Since graduating from college in 2007, Maggie Tokuda-Hall has been immersed in the world of children’s books—in one role or another. For more than seven years, she was a children’s bookseller and events organizer for Books Inc., in San Francisco, then worked as children’s marketing manager for Chronicle Books, and is currently employed by Apple’s iBooks. This year, Tokuda-Hall arrives at BEA wearing a new hat—that of author—as she promotes her debut picture book, Also an Octopus (Candlewick, Oct.). Illustrated by Benji Davies, the book introduces a ukulele-playing octopus who sets out to build a spaceship out of soda cans, glue, umbrellas, glitter, and waffles.
The author wrote the first draft of her story one day in 2011 when she was home sick from Books Inc., after “an intense week of book fairs and kids’ events,” she says. The week involved multiple storytime readings of Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back, which piqued her creative curiosity. “I read this book over and over and over, because I love it, and kids do, too,” she says. “I asked myself, ‘Why is this book so good?’ And the answer I landed on was that it is the perfect basic story, stripped down to the bare parts: Bear, quite simply, wants his hat back.”
That realization prompted Tokuda-Hall to write her own story, and she conjured up an octopus who also wants something: to travel to faraway galaxies. “My intention, with this story, is to give kids very basic building blocks of narrative, so they can tell their own stories,” she notes. “I hope the book helps them find storytelling less intimidating, and realize that writing isn’t a big, scary, grownup undertaking, but something they can do themselves.” The author says it feels as though she “won the illustrator lottery” with Davies’s selection to provide the art for Also an Octopus. “I feel as though Benji shared my vision—but he made it so much better and cooler. He brings such a strong sense of story to his illustrations, and I couldn’t be more excited about his pictures for the book.”
Booksellers can get an early peek at Davies’s art and meet Tokuda-Hall at Candlewick’s booth (1529) today, 3:30–4:30 p.m., when she signs lithos of Also an Octopus.
This article appeared in the May 11, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.