An interview in partnership* with The Children’s Book Review and AC Bradburn, co-authors of Dancing with Cara: The Rainbow Stories.
AC Bradburn is a husband and wife team that writes short and long stories, sometimes with music, that strives to engage with the natural world in new and ancient ways. They began their working lives as freelance musicians, often combining music and storytelling in workshops with children. Now with a young family, they divide their time between home educating their children, growing vegetables, looking after chickens, and struggling to find time to write!
In this interview, co-authors AC Bradburn talk about their beautiful new book Dancing with Cara: The Rainbow Stories, the story, the music, and the animations!
Tell us a little about the book’s inspiration. How did the lockdown lead to the creation of the Cara stories and animations?
AC Bradburn: We lived in London at this time, and we were lucky enough to get to the top of the allotment waiting list in the spring of 2019. This proved to be not only an absolute blessing during the lockdowns but also the inspiration behind the stories. We had both a huge apple tree and a fig tree. The figs that summer filled an adult-sized hand! So, seeing our young children being able to climb up and pluck a ripe fig straight from the branch was beautiful. It represented such wonderful freedom within a period of restriction.
Why did you decide to create animations as well as written stories? Do readers tend to prefer one or the other in your experience?
As musicians, we do a lot of recording, so it seemed like a natural progression to record them first. And our youngest was at the perfect age to read as Cara! At this time, we hadn’t even planned to create a book. We were pleasantly surprised at how popular the animations were, and we kept being asked when they were going to be made into a book!
Why did you choose these particular seven natural elements to explore? How did you decide what to include and what to leave out?
Each character from the natural world seemed to lend itself to the stories before I had even begun to write. I tend to meditate before I start writing and can often write for an hour or two and then realize that I have no idea what I have put down on the page! Each of the natural elements would come into my psyche a week or two before the skeleton of the story itself.
Tell us about the title. What makes these stories “rainbow” stories (apart from the song in the last story)?
Each of the stories is actually based upon a chakra in the body, so the themes from the stories are based on the characteristics of that particular chakra and color. I felt that the rainbow was an easier way of introducing these concepts to younger children.
Music is clearly very important to Cara. What do you think is the connection between music and reading for young readers?
Reading is all about rhythm! As we learn to move, to crawl, to walk, we do this through rhythm and beat. So many of our nursery rhymes accompany our development with song. Even the words support this – e.g. ‘all fall down’ or ‘march to the top of the hill’. It is just the same as our perception of sound and the development of sound production. Reading is simply a stage further on. As I read, even now, I hear the rhythm of the words as clearly as their meaning.
If you would like readers to learn one thing from reading these stories, what would it be?
To rethink their relationship with nature and the natural world. We are all one and the same.
How do you think parents and educators can use this book? What do you imagine when you picture it being used in a classroom or learning setting?
Each of these stories has a deeper spiritual meaning or philosophical question behind it, which I hope can be used as a basis for learning and discussion. For example, ‘Butterfly’ (blue, throat chakra) asks many questions…
What is strength? What is power?
Who are you? Are you just a body or is there something more? What is spirit?
What if you could fly? Can part of you fly anyway?
Does a tree have a spirit? Where does it go if the tree is chopped down to create a violin which sounds so alive?
What advice do you have for readers who want to connect more with the natural world around them?
Get outside as much as you can. Use all of your senses – what can you see/smell/hear/feel? Is there anything that a grown-up says that you can taste? How does your skin feel when it rains or if the wind is blowing? What is happening to your emotions while you are outside? Does it make you feel calm/happy/excited/angry? Look for tiny things – who live under the stones and logs? Take leaf rubbings, bark rubbings – look at the textures, feel the textures! But even more so, try to be still in nature – for as long as you can manage. Amazing things can happen when we slow down!
What other favorite “rainbow stories” would you recommend to readers who have enjoyed Dancing with Cara?
Excellent question and another that I could answer forever. These are all picture books, but my kids and I still return to them again and again.
We adore ‘Out and About’ by Shirley Hughes – the words and the artwork are just beautiful.
‘Almost Anything’ by Sophy Henn
‘The Snow Lion’ by Jim Helmore and Richard Jones
‘Mr. Tiger Goes Wild’ by Peter Brown
Oh, and the ‘Quest’, ‘Journey’, and ‘Return’ trilogy by Aaron Becker. Utterly beautiful!
Do you plan to work on any more Cara stories? What exciting projects are coming up next for you?
Book two is already written and Ivy has created the first set of artwork. I’m so excited about these stories as they are based on the elements – earth, wind, fire, water, ice, and wood. They deal with some slightly more mature themes, such as death (I cried as I wrote it), change and transformation, migration, and connection. Cara has grown a little, but her love of the natural world still holds dear.
For more information, visit www.twistingtherainbow.org.
About the Book
Written by AC Bradburn
Illustrated by Ivy Trazsi
Ages 4+ | 65 Pages
Publisher: Oxygen Publishing Inc. (2023) | ISBN-13: 9781990093708
Publisher’s Synopsis: ‘What a beautiful world this is,’ Crystal whispered to Cara’s heart, ‘when we allow our true colors to shine.’
Dive into the world of four-year-old Cara as she explores the secrets of the universe through her playful conversations with the natural world.
Dancing with Cara: The Rainbow Stories is a set of eight enchanting stories to shift your perspective, awaken your spirit and nourish your soul, with magical illustrations by Ivy Trazsi.
Buy the Book
Have you seen the Dancing with Cara animated films? Check them out at www.twistingtherainbow.org.
This interview—AC Bradburn Discusses Dancing with Cara: The Rainbow Stories—was conducted between AC Bradburn and Dr. Jen Harrison. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Beginning Readers and Nature.