Welome to another Picture Book Interview blog. I am honored to introduce you to author Amy Kwong as she discusses her new book, “Theo’s Heart.”
Hi, Amy! Tell us about yourself!
I am a former ELL teacher and currently a stay-at-home mom to a 17-month-old toddler. I’m originally from Canada but have lived in Seattle for the past 7 years. My background is in education and I have worked mostly with English language learners in schools and tutoring centers. In my spare time, I enjoy going on long walks, watching crime dramas and working on my next children’s book.
How did you know you wanted to be an author?
I think I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book and have always had an interest in writing in general. Writing assignments were often fascinating to me because they gave me opportunities to think about different perspectives and to experiment with nuances of language. That likely led me to pursue English literature for my undergraduate degree and then eventually go into teaching. Part of why I wanted to be a children’s author is to relive memorable moments from my childhood through the eyes and mind of a child in a story. I wanted to put myself in their shoes, get on their level and try to convey how they would feel in certain situations as a way for readers to connect with the characters in my stories.
Tell us about Theo’s Heart!
Theo’s Heart is a story about empathy, kindness and perspective taking. Emily, the main character in Theo’s Heart, loses her beloved penguin plushie only to find him in someone else’s care. What Emily doesn’t know is that Theo has a very special gift. After she gets him back, Theo’s heart glows brightly one night and transports Emily to experiencing life through a different lens. The little penguin’s magical gift helps Emily discover something greater than her love of Theo. Theo’s Heart is a picture book suitable for children ages 3-8. Featuring Asian characters and hand-drawn watercolor illustrations, Theo’s Heart is available in English and bilingual Simplified Chinese and English editions.
Who do you hope to reach with this story?
I hope to reach children who can relate to losing a special toy or item and the challenges of navigating those big emotions.
What is the goal of your book?
One message that I would like to leave my readers with is to be open to other perspectives. Theo’s Heart is a story that literally transports a character to experiencing life through a different lens. By considering other perspectives, it can nurture empathetic hearts and help a child discover what it means to be compassionate.
Tell us about some of the characters or pictures.
Theo’s Heart is partially inspired by my sister’s love of her penguin plushie. Several of the illustrations in my book were inspired by vivid memories of my own upbringing in Hong Kong, such as the traditional sampan fishing boats in one of the boardwalk scenes. That was an important aspect that I wanted to include in my book – showing diverse characters and highlighting some of my cultural background.
What inspired you to write Theo’s Heart?
Theo’s Heart was partially inspired by a true family story. My sister had a toy penguin that she absolutely cherished, and she was devastated when she lost it. The strong love and attachment that a young child has towards a stuffed animal, or any special item, is an incredibly special bond. I wanted to write a story that showed how a child could navigate those big emotions and be torn on what to do in a difficult situation.
What other types of professionals helped bring your book to life?
Tracy Liu is the illustrator of Theo’s Heart and she did an incredible job. Social-emotional learning is something that I had wanted to highlight in the book, and she was able to convey the characters’ emotional states perfectly.
Thank you, Amy, for spending some time with us and sharing your journey with “Theo’s Heart.” We hope to see more books from you on our bookshelves in the future!