Join us in celebrating Paula's Patches book birthday! We sat down with Gabriella Aldeman to learn all about the inspiration behind her debut picture book!
But first, a little bit about picture book:
While at school, Paula’s pants catch on a bush that rips a large hole in her pants. She tries everything to hide the hole from her classmates, only to find out that they, too, have leaky lunchboxes, spaghetti stains, and hand-me-down backpacks. Nothing some colorful patches can’t fix! Children will follow Paula as she feels embarrassed about her torn pants, curious about patches, and excited for a possible solution that helps both her and her classmates.
Paula’s Patches is a picture book for children ages 4 to 8.
Where did you get the idea to write this particular story?
My daughter’s pants used to tear all the time. This resulted in big feelings, mostly from me. When I was a child, I felt self-conscious about my clothes and the way they fit. I wanted to create a character that would overcome feeling embarrassed in order to share her ideas with friends and classmates. Additionally, I wanted Paula’s Patches to celebrate the value of mending and serve as a starting point for discussion of consumerism, throwaway culture, and fast fashion.
Are you agented? If so, can you share how you got one?
I tried to cast a wide net when I was querying. I queried the traditional way and got rejection after rejection. In the meantime, I entered mentorship contests, manuscript contests, and participated in Twitter pitch parties. At the end, I met my agent, Delia Berrigan (Martin Literary Management), at a one-on-one virtual event trough an organization called Philadelphia Stories. We had fifteen minutes together. I took the first couple of minutes to pitch Paula’s Patches and then we started talking. That’s when we really connected—we talked about ourselves, raising bilingual children, and the kid lit industry in general. By the time it was over, she asked me to send her Paula’s Patches and a few other manuscripts.
Can you share your path to publication for this book?
While I was waiting for Delia to respond to my query, I participated in the Twitter pitch party #PBPitch in June 2021 with this pitch: “Paula’s pants ripped at the knee. She tries everything to hide the tear from her classmates, only to find out that they, too, have leaky lunchboxes, spaghetti stains, and hand-me-down backpacks. Nothing some colorful patches can’t fix! #PBPitch #PB #SEL #POC.” That got two hearts from acquiring editors. One of them was Meg Bratsch at Free Spirit who took Paula’s Patches to acquisition (that August) and offered me a contract. I used that offer to nudge Delia and, thankfully, she offered me representation soon thereafter. Who says publishing things can’t happen in the summer?
What message are you hoping readers will take away from this story?
I want kids to get excited about mending and celebrate the power of creative thinking—I even included craft activities in the back matter! More than anything, however, I want readers to know that no matter the source of their embarrassment, they are not alone. And if they see a friend or classmate feeling low, it’s always a good idea to ask if they’re okay. They may not be ready to say what’s bothering them, but someone reaching out may be the encouragement they need to feel better or come up with their own creative solutions.
What comes next for you as an author?
I’ll be busy promoting Paula’s Patches this summer. I have a handful of bookstore events lined up around Northern Virginia (where I live) and I’ll be attending fall festivals as well. I’m also excited to announce that I was asked to translate my second picture book, Squawk of Spanish/Un graznido en español, which will come out next year in English and Spanish from Charlesbridge Publishing. I also have a couple more picture books in the works for publication in 2025 and 2026, but that’s as much as I can reveal at the moment.
Gabriella Aldeman is a Panamanian American author. She is also a professional translator of academic resources and children’s books. Her books include Paula’s Patches (Free Spirit, 2023) and Squawk of Spanish (Charlesbridge, 2024). She lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her partner and two children.
Please visit her at www.writebetween.com or @write_between on Twitter or Instagram.
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