Join us in celebrating Our Roof Is Blue (also in Spanish Nuestro Techo es Azul) book birthday! We sat down with Musa Sara E. Echenique to learn all about the inspiration behind this book.
But first, a little bit about Our Roof Is Blue.
Our Roof is Blue/Nuestro Techo Es Azul is a heartfelt story of resilience following two siblings who support each other as they recover and rebuild after Hurricane Maria destroys their home in Puerto Rico. Children’s Literature called it “a very real, emotional, and heartwarming book," and Kirkus noted that “healing, both physical and emotional, is eased through the power of story.
What inspired you to become a writer?
As a child I read voraciously and had the very specific dream of becoming a vet who writes stories about their job (much like James Herriot). When I went to college, I studied English in part because I couldn’t get enough of stories. Although I decided not to enter the medical field, I studied law and later litigated because it was yet another way of living and breathing stories (though of a very different kind). Shortly after having two of my children, I reconnected with children’s literature and found the creative outlet I didn’t know I’d been missing.
Where did you get the idea to write this particular story?
Our Roof Is Blue is the story of the bond between siblings, the power of imagination, healing from trauma, and—at its core—climate change. The idea came to me in stages. I grew up with hurricanes, but the storms we’re seeing are stronger and more powerful largely because of climate change. In 2017, I (and most of the Puerto Ricans on the mainland) watched the approach of Hurricane Maria with the slim hope that it would deviate from its chosen path—Puerto Rico is such a small archipelago, after all. When it didn’t shift, we held our breath and when it hit—dead on—we consumed any and all media we could find, desperate to know how our families were faring and the state of the rest of our communities. I visited Puerto Rico that December and, while there, was struck by the sea of blue tarp roofs. Shortly after that visit, I read article after article about the effect the hurricane had on children, including one child who hadn’t spoken since the storm. The story flowed from there.
What was your favorite part of the publication process with this story?
Working with my editor, Julie Bliven, was so much fun. She ‘got’ the story early on and our visions aligned in a way that I feel elevated the story. She is such a gifted writer herself, and getting to experience her editing and thought process was an incredible learning experience.
Can you share if you used any mentor texts for your story?
If so, how did you use them?When I started solidifying my idea for this story and what I wanted it to be, I kept going back to a few books to which I’d had strong emotional reactions (meaning: I cried), including A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams, Those Shoes by Mariberth Boelts, and Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena. That process helped me figure out the emotions I wanted to evoke.
What 3 recommendations would you give writers who are starting out?
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