The Children’s Book Review Interview in partnership with Mariam Shapera, author of Up Up You Go Jo!
Mariam Shapera is a graduate of the University College of London Medical School and currently works as a Family doctor. She lives in San Diego, CA, with her husband and three young musical and outer-space-loving kids. She has always had a passion for writing children’s books and poems, but there never seems to be enough time in the day!
Mariam Shapera’s middle child, Joseph, has an immense love and talent for music and space! The book Up Up You Go Jo! was inspired by Joseph and dedicated to all children whose passion for music and space is out of this world.
What was your inspiration for writing a book about lost musical notes?
My inspiration for the idea of lost musical notes came from my middle son. He has a huge passion for both music and outer space. Therefore, I wanted to combine the two themes—the idea just sort of sprung to my mind.
Music is an integral part of this story. Why do you think music education is important for children?
I believe music education is very important in child development. I introduced the names of the music notes, intending to hopefully spark an interest and curiosity in music, especially at an early age. Whether taking part in music lessons or being a patient in music therapy, it has been shown to enhance memory, reduce stress, promote wellbeing and improve communication, especially in those children with speech delays.
Is there a real-life inspiration for the character of Jo in the story?
Yes, the inspiration for the character is my son Joseph, who loves both music and outer space.
The space imagery evokes a lot of the great classical compositions that take history and the cosmos as their themes – is there a particular piece of music that inspired the space theme?
Not really, as you say, I did have classical music in mind since that is what we hear played most on the keyboard/piano in our household but not a particular piece exactly.
Are there other books you recommend to parents and educators who want to inspire a love of music in children?
Yes, my children love ‘Giraffes Can’t Dance!’ It is full of humor, yet the message of trying to find your rhythm is an important one, especially amongst young music learners. Also, my son loves Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! It is an ABC learning book, but the video for the book is so musical and catchy, it really is something special!
Why did you choose to write a picture book rather than an instructional book or novel, for example?
Well, this is a sort of ‘short novel’ for young children, but for me, it had to be a picture book. I have always wanted to write a children’s picture book since I was a teenager, and it definitely had to have bright colors that filled the whole page just as ‘Up Up You Go Jo!’ does. I believe this is what first draws young children to a book, whether they are early readers or having the story read to them.
What would you advise readers to do if they feel they may have “lost their notes”?
Easy to say but always hard to do (especially at the beginning of a difficult task): keep trying, keep trying, and keep trying! This plus patience will get you to your goal. Sometimes we need a little extra help from someone along the way (and we should accept this). In the case of Jo, it was the astronaut inside the rocket.
Will you be writing more children’s stories in the future, and if so, will they also feature Jo?
Yes, I plan to write at least a couple of more children’s books, and at least one of them will feature Jo again.
Up Up You Go Jo! is a very sensory-stimulating book, from the sounds of the notes and the rhythm of the language to the bright colors, the sensation of wind, and the heat from stars. What were your processes for writing such a multi-sensory text?
My processes were as follows: The music part came from my son’s love for music and his amazing pitch. The colors of the illustrations, including the rainbow colors of Saturn’s rings, were inspired by any child’s love for bright rainbow colors as well as the mystery of that ringed gas planet. I wanted to use a natural phenomenon like wind since that can transfer objects/persons from place to place, far and wide. I also wanted the reader to get a feel of the brightness and heat of the shooting stars as if they were there with Jo.
What musical artist would you recommend to a reader who wants to learn more about composition?
I would definitely recommend Raffi. I had not heard of him until my daughter was completing reading comprehension homework about his life and found out he had composed so many beautiful songs that are well known. These include ‘Down by the bay,’ ‘the more we get together,’ and ‘baby Beluga.’ He composes all his music, and they are perfect for sing-along for all young aspiring musicians.
Written by Mariam Shapera
Illustrated by i Cenizal
Ages 4-8 | 34 Pages
Publisher: Tell Well Talent | ISBN-13: 9780228850731
One morning, music-loving Jo wakes up to discover that his musical notes have disappeared! Where could they have gone to? Join Jo on a dreamy space adventure as he goes in search of his musical notes!
“Jo’s adventures are whimsical and fun, and young readers are sure to enjoy imagining themselves in his place, exploring the rings of Saturn, or hopping on board a rocket ship. … Up Up You Go Jo! would be an excellent choice for kids who take music lessons and for all music-loving readers.” — The Children’s Book Review
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This interview—Mariam Shapera Discusses Up Up You Go Jo!—was conducted between Mariam Shapera and Dr. Jen Harrison. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Mariam Shapera, Music, and Space.