Join us in celebrating A Girl Can Build Anything! We sat down with Musa e.E. Charlton-Trujillo to learn all about the inspiration behind the picture book.
But first, a little bit about A Girl Can Build Anything.
Have you ever dreamed of building something? Maybe something small—like a birdhouse? Or something big—like a skyscraper? A Girl Can Build Anything is a celebration of those dreams and all the different ways girls can create from tinkering to tool wielding, from ideas on paper to lived-out dreams with brick and mortar. This empowering ode to self expression will inspire readers to see the value and possibility in their imagination. To realize they can build anything!
What three words would you use to describe A Girl Can Build Anything?
Community. Inspirit. And problem solving (that's like one word, right?).
Can you share the inspiration for A Girl Can Build Anything?
It was really the most amazing happy accident. A sponsored article popped into my feed from Architectural Digest. The article was about a group of 7 to 12 year-old, wood-working girls, living in small-town Marfa, Texas. They would meet after school on Fridays as part of Lumber Club Marfa. The photos of these girls operating drills, saws and sanders -- mastering the tools with grit and girl power . . . I thought "a girl can build anything."
I starting typing in the Notes Ap on my phone what would be the beginnings of the picture book. Then I reached out to NYT Bestseller Pat Zietlow Miller who I had co-authored Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules and its sequel. I said, "We have to do this book together. I just know this story matters."
What was your favorite part of crafting the story?
First, working with Pat is an absolute gift. I always say I grow as an author and as a human being whenever we work together. We bring very different things to a manuscript, but our collective love for crafting the best story for young people is where we always align.
Second, there is a moment in the book that I really hold close, ". . . failure isn't final. It's where new ideas are made."
How many times have we failed in life and carried the weight of that like an anchor rather than an opportunity. I think it's important for kids to know mistakes happen. It isn't the end, but an opportunity to look at something in a way they might not expect. That it really is a part of how we can grow.
Why is a picture book like A Girl Can Build Anything important for young readers, and what do you hope they take away from it?
From the title, it would seem this is a "girls only" book, but that's definitely not the case. Boys not only read it but have fantastic thoughts and questions. I love this post about boy readers from Tales With Big T, an organization that helps kids read through a library featuring all characters of color. Again, A Girl Can Build Anything is an ode and affirmation of empowerment. Because of illustrator Keisha Morris, every dynamic panel fosters inclusion, problem solving, and the power and possibility of girls and women in construction. Keisha's intricately collaged tissue paper finished in Photoshop coupled with the text celebrates creativity and community while normalizing girls and women -- however they identify -- in construction spaces.
While building isn't just for boys and men, often toys and books about building skew that way. I hope that girls see themselves or girls they know on the page. That they'll feel they have a place wearing a hard hat and operating machinery like Lumber Club Marfa, Girls Garage, Girls Build, or Girls With Grit.
Because right now, women make-up only 11% of the construction industry. With hands-on jobs, like carpentry, plumbing, electrical work and masonry, women come in around 4% of the workforce. Construction is noted for compensating women almost equally to men, but girls need to envision themselves as builders from the earliest of ages. To see that their imagination and their problem solving has just as much of a place as their counterparts.
What comes next for you as an author?
Lupe Lopez: Reading Rock Star co-authored with Pat, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, releases June 13, 2023. Lupe and the band are back at Hector P. Garcia Elementary, but this time facing first grade challenges! I'm also on contract for two more picture books while writing a YA and Middle Grade novel and working on a super secret project. Last but not least, I have a short story in the Fall 2023 anthology The Collectors edited by L.A. Times Book Prize Winner A.S. King. All this while traveling to speak to kids about their own stories. It's a wonderful time.
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