bianca Schulze: Your words and Gracey Zhang’s beautiful art have such a classic yet contemporary feel. Tell me how you feel about the pairing of your words with Gracey’s artwork.
Antwan Eady: I am the lucky one here. Gracey Zhang is phenomenal, and I tell her this a lot.
I was new and I still am new, but two years ago, when I first sold Nigel to HarperCollins, Katherine Tegan Books, and our editor Mabel Hsu, when we sat down and thought about illustrator options, Gracey Zhang was someone that Mabel wanted to work with. And I was immediately blown away by Gracey’s work because it does have that classic feel. And one of the things that I wanted to determine was, do we go with the commercial look, or do we choose something that’s like, classic? And when we both agreed it was just like this, one day, I woke up and was like, it’s Gracey.
And then the pressure was on because I was like, I hope she says yes. Right? Because illustrators don’t have to say yes to authors. So anytime an illustrator says yes to working with me, I’m honored because I truly adore their work, and it just means the world to me. So, the pairing Gracey took the text above and beyond anything I could have imagined. Honestly. She brought so much life into this story without us communicating. And I’ve listened to The Growing Readers Podcast before, and I know some authors have had communication with their illustrators, but some don’t. Traditionally, it does not happen, but that’s what makes this book so special to me because I had zero notes for Gracey Zhang. Zero notes.
As far as when I would see the sketches, the only thing I had to offer were tears. I cried every time, at every stage of the production, when I saw the sketches that Gracey was sending over because it was as if she understood my intentions from the words. And that just makes her phenomenal. It makes her such a brilliant creator because she’s also an author, too, but it makes her so brilliant in what she was able to do with Nigel and the Moon.
Bianca Schulze: When I’m reading books, I often will just jot down a thought or a feeling that I’m having, and I wrote down that the pairing of the two of you was like some kind of perfect divine intervention.
Antwan Eady: Wow. You know, I receive that. I receive that because I honestly— I feel it. I feel it. And I’m a few books in now, and they’re all at different stages of production, but I honestly feel like I could not have had a better debut experience, especially with being able to collaborate with Gracey. It does feel like that.
Bianca Schulze: Do you have a favorite quote or illustration?
Antwan Eady: OOH, I love this question. I do. Well, first, I’ll describe it. So, my favorite illustration, I think it’s maybe page six or spread six. It’s a spread where Nigel’s arms are stretched toward the moon. And if you don’t mind, I can read what’s on that page.
Bianca Schulze: Oh, yes, please do.
Antwan Eady: All right. So, it says:
Back in his bed, he searches for the moon. In the dark view of the night, he finds it once more. And there, between the moon and him, his dreams are waiting. Tomorrow I’ll tell the world, he says. Yet he quivers at the thought.
So, yes, that spread. I love it so much because it’s one of the rare moments in the book where Nigel’s Earthbound, but the moon is so much closer to him. And with his arm stretched out toward the moon, he’s, like, hanging out of his window, and it’s almost as if he can touch it. And I love that. I just love what Gracey did with that. And Gracey is so phenomenal that she sent a print of that illustration to me, and I’m having it framed now. But she sent that to me because she knows it’s my favorite.
Bianca Schulze: It’s such a beautiful moment in the book, and I just have to comment that your reading of that was so lovely. One of my favorite things is to hear an author read their own words because of the choices and the moments where they put inflection. And I just loved hearing you read that. Now I want to hear you read the entire book but—
Antwan Eady: thank you.
Bianca Schulze: That’s for October 27.
Antwan Eady: Absolutely.
Bianca Schulze: I’m a huge fan of the entire book, and I really loved the first two pages. The first spread is Nigel staring at the great big moon with the words:
At night, he tells the moon his dreams, and here his dreams are safe.
And now that I’ve heard you speak upfront at the beginning of our conversation, I do see this. This is you. And like you said, it’s every child. And what an amazing concept that the moon is, in a sense, a diary. Where you can share and your dreams are safe. So, I love that moment.
Antwan Eady: And then thank you.
