Interview with author, Chris Tamasi
Children’s books are crucial to the development and education of young kids, so it is no wonder that Chris Tamasi’s book, Borders, is being included in the Massachusetts state curriculum. Borders ignites a child’s imagination by providing them with the opportunity to reimagine our world and what our borders could look like. Caregivers love this book because they can take a lesson and make it into an activity that gets kids excited. We spoke with Chris to learn more about how he developed the idea of Borders and what he hopes to inspire in young readers.
When did you begin writing?
I began writing in middle school. It started with songs and eventually I learned how to play the piano. This was my foundation because it is where I learned how to rhyme. At first, it didn’t come naturally to me, but I really enjoyed it, so I kept at it and eventually reached a point where it was an activity I dedicated time to many nights of the week. In college, it took me some time to find my passion in writing and poetry, but once I did, I was happily committed to building my writing foundation. I studied English and archival children’s literature at Amherst College. After graduating, I moved to San Francisco and wrote poetry, but not too seriously.
What is your writing process?
An idea will come to me and I’ll sit down to write my initial thoughts once I reach a point where I need to express it outwardly–but once I get my first thoughts on paper, I tend to sit on it for a while, often revisiting poems at a later point to revise and reach a finished product. I sat on Borders for many years before I even thought about further revising the story and getting it published.
How did you come up with the idea for Borders?
On a cross country flight, I was staring at the flight map and couldn’t help but wonder, how have all these imaginary lines across our world come to mean so much? And wouldn’t it be fun if kids were in charge of making the map? I worked through this thought and finally wrote it into a poem in my notebook. A year later, my then girlfriend, and now wife, arranged for us to go to a writing workshop in NYC, where I opened up my notebook to find the first draft of the poem I wrote on that flight. I finished my first draft of the book in my notebook that night. One thing led to another and I began the journey of getting it published.
How do you feel about raising difficult themes in children's books?
There are definitely core themes in Borders: imagination, creativity, and inclusivity. The story allows children the opportunity to rethink the way our world looks and the authority to imagine something different for all of us. The concept is very powerful and I think that is why a lot of teachers have shared it with their students. It is now going to be a part of the Massachusetts state curriculum, where classrooms have the opportunity to read this story and reimagine our world in new and creative ways. In reading this story and participating in this exercise of making their own map, children are able to view the world and the concept of how/where we are today and hopefully think about togetherness, instead of divisiveness.
What was your hope for the book?
I hope people, especially children, take control of reimagining what the world looks like. I want to encourage creative reactions to things that happen around us and for the next generation to feel they’re able to play a role in helping make things better.
How do you encourage imagination through books?
Last line of the story, “Go ahead, I’m tired of asking who, what, and why–pick up your pen and give it a try,” is a direct invitation to children. I love when books, especially those used in the classroom, invite children to read and learn in an actionable way.
How did you find your illustrator and did you already have a vision for the images?
I had an idea, but it was Mark Brayer who conceptualized what I had in mind. My publisher connected us, and we worked together on the illustrations you see throughout the book.
What was your favorite childhood book?
There are three I can think of that had an impact on me. The images in the book, The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle have stuck with me.
What are you working on now?
I am carving out time to write poetry for pleasure, as a hobby and a creative outlet.
Anything that gets kids reading and engaged is critical for their development. Reading can be the most defining gift you can give to your child, and this book is the perfect example of that. We recommend you open your kids' horizons and give them Borders.