Missing teeth, dinosaurs and mystery, oh my!
After the success of her first children’s book, Stella Keeps the Sun Up, Clothilde Ewing has released a second book featuring the ever-adventurous Stella, who is on the search for a missing tooth. And once again, Ewing wraps in an educational moment, this time about the prehistoric age, as this new book centers around a dinosaur.
"I am a big fan of books that sneak in a lesson," she declares. "It is wonderful to love a story, and even better when you learn something new."
We get to the bottom of this tale as Ewing tells EBONY about her newest literary endeavor, why it’s important to celebrate Black joy and what’s coming up next for the beloved kid heroine, Stella.
EBONY: Stella is back! What inspired you to revisit her world?
Clothilde Ewing: I just knew Stella had more adventures ahead. Our kids are imaginative and deserve to see themselves in stories that celebrate their joy and wonder. I am so thankful to my publisher Denene Millner and the head of Denene Millner Books, who are committed to celebrating Black joy and for giving me the space to tell such fun stories.
What was the catalyst to write about a missing tooth?
My two children are pretty obsessed with losing teeth and catching the tooth fairy in action. Losing teeth is also one of those universal rites of passage, just like trying to avoid bedtime, which is from my first book, Stella Keeps the Sun Up. That said, I am not quite sure why we say: “I lost a tooth,” when it is time to transition to an adult tooth. We know where it is the entire time. Who came up with that anyway?
There are two lessons wrapped up in this book: about dinosaurs and losing teeth. Why is it important to share some lessons in every story?
My son is very skeptical of traditional “lesson books,” so I try not to be too heavy-handed with them, but when a child can gain knowledge without being schooled, everyone comes out on top.
The book is about a Black heroine, but doesn't point out the fact that she's a Black girl. Why is it important to create stories where being Black isn't the main focus?
There is a great line in the poem turned book “You So Black” by Theresa Tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D: “Black is not something we get to choose, but it is something we get to cherish.” I couldn't agree more. At the same time, when my kids are trying to avoid bedtime, are nervous about the first day of school or are excited about losing a tooth, it is because they are children. These are universal experiences regardless of race. We have incredible books in our home that teach our children our history and about Black excellence through the stories of legends like Katherine Johnson and Jackie Robinson. But I also want my children and others to see more children of color in books that are not defined primarily by race or struggle but by belonging and joy.
What will Stella do next?
There are at least two more Stella books to come, so stay tuned. I will keep on keeping on as long as I can. I have also heard from parents that their readers have been asking if they can watch the Stella show, and so I am going to put that out in the universe as well. The future is bright for Stella. This is just the beginning.
Advice for other writers who want to pen children's books?
The most important thing a budding writer can do is start writing and then keep writing. Then when you think you are out of ideas, write some more. Just like exercise, it is so important (and helpful) to work the muscle. In this case, it is your imagination. Next, find your people. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), is a great resource where you can find other budding and established authors who are on a similar journey.