Bianca Schulze: You’re welcome. The second spread, where Nigel is seen floating, dancing, and zooming across the night sky. As an astronaut, a dancer, and a superhero, I love that embodiment as parents, as grownups, and as adults, we always ask that question, what do you want to be when you grow up? And it’s an impossible question for a child to answer, and it’s so limiting. I love that you showcase that childhood is about embracing all the possibilities, and I always feel so sad that, as adults, we shut that down. So, do you have any other thoughts on that?
Antwan Eady: Oh, my gosh. Thank you for pointing out both of those points that you’ve made. I will say, too, that the opening line was what created the book. Because I’m a full-time author now, but at the time, I was working in animal medicine, and I was just going throughout my day, working, and that line came to me. The opening was: At night, I tell the moon my dreams, and then my dreams are safe. Because initially, I was writing it in first person, and I wanted to explore who that character was, and that’s what birthed Nigel and the Moon. That exploration, that desire to know who is this character and why does he feel as though that distance, that relationship with the moon, is what offers him safety? So, thank you for putting that out. I truly love that opening line, and it birthed everything that came to be.
Now, in the next part, I will tell you with the line that says: Hi, my name is Nigel, and I’m an astronaut, a dancer, a superhero, too. That part, someone pointed out to me recently, that all of those dreams actually are careers that kind of lift Nigel off the ground—they’re aerial in what they offer. Even a dancer, because he gets to, like, jump off the stage, and he’s taking flight for a little while. And I never realized that until a few days ago. Never realized that. And it was one of the most beautiful realizations for me. And to have a reader see that it meant so much to me. It means so much to me.
And the other point that you made about how that question can be limiting is sometimes, when we ask what would you like to be when you grow up? It also tells young dreamers that they have to wait. That they have to wait until there’s a certain age before they can live out their dreams. And, yes, that’s true for certain careers, certain things. But what if we get to be on that path now? What if we get to live out some of those dreams now at the ages that we are? Because it makes it seem so far off.
And yes, it is. And yes, I would still love our young dreamers to be young dreamers, right? And not to just dive into a career but to make sure it’s something that they love, that they’re passionate about. We can explore it at a young age. So, I would love to say, like, what are you now? What would you like to be now? And that’s why Nigel tells us, like; I’m an astronaut. I’m a dancer and I’m a superhero. He’s not saying one day I will be an astronaut. One day I’ll be a dancer. So, yeah, I love that you pointed it out. And the ways in which that question can be limited.
Bianca Schulze: I have a friend; her name is Jen. And every year, on the first day of school, a lot of parents do a back-to-school photograph. First day of second grade, the first day of third grade. What she does every year is her kids will pose in the picture and hold up a sign that says what they imagined they’ll be when they grow up. And it’s been so fun to watch because every year, it changes for her kids, and I can’t recall what they are. But I’ve always loved that because what a special treat to maybe look back as, you know, maybe you’re a graduating senior and you’re deciding if you want to go to college or not. If that’s a possibility that’s available to you. Or maybe you’ve graduated college or maybe you’re just ready to take on a job and to be able to go back and look at your childhood and be inspired by all the things that you imagined that you could be. I love that. And your book does that.
Antwan Eady: Thank you so much. But same. I love it too. And I would tell you, so, a lot of young dreamers have sent me—I receive letters and I received just from their parents when I’ve personalized copies of Nigel and the Moon and I would say, oh, to this young firefighter or whatever their dreams are, I usually address them as that dream. And it’s been so cool to see those back-to-school photos and see that the dreams have changed from what they were a few months ago. One of my friends who’s an author as well, her name is Ebony Mudd, and her young dreamer, he’s wanted to be so many different things. And most recently, I saw that now he wants to be a meteorologist. And I kind of smiled when I saw it in his back-to-school photo. I was like, I love that because just a few weeks ago, it was something else. I love it.
Bianca Schulze: Exactly.
Antwan Eady: I wish I had that growing up. I don’t think it was a thing. Maybe it was like we always did, back-to-school photos, but I didn’t get a chance to, like, hold up my sign and say what I want to be. But I’m kind of glad, too, because I’m not a person that enjoys taking photos. So even in some of those back-to-school photos, I have a grumpy look on my face.
Bianca Schulze: I love it. Well, another part of your story that really tugged at my heartstrings was your beautiful message on postal workers being the careers of love letters and birthday cards. And I thought that was just really lovely.
