Big Books for Little Hands Interviews Rana DiOrio
About What Does It Mean to Be Green?
November 3, 2021
How did the idea for the original What Does It Mean to Be Green? come about?
In 2010, I had three young children and we lived in a big house. I found myself reminding my children to turn the water off while they brushed their teeth, wear their PJs again (because they put them on after bath time—three kids in the tub!), draw on both sides of the paper, etc. It was exhausting! And I realized that the reason I was being so transactional was that my kids didn’t know why I was asking them to do these things. They needed a construct, so I framed one in my book. The idea was to provide a catalyst for meaningful conversations between children and their caring adults about the environment and let their imaginations run wild with all the many ways we all can be green.
Why did you decide to remaster this title?
So much has changed in climate science since the original publication of the book it warranted an update. We are in a climate crisis right now, and protecting the environment is no longer enough. We need to reimagine our energy, water, food, and waste systems so they have zero impact on our environment. We need to stop being so consumptive and reassess and reevaluate how we can all peacefully coexist with Mother Nature. We need to have conversations with our children about these topics because I believe our children will lead the way to our zero-waste future.
What was the most rewarding aspect of remastering it?
One night while I was working on the back matter to the title, I asked my oldest daughter, Ryan, if she’d be willing to write a paragraph about the question I just answered above from her perspective. She was game and sat down, wrote it, and sent it to me soon thereafter. I subsequently sent it to my Editor exactly as I had received it, and she didn’t make any changes to it either. So, hopefully, this piques your interest enough to pick up a copy of the book and read Ryan’s why? She’s a high school senior in the process of applying to colleges, and I am so very proud of her.
What do you hope readers—children, and their caring adults—get from What Does It Mean to Be Green?
My hope is that it serves as a call to action. We all have so many opportunities to be green every day, and we need to start making those environmentally conscientious choices. I also hope it sparks interest in climate science and encourages readers to learn more and, more importantly, do more to reduce our carbon footprint and move toward zero-waste living.
Do you have any resources for educators?
We do! We developed an Educator Guide that you may download for free from my website or my publisher’s. If you have ideas or suggestions regarding resources you would like to have, please let me know at rana@ranadiorio(dot)com.
Were there any surprises that came up as you worked on this project?
Once an author submits the manuscript to his/her/their publisher there is very little involvement in the creation of the visual narrative. At Little Pickle Press, the children’s media company I built before entering into a publishing license arrangement with Sourcebooks, we did things differently. We valued the collaboration between an author and illustrator, and we witnessed magic happen as a consequence. While I was able to send my Editor comments upon Addy Rivera Sonda’s initial sketches, I did not have any direct connection to her during the creative process, unfortunately.
A month before the book’s publication, we ran a pre-order campaign, and we celebrated Addy’s contribution and tagged her in all our posts. And she responded by engaging in all of it. We shouted one another out and liked and commented upon reviews and social media mentions. We became a team, which felt and continues to feel so great!
Do you feel that this edition makes a different impact than the original?
I do feel that the remastered version has a different impact than the original version. First, Addy’s inclusive and enchanting illustrations add emotion, depth, and meaning to the visual narrative. They convey so vividly that we are all in this together, and we need to work together to not only protect but also live in harmony with Mother Earth. As well, while the new prose gives children a framework for what being environmentally conscientious means and also suggests specific ways they can make sustainable or zero-waste choices, it also encourages them to dream big about what else we can do to be green. The possibilities are exciting . . . and endless!
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Honestly? From my own challenges. For all of my books, I organically encountered an obstacle or lesson I needed to learn. I did the exploration for myself, and then I wrote a book that made my learnings approachable and compelling for young audiences. For example, when I was 42 years old and during the third trimester of pregnancy with my third child, I chose to transition out of an intense finance career and into being a stay-at-home mom for a while. I was a mess. I missed the always-on, fast-paced, get sh*t done way of life. I know, crazy, right? It had been all I had known since I graduated from law school. I needed to re-learn how to be present, to use all of my senses to appreciate the now, and to not even think about what’s next. It took a lot of re-training. I started to practice yoga. I meditated. I read a lot of nonfiction on the subject. I maintained a gratitude journal. I spent time away from my screens. Then, the iPad was born. And we handed them to our children. And I watched my perfectly present children get absorbed into the vortexes of their screens. It was alarming. And I knew that I needed to write What Does It Mean to Be Present? so children, and their caring adults, could know what it means and celebrate its virtues.
You’ve written so many wonderful titles, what can we expect from you next?
Thank you for the kudos! I have written three more titles in the What Does It Mean To Be . . . ?® series with co-authors. The first is What Does It Mean to Be Creative? with New York Times Bestselling author, Po Bronson. And also, What Does It Mean to Be A Friend? and What Does It Mean To Be A Leader? with speaker, author, and kindness advocate, Houston Kraft. I am hoping to start the process of getting these titles out into the world soon.
As well, I am working on a three-book series of affirmations with my Co-Executive Producer of a children’s show on citizenship we’re developing with the Jim Henson Company (who also happens to be my dear friend). More on that project when I can share some details.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
(1) Just start. The first draft is awful for everyone, but you need to start somewhere. (2) Be kind to yourself. Silence your inner critic so you have the freedom to create. (3) Join a professional trade association and participate in its conferences, webinars, workshops, critique groups, etc. to improve your mastery of our craft. For authors of children’s books, I strongly recommend joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. (4) Have fun! Life is precious and ephemeral, so find a way for your writing journey to bring you joy.
What Does It Mean to Be Green? is available wherever books are sold. Yay!
If you’d like to support indie booksellers, please buy it from Bookshop here.
And only if you must . . . you may buy it on Amazon here.
Rana DiOrio grew up in Rhode Island, went to college in North Carolina, and attended law school in Tennessee. It wasn’t until she moved to California’s environmentally conscious Bay Area, however, that she started developing her own appreciation of what it means to be green. She realized that we all have the power to change the way we live to be respectful of, and grateful for, Mother Earth and to help her thrive. Rana has written her way through life—as a student, lawyer, investment banker, investor, and now as an author and entrepreneur. Her interests include fitness training, practicing yoga, reading nonfiction and children’s books, dreaming, walking along beaches, effecting positive change, and, of course, being global, green, present, safe, kind, entrepreneurial, and American, like the other books in her What Does It Mean To Be . . .?® series.
Adina Oberman is a former preschool teacher and a mom of 2 young kids. She has a passion for picture books and adores reading with her kids and students. She’s the creator of BigBooksForLittleHands.com, a blog aimed at helping parents and educators find books that help them navigate the ups and downs of early childhood. She has a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College, and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Manhattanville College, with a certification in Special Education. You can find her on Instagram @BBLHands.