A very happy book birthday to When Penny Met POTUS, by Rachel Ruiz! To celebrate, we’ve invited Rachel to our blog this morning to answer some of our most burning questions.
When I read When Penny Met POTUS, I immediately thought of what a timely story this is considering the upcoming presidential election. Was the fact that we could have our nation’s first female presidential candidate from a major party on your mind when you began writing POTUS?
I started writing the book shortly after Barack Obama won re-election in 2012. Having worked on his campaign, I felt there was a strong possibility Hillary Clinton would run for president in 2016. So yes, it was in the back of my mind when I was writing the book.
You’ve said that your idea for this book was inspired by your young daughter, who asked many questions about POTUS when you worked on President Obama’s re-election campaign. What were some of the things she was wondering about?
My daughter was three at the time, and while she knew I worked for the President of the United States, that didn't mean a whole lot to her. She would ask questions like, "Did you have lunch with POTUS today?" "Is he allergic to peanut butter?" "Does he like the color red?" But I think my favorite was something she said one day shortly after she had gotten to meet President Obama. I brought her to lunch with some friends I worked with on the campaign, after which she said, "I really like all your friends, but my favorite is President Obama."
How sweet! Speaking of sweet, the illustrations by artist Melissa Manwill add a lot of detail to what is going on in Penny’s imagination throughout the book. What is your favorite illustration in When Penny Met POTUS?
That is so hard to answer! Melissa did a phenomenal job bringing the story to life with her beautiful and vibrant illustrations. With picture books, that is such an essential part of the story. But I think my two favorites are Penny and POTUS' tea party in China Room at the White House and Penny imagining POTUS riding (literally riding) Air Force One. Okay, and one more — POTUS drinking a pot of coffee and reading the morning paper. But honestly, I love them all.
Being a debut author, were you surprised by anything in the book making process?
Yes, I was equal parts surprised, relieved, and encouraged by how incredibly collaborative the process was from start to finish. Everyone I've worked with at Capstone, and in particular my editor, Christianne Jones, has made this entire experience a dream come true.
What was the hardest part about writing this book? What was the most fun part?
The hardest part: coming up with the ending! It was important to me that it paid off for both kids and adults. The most fun part: literally everything else!
If you could have dinner with any elected official, who would it be and why?
President Barack Obama. I'm a big fan.
Why do you think it’s important for young children to begin thinking about our elected officials?
I think it’s important because our kids should know that when they are old enough to vote, they should exercise that right. Voting for the people who will be making decisions that affect them and their fellow Americans is a right not everyone around the world gets to have.
How do you think When Penny Met POTUS might help the effort?
I hope it will inspire kids to be civic minded, but beyond politics, I hope the takeaway is this: as long as you set your mind to it and work hard, you can be anything you want to be.
Kick off your Fourth of July weekend by ordering your copy of When Penny Met POTUS today!
— Eliza Leahy, Associate Editor