Antwan Eady: Thank you for noticing that, for asking that question too, because the idea of I don’t know if it’s a spoiler for some people, but I would say I’ll try to keep it spoiler free. But, yes, there is a postal worker. As I mentioned earlier, this was also a space for me to turn grief into something loving and kind and to turn it into something positive.
My parents are no longer here, they’re deceased as of six years ago. And one of my ways of honoring my late parents was by giving Nigel’s parents the same jobs that my parents once had. So, in the story, Nigel’s mom has the same job that my mom once had, and Nigel’s dad has the same job that my dad once had. We call those employees now essential workers during the pandemic, but this book was written before the pandemic, and I always saw them as essential. I always saw them as ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And I wanted to highlight why and how those jobs are important and why they should be in the same conversations when we talk about careers, as far as being doctors, engineers, lawyers, and architects. Right. I wanted to make sure that they were on the same playing field.
And this may be a spoiler too. So, if someone has not read Nigel and the Moon, I would say pause this or skip over the next, let’s say, 15 seconds.
So, in the back of the book, what a lot of people don’t realize is when the surprise shows up towards the end, they’re the only parents of the students that are in that room. Nigel’s parents are the only ones. The other careers that show up aren’t the parents of the students. And some people missed that a little bit. They don’t see or I mean, it’s kind of subtle, but that was intentional. And it’s intentional because I wanted to highlight how the teacher makes an effort to highlight essential workers as well. And also, I wanted to highlight how the teacher made an effort because she notices how Nigel is a little more hesitant than the other students.
But I also, earlier in the book, there’s a scene where Nigel flips through a book in the library and he doesn’t see a dancer like him. That’s a dancer as far as seeing a black dancer; it’s about representation as far as being a male dancer. And I wanted to talk about representation in the way that sometimes we have to go above and beyond to make representation for the students that deserve to see themselves in spaces that they don’t often see themselves in, be it film, television, be it books, or within their communities, that sometimes it takes an actual effort to make that happen. So that was a little tangent, but.
Bianca Schulze: It was a fantastic tangent. Again, I don’t want to add spoilers, but I will just say it’s such a celebratory ending, and it is so incredibly heartwarming. And I do just want to acknowledge the loss of your parents because I saw that you dedicated this book to them if I remember correctly.
Antwan Eady: Yes.
Bianca Schulze: So, what a beautiful love is better to them.
Antwan Eady: Thank you. Honestly, everything about me being in this moment, being in this conversation with you currently, it is because of them. And I wholeheartedly believe that. I always say that had I dreamt a thousand dreams; my parents would have supported me a thousand times. And oddly enough, one of the things that brings me comfort—because this moment could have been more bitter than sweet because I wanted them to see this book. I wanted them to see me as an author. But a part of me finding comfort in this space is the fact that I know they saw this life for me well before I could see it for myself. Long before I could see myself being an author. They already knew that it was going to happen. They would literally tell me; you’re going to do something special with your writing.
And my mom actually told me that, a week before she passed away unexpectedly, we were just chatting one day. And at the time, I wasn’t writing. I hadn’t written in weeks or months, and I didn’t know if I would do picture books. I was trying to work on a novel and a screenplay, and she just saw me going to work every day feeling happy but not feeling 100% fulfilled. And she called me Twan, and she said, Twan, I don’t know what you’re going to do with your writing, but you’re going to do something special one day. I was like, oh, thank you, mom. And I mean, a week later she passed.
And even then, it still took years. That was in 2016, and it wasn’t until 2019 that I started writing and realizing my place in publishing and learning about publication. 2019 was when I met a young black author for the first time. That turned my farfetched dream into an actual goal. So, all of that was just kind of planting the seeds for me to be in this moment. So, yeah, it’s all dedicated to them.
Bianca Schulze: Well, I want to thank your mom for being so encouraging because we get to bear those fruits.
Antwan Eady: Thank you.
Bianca Schulze: While Nigel and the Moon is your debut picture book, we’re about to see a lot more from you. You have Micah’s Rise coming in 2023. The Last Stand coming in 2024. And the Gathering table coming in 2025. So, I know that the writing process looks different from one author to the next. So, since you’ve clearly been writing for a long time and you obviously write a lot, are you someone who chooses to write every day, or do you have writing streaks and then take breaks? How does it look for you?
