Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Behind the Book with Jackie Azúa Kramer + a Literary Lunch!

Jackie Azúa Kramer's debut, The Green Umbrella, is a fantastical flight-of-fancy told in lush language, and brought vividly to life by Maral Sassouni's dazzling dream-like illustrations. The whole book, in fact, feels like dipping into a dream, where anything is possible.

Today, we go behind the book with Jackie, who was kind enough to give us a tour through her imagination and inspiration. How does this author find her muse and create beautiful, evocative stories like The Green Umbrella? By accessing what she calls, her Inspiration Station.

Tell us more, Jackie!

When I write, I imagine my brain appears like Monet’s ‘Water Lillies’…serene, clear and calm.

However, often my ideas are best expressed by a Jackson Pollack painting; a mad splatter, non-linear, jumble.

There’s so much beauty in the world that inspires me. Imagine a virtual radio with only five stations -sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. Each turn of the dial helps to transport me to a place, time, a feeling or memory. Here’s a glimpse into my ‘Inspiration Station.'

On this cold and grey day, here in NY, I want to hear music like Susheela Raman singing ‘Ya Meera Divanapan Hai.” Growing up, I travelled a lot with my family. The people of India, food, colors, landscapes, and music have stayed with me.

They say athletes, creators, public speakers, are in the ‘zone’ when they perform at their best. Nature is my ‘zone’ and where some of my best story ideas begin. Time and again, I return to the beach. That first sniff of salty air sends signals to my brain, which I’d best describe as ‘freedom’. The warm sand melting under my feet, the blue sky that goes on forever, and rhythmic waves, unfetters my imagination.

I’m a romantic and the poem that touches my heart each time I read it, is e.e. cummings, “somewhere i have never travelled…” The last line slays me…it’s so visceral.
“…nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.”

Since childhood food has always been a focal point in my life. Friends would often want to come over after school for dinner, and have my grandmother’s savory rice and beans with spicy chicken or my mother’s saffron scented and colorful paella. My addition, to my family’s culinary history is, ‘Egg in a Basket.' A simple dish I started to make since my kids were little. It’s the perfect, tasty, sunshiny breakfast.

Recipe for Egg in a Basket:
Cut a medium slice of your favorite round bread. I like a good sour dough. Take out most of the center of the bread. Place in a hot pan with butter and crack two eggs in the center. Flip once and cook eggs to your preference. I love the eggs over easy which compliments the crispy bread. Tip: In the last 30 seconds, add a slice of cooked bacon on top. Bacon makes everything special.

And my favorite station that always keeps me singing and dancing…my family.

Jackie Azúa Kramer earned her Masters of Education from Queens College. She is a member of SCBWI and has written for the SCBWI Bulletin. In 2014, she was invited to be a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, Bank Street College. In 2015 Jackie was a presenter at the 1st nErDCamp Long Island.  Her picture book, The Green Umbrella (North South Books) debuts February 2017. The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, TBD) and If You Want to Fall Asleep (Clavis Books, Spring 2018). Visit her at:

Praise for The Green Umbrella - (January 31, 2017 — North South Books)

* The lesson about sharing and generosity is elegantly wrapped around lovely language. (Kirkus Reviews)

* Kramer’s storytelling passages sustain their lofty tone with no off notes—no easy task. (Publishers Weekly)

* A sweet story of a blossoming friendship between five lovable and imaginative characters, united by one special green umbrella. I want to jump right in to the lush paintings and join in their fun! (Lauren Castillo, Author/ Illustrator of Caldecott Honor Book "Nana in the City")


The Green Umbrella Literary Lunch

When Elephant takes a peaceful walk with his green umbrella, he’s interrupted by Hedgehog, Cat, Bear, and Rabbit—all claiming that they’ve had exciting adventures with his umbrella. After all, it is an umbrella, and it certainly hasn’t been on any adventures more exciting than a walk in the rain. Or has it? 

Nina from made a lunch for any umbrella adventure:
  • The Green Umbrella cold cut sandwich covered in spinach
  • Elephant sandwich cheese sandwich surrounded by cat in a tea cup, bear and old rabbit
  • night clouds of popcorn and blueberries and 
  • a cheese moon to light the way into their next adventur

* For more of Nina's Literary Lunch creations, visit:
--instagram: @Mamabelly
--twitter: @LunchesWithLove

* View The Green Umbrella book trailer on Mr. Schu's blog.
* For more about Jackie Azúa Kramer, visit:
* To explore more of Maral Sassouni's work, go to:
* Buy The Green Umbrella at an indie bookstore near you.


  1. Can't wait to read your book, Jackie!! I love Maral's art and that cover is so whimsical. Nature is my zone too--and that cummings' poem is also one of my favorites!!

    Hearty congrats!

  2. And love Nina's lunch--so cute, as usual!!

  3. Popcorn clouds - aw!
    I need to learn to smile like that serene elephant when it is raining. Must be quite a special umbrella! Congrats Jackie!