A Conversation with Katharine Holabird

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Author Katharine Holabird.
Author Katharine Holabird.
Author Katharine Holabird.

By Dawn Watson

The best-selling author of the “Angelina Ballerina” children’s book series and the “Twinkle” children’s book series, who splits her time between New York and London, will return to the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton to read some of her books on Saturday, November 28, at 10 a.m.

Q: What books will you be reading at CMEE?

A: I will be reading from my new book, “Angelina Cinderella,” and from “Twinkle.” I’ll also have a local dancer with me from one of the dance schools, who will mime the events as I’m reading.

Q: Angelina is a child mouse who loves to dance. Can you talk about how her life was inspired by your family?

A: Growing up, my three sisters and I were was just mad about dancing. We spent our whole childhood dancing madly around the house and dressing up. It’s a rite of passage for little girls, discovering music and dance. One of my fondest memories was being taken to the ballet with my parents and my grandmother. Later, after I grew up and had children of my own, my two daughters were also mad about ballet. It was glorious that they were equally besotted with dance. It was such a wonderful period in their lives. They were little divas in tutus.

Q: Who or what was the inspiration for “Twinkle?”

A: When I was a child I loved fairies. “Twinkle” is a child fairy who goes to the Fairy School of Music and Magic. She’s kind of a dyslexic fairy; things are always going wrong. But she’s so plucky. I think nature is totally magical. I’m on the fourth book now.

Q: Any new developments that we might not know about yet?

A: “Twinkle” will be a Broadway star on January 16 in New York City at the Vital Theater. The show is called “Twinkle Tames a Dragon” and it’s really fun. I’m writing the script for it now, working with a lyricist and composer. It’s such a riot. The whole thing has been the most incredible journey, from starting out writing books for my two little girls to this. I’ve been incredibly lucky.

Q: The “Angelina” books have been made into an animated series both here and in England, and even a ballet too. What’s it like having Dame Judi Dench voice the character of Miss Lilly on the British series?

A: I went to watch her when they were doing the recordings. I met her, she was delightful. And the perfect Miss Lilly.

Q: You’ve met the Queen too. How was that?

A: I went to the Queen’s 80th birthday party, which was a children’s literature party in the gardens at Buckingham Palace. There were lots of characters and authors there. She knew all our names, it was quite astonishing. And Angelina was there too. She came.

Q: You’ve spent so much time in London. Do you feel more like a Brit or an American?

A: It’s pretty split down the middle. But it’s always nice to be back in a country where people aren’t asking me if I’m visiting. I especially love Sag Harbor, it’s very special to me. My mother lived here. She was this kind of wonderful fairy-like character, like Miss Lilly. She had tremendous flair, a gift for drama and charm.

Q: How long have you been coming out to the Hamptons?

A: We have been coming out the Sag Harbor for more than 20 years. Both my mother and my beloved editor, Carol Southern Keneas, both lived out here, though both are sadly no longer with us. We bought a property in Water Mill in 2012 and have been fixing it up; currently we are renting in Southampton while we do that. My two grandsons, Charlie, who is 3, and Max, who is 6, come out and spend the summer with me, which is just glorious.

Q: Do you have any favorite or inspirational places here?

A: Just being out here is inspiring. It’ a great community and a great place to work. Plus, it’s less distracting. I’m easily distracted. I love going to the schools and the libraries and doing these readings. Children are a wonderful thing, they give you so much energy.

Q: What’s your favorite part of reading to children?

A: I think anything that encourages reading is my favorite part. There’s no substitute for reading to your child and enjoying the books together. All sorts of things open up and happen. It’s glorious.

Q: What do you want the children to experience during your reading events?

A: Wow. Hmm. Nobody has ever asked me that before. I love to see them be transported. Reading is all about your imagination. If they’re really listening and conjuring these images, then you’re touching someone’s heart—that’s a really wonderful experience.

Q: Your books have “hidden messages” about self acceptance and accomplishment for children. How have the messages evolved since you started writing the books in the early 80s?

A: I wouldn’t say it’s a conscious message. When you’re raising children there are all sorts of things that come up: bullying, competition, sibling rivalry, mistakes, disappointment. It’s important to write about that, to express what it’s like to be a child and learn from our mistakes. Angelina is appealing because she’s a very adorable character who makes wonderful mistakes. But she always recovers and dances on.

Q: Any words of wisdom for the parents young children?

A: I hope they’ll be inspired to follow their hearts. To do what’s in their hearts. Children often talk to me about what they love doing. If I can inspire them to go home and enjoy reading and make believe, I’ll be happy.

Katharine Holabird will read from her books, brought to life with the help of an accomplished local performer, at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton on Saturday, November 28, at 10 a.m. Tickets are $15 and reservations are necessary as seating is limited. To learn more, visit www.cmee.org or call the museum at 631-537-8250.

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