Antwan Eady: I love that and thank you. I guess I’ve been busy a little bit. And just a shout out to the illustrators again that have said yes to collaborating with me. With Michael’s Rise, it is being illustrated by Ricardo Edwards. With The Last Stand, it is being illustrated by Jarrett and Jerome Pumphrey, the Pumphrey brothers. And with The Gathering Table, London Ladd said yes to illustrating. I write a bit, and I will tell you, too, there are a few projects in between that I can’t announce yet, but I think one is being announced soon that’s coming out early. Well, January 2024, and it’s not a picture book, so I think that’s kind of exciting, too.
Bianca Schulze: That’s very exciting.
Antwan Eady: Thank you.
I take breaks, and I now recognize that there’s a privilege in doing so. I’m not an author that writes every day. Especially with my debut experience, I’ve learned now that there’s so much involved with being an author where we do have emails, we have meetings, and we have so many other things to take care of that sometimes we just can’t write every day. So, I’ve learned to take breaks from physically writing on days I’m not feeling it, and I’ve learned, too, that those breaks have served me well.
And I was once a person who, as soon as I finished the project, I had to move on to the next. For example, I completed a picture book manuscript recently after, I mean, a year and a half of actively working on it. It was the most challenging picture book I’ve ever worked on in the sense of, like, structure and just trying to get the story, right? And trying to understand the story that wanted to be told versus me trying to tell a story. And honestly, it took 51 or 52 drafts. So finally, I think around July, my last revisions were sent to my agent, and we were like, oh, this is it. This is the one. He loved it, sent it off, and it was sold. And now, for the next few weeks, I started feeling guilty because I wasn’t writing.
And it was slowly creeping up that idea of, like, am I being productive? Even though I’m doing a tour right now, even though I’m having a conversation with you right now, and I’ve been doing school visits and events. I started feeling guilty because I hadn’t written in maybe three weeks at that time. And I had to remind myself, like, no, you literally just completed a project, a book that took you a year and a half, the longest it’s ever taken me to get the story right. 51 or 52 drafts later. And I was like, give yourself a break. Like it’s okay. And like I said, I do recognize that there’s a privilege in that because oftentimes writers will say, write while you wait, right? Like, if you’re waiting on submission, if you’re waiting to hear back from an agent, people say write while you wait; it’s easier said than done. And it’s also easier to do when you’re not worried about finances when you’re not worrying about just your livelihood.
There’s so much of it that advice that comes from a place of privilege. And I recognize now that I get to do this full time, that there’s a comfort because I know when my payments are coming, that there’s a comfort in that that affords me the opportunity to write while I wait or to take breaks when I don’t feel creative enough. And in those breaks, I’ve been watching TV shows, and I’ve been just experiencing life, and those breaks always served me well. So, I hope it continues to, because something about stepping away for a little while and then coming back to the page when I’m ready is a gift for me.
Bianca Schulze: I kind of had, like, a tinge of occasionally, you feel like maybe some guilts for taking the break. But I’m thinking I have an analogy that’s coming to my mind where foodies and we’re talking about children’s books here, but wine drinkers, they all say, before you move on to your next meal, or you pick up the next glass of wine, you’re supposed to cleanse your palate. And I see your breaks, and I take breaks. It’s sometimes a celebration. It’s a celebration of what just was. And then you can be cleansed and free to think about what will be. So, I’m all up for the breaks. I like breaks.
Antwan Eady: That was beautiful, Bianca. Thank you. Thank you. And you know what I love too because now that’s something that because I didn’t have the language for it until just now. So even that analogy, that’s something I will carry with me when that guilt does creep up because it’s inevitable. It rears its ugly head oftentimes as soon as I’m taking a break or watching a TV show that I’m really into. It could be during that small second between episode changes that I’m like, I should be writing. But like you said, the cleansing of the palette, that appreciation for what was that is a beautiful analogy.
Bianca Schulze: So, to be a writer, it’s often said that one should be a reader first. But after speaking to so many authors over the years, while most authors as adults consider themselves a reader now, not all identify with being a reader as a child. And ahead of our chat today, you mentioned that your access to books as a child was limited, with the nearest bookstore being almost 2 hours away and the nearest library being 10 miles away. I’m curious if your experience of limited access to books has influenced your thoughts and desire to work with Jumpstart since they are committed, thankfully, to providing equal education opportunities to young children in under-resourced communities.
So, what does it mean to you with your childhood having limited access to bookstores and libraries? What does it mean for you to be able to partner with Jumpstart?
Antwan Eady: That is why this is so hard for me to process, because, my goodness, it could not have been a better organization, right? For one, that an organization that provides high-quality books to underserved communities, it is literally what I needed growing up. It’s an emotional one. It is an emotional one, but it feels right.
I realize now, too, that I wasn’t a traditional reader in the sense of being able to walk to a bookstore and walk to a library. We don’t have stoplights in the area where I grew up in my hometown, the majority of it is dirt roads. There was one store, and it wasn’t a gas station; it was my cousin’s store where we would get snacks from. So, it’s a very rural part of South Carolina, but it means a lot. It means a lot to have Jumpstart reach out for this collaboration because they didn’t know that about me.
What was even more special is that Nigel and the Moon was voted on by Jumpstart sites and volunteers and librarians. So, I’m still processing it, and I still, like, for a period, struggle with the idea of calling myself a reader because a lot of authors read way more than I do, and they read the classics or what people consider to be the classics. But I will say that in my house, there was always music. My mom always played Motown, so Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, and those are stories in those songs. Same thing with country music. There’s so much storytelling that takes place.
I grew up in a Baptist church, and when people would get up there and they would be testifying on Sundays, they were telling stories. Those testimonies were stories. My parents, my mom especially, was a storyteller—she had many traditions, and many of the storytellings were all oral. So, while I wasn’t reading the written word, it was all oral. And I grew up with my aunts and uncles and everyone around us telling stories. So, in a sense, I was a listener, and I was reading in a different way.
And I will also, if I may talk about a few pivotal moments in my life that, again, were small moments that kind of planted the seed that gave me an appreciation for reading. On my 16th birthday, my brother gave me a copy of Life of Pi, and I didn’t read it during that year. I think maybe it was a year or two later when I finally sat down to read it, but it felt like an investment in me. And when I was younger, my mom was a housekeeper on Hilton Head Island, so she would clean the resorts, and when they would find books that just happen to be picture books; when I was in elementary school, when those books went unclaimed, my mom would bring those books home to me, and I would read those picture books. And maybe I was in the second or third grade; I believe, when my mom was doing housekeeping.
Another Moment was one of my high school teachers. He was reading a book one day, and I inquired about the book. I was like, hey, what is this book? And a few days later, he gave me a copy of that book. He brought it to school for me. And I had two cousins who read a lot, and they would sit on their porch and read. And I was a little bit embarrassed because I wanted to read with them, which I would sometimes—and there are girls. And the way that I saw that—the way that I was interpreting that was as if boys had to play basketball and the girls had to read. So, I would read with them, and then I would run and play basketball, or I would jump on my ATV and, like, get muddy with my male cousins because I was embarrassed if I sat on the porch with them all day to read.
So, I realize now that life was sort of planting the seed for me, not as much as I would have wanted, but enough for me to have an appreciation for reading today. So that’s a very long-winded way of saying I found my way eventually, but I still feel sometimes behind in my reading because I just didn’t have the access that a lot of other people had.
Bianca Schulze: I want to reframe your word from long-winded to mesmerizing because I’m sure listeners are feeling the same way as I am. I loved hearing you talk about how storytelling has impacted you and sort of made you who you are right now.
If listeners were to take away one important point from our chat today, what would you want that to be?
Antwan Eady: OOH, that is always a good question. For me, the impact is simple, I think. I hope this book meets readers of all ages, like, wherever they are, in their own journeys. Meaning, I hope that it gives them whatever it is they don’t know they need, whatever that looks like for them, whatever that feels like for them.
But above all, with Nigel and the Moon, I want to offer Nigel’s safe space to so many that need it. Because if we can’t find safety in our homes, if we can’t find safety in school, even if it’s the few seconds we have between our homes and the bus stop every morning and every evening, I hope that it allows and encourages readers to have their own safe spaces, their own diaries, in a sense, to keep their dreams safe. Because our world sometimes does so much to challenge us. Sometimes it feels like we’re in a battle. And if we can keep hold of our dreams, I think that is one of the best things that will give us hope but also allow us to move on. And I hope that that’s what readers take away from this, just to know their dreams are valid and that they deserve to be protected.
So, yeah, that’s what I would hope readers will take away from this book.
Bianca Schulze: Incredible.
I really enjoyed these words shared on the Jumpstart website, inviting readers to join the Read For the Record Days shared reading experience they wrote this fall, we invite you to meet Nigel, his loving family, and his supportive community. Together, we will honor the diversity in our world, celebrate pride in where we come from, and uplift the essential workers in our communities. I loved the way they kind of just encapsulated what readers can expect from your book. But I popped the link to Jumpstarts Read for the Record Day page into our show notes so everyone can learn more about participating and how to order the Jumpstart special edition of Nigel and the Moon.
But I do just want to say before I go, and then I’m going to give you an opportunity in case there’s anything extra you want to share. But Antwan, I came to this conversation knowing that I loved your book and knowing that I really appreciate what Jumpstart does. But what I didn’t know was how much gratitude I was going to feel from just having this conversation with you. In fact, my eyes are watering right now; just bizarre. But I really just loved this conversation. So, it’s been special for me. Thank you so much for coming on today, and I want to leave you the opportunity to share anything else that needs to spill out today.
Antwan Eady: Well, just to say thank you again for having me. This is my first podcast focused on books, and I came into this having listened to your previous episodes, and I’ve quickly become a fan, so I came into this being very nervous. I’m a shy guy, so I always tell people, even during my school visits, that I’m sort of like Nigel in the sense. But you made this such a welcoming space, a comforting space, a safe space. So, thank you for what you do in the book community—in publishing. I want to definitely encourage people to visit the link. It’s Jstart.org, and I know you added to the show notes to join us on October 27 for Read for the Record.
And just a major thank you to my publisher, HarperCollins, Katherine Tegan Books. Thank you to Mabel Hsu, Gracey Zhang, to my agent, Stephen Malk, and I would love to use this opportunity to also thank the readers. Every day I receive pictures of people with Nigel and the Moon from around the world, and it has made this journey so overwhelming in the best way. I get to smile, I get to laugh, I get to cry, and I just thank the community for receiving me in such a loving and calm way. And I hope to do this forever because I truly feel as if where we’re at is where I’ve been meaning to be all along. Every small moment, every delay, every peak, every valley has been leading me to this moment. And I look forward to having readers follow my journey with the other books that are coming as well.
And thank you. Thank you again, Bianca, for having me. Truly.
About the Book
Nigel and the Moon
Written by Antwan Eady
Illustrated by Gracey Zhang
Ages 4+ | 40 Pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books | ISBN-13: 9780063056282
Publisher’s Book Summary: From debut author Antwan Eady and artist Gracey Zhang comes a glowing tale about the young dreaming big. A perfect story to demonstrate how pride in where we come from can bring a shining confidence.
When Nigel looks up at the moon, his future is bright. He imagines himself as…an astronaut, a dancer, a superhero, too!
Among the stars, he twirls. With pride, his chest swells. And his eyes, they glow. Nigel is the most brilliant body in the sky.
But it’s Career Week at school, and Nigel can’t find the courage to share his dreams. It’s easy to whisper them to the moon, but not to his classmates—especially when he already feels out of place.
Buy the Book
Learn more about Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Day: https://www.jstart.org/jumpstarts-read-for-the-record/
For more about Antwan Eady, visit: https://www.antwaneady.com/
- Learn about Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Day
- Get to know Antwan Eady
- About Nigel and the Moon
- A discussion on the character of Nigel
- Gracey Zhang’s picture book illustrations
- Children, their dreams, and future careers
- The importance of essential workers
- Antwan Eady’s upcoming books
- Reading and under-resourced communities
Thank you for listening to the Growing Readers Podcast episode: Antwan Eady Discusses ‘Nigel and the Moon’ and Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Day. For the latest episodes from The Growing Readers Podcast, Follow Now on Spotify. For similar books and articles, you can check out all of our content tagged with
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