The Backstory: IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA
I love when friends come back to visit with new books and that is exactly what we have today. Ana Sequeira has returned with the latest in her ever-growing list of publications IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA (SimonKids, 2022) with illustrations by Irena Freitas. Read on to discover what parenting memory led to this latest book and for your chance to win a copy or a manuscript critique.
Welcome back to The Backstory and thank you for joining us again, this time to share the inspiration behind IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
This bouncy, bilingual picture book is an enchanting, rollicking read-aloud for small ones with big imaginations.
On the night before Halloween, a new babysitter might be more than she appears. If she wears a black sombrero and cackles like a crow, she might just be a bruja! One little girl is determined not to fall victim to an evil witch or her cats. She knows bath time is really the bruja’s way of putting her in a boiling cauldron, and the only way to keep her at bay is with a magic potion—or is it?
With boundless imagination and plenty of tricks up her sleeve, the young protagonist may just have the best night ever!
There is so much for a child to love about this concept! Imagination, Halloween, witches! You clearly have something for everyone. I am positive this will quickly become a favorite read-aloud in my classroom.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
One day, at a beach in Brazil, my three-year-old girl was having the time of her life, diving and swimming, digging and rolling, until…
“Karina, we must go home now!”
“The last dive,” she begged.
“You had a thousand last dives already,” I said while staring at her with my teacher’s look. “We must leave NOW!”
And then... She cried, stomped, and shouted, “You’re not my mom. You are a bruxa (witch in Portuguese).” For three blocks, I carried Karina while she kept repeating this scary refrain: “You’re a bruxa.”
And this story stayed in my head and heart forever. Now, over thirty years later, I will be publishing it. Even though, of course, the Mom is not the witch, the babysitter is.
I can picture this memory happening so clearly, and I think most parents can relate, though probably without being called a bruxa. It is no wonder this experience stuck with you and I am thrilled that you were able to recognize the spark of a story hidden within this challenging moment.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA? Was it something undeniable you had to write immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
As I mentioned above, this story stayed in my head for many, many years. When I decided to write it, I wrote first about a nanny and the story was very different from the final one.
I love that the idea for this story remained with you for so long and that you were able to experiment with that memory until you found the perfect fit in IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA.
Did you use any mentor texts while writing this story?
After I read Elise Parsley’s books such as IF YOU WANT TO TAKE YOUR ALLIGATOR TO SCHOOL, DON’T, I decided to write my story in second pov. I thought that would make the story more fun and less scary.
Great choice! Your second-person pov is the perfect tool for bringing the reader right into the story.
Now that you have a few books published and more on the way has anything changed about where or how you get your inspiration?
I still can get inspired by movies, books, and life situations. But now, I am really digging deep into my own memories and letting these memories fuel my emotions. Of course, Bruja was based on my memories, but at first, I tried to write many stories that were not really a story I felt in my heart. Now, I try to really mine my memories as frequently as I can.
We have talked about this idea on the blog before and I think you are completely right. There is a special authenticity and power that comes through our stories when we write them from a place of deep connection.
Since becoming published has anything changed about the way you approach your ideas, stories, and/or process?
Also, I became a plotter and now I respect my time, that is, some stories need to marinate in your brain for a long time. Some don’t. I take my time. I write notes. I outline and only when I feel the story is ready I write my first draft.
Giving each idea and story the amount of time they need is a great tip. It sounds like you are not only respecting your time but also believing in your process and knowing that these stories will unfold in the way they are meant to when they are meant to.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
Mine your memories. What were important moments (happy or sad) to you during your childhood, or your children’s and grandchildren’s? What did you feel during that moment? How can these feelings be used in a story to add heart and tension? But remember, when writing inspired on your story, pour out your emotions, but feel ready to tweak your story to make it more fun, more kid-relatable, and more interesting. That’s why my bruja became the unknown babysitter, the date became the night before Halloween, the scenes became a world of imagination and the main character became … You! (but relax, you will find a way to have the best night ever with this bruja).
You are right, memories are a powerful place from which to write. I also appreciate your reminder to writers that we need to stay flexible with these memories when applying them to our work. As authors we can then weave that inspiration in with all that we know about writing for kids to have the best end product.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
I am very excited that I wrote a graphic novel for Capstone (BOITATA, THE FIRE SNAKE) and a board book for Barefoot Books (OUR WORLD: BRAZIL). I am also excited about the chapter book and graphic novel I am writing now. But the most heartfelt book I have coming out is ABUELA’S SUPER CAPA (art by Elisa Chavarri- HarperCollins 2023). This is a story I wrote after my mother died and it’s about her super special relationship with my younger son. In this story, I poured my soul and many, many tears.
I am so beyond thrilled with all of your successes and ecstatic that we have more books in varying formats to look forward to from you. They all sound amazing and I can already tell just from your description that ABUELA'S SUPER CAPA is going to be truly special. I can not wait to read it.
Where can people connect more with you?
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/asiqueira1307/?hl=en
Readers be sure to connect with Ana on social media and her website to learn all about her books and to ensure you don't miss her upcoming releases. And while you are at it, pick up or request for your library a copy of IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA (SimonKids, 2022) with illustrations by Irena Freitas.
Ana thanks again for returning to The Backstory and giving us the inside scoop on this wonderful book. I can't wait to have you back again in 2023 to see what you have been up to.
Ana is offering one winner the choice of a manuscript critique or a copy of IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA (US only).
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT ANA SIQUEIRA
Ana Siqueira is a Spanish-language elementary teacher, and an award-winning Brazilian children’s author also published in the Foreign Language educational market – EL PATO QUIERE UVAS. Her picture books include BELLA’S RECIPE FOR DISASTER/SUCCESS (Beaming Books, 2021) and IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA/CUANDO TU NIÑERA ES UNA BRUJA (SimonKids,2022), ABUELA’S SUPER CAPA/ LA SUPER CAPA DE ABUELA (HarperCollins, 2023), ROOM IN MAMI’S CORAZÓN (Harpercollins, 2024) and a few more books to be announced. Besides writing, Ana loves to read, teach, and play with her Cuban-Brazilian-American grandchildren. Represented by Tricia Lawrence – EMLA Lit Agency Twitter: @SraSiqueira1307
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
ANDREW HACKET always dreamed of writing picture books, but never believed it was possible. Then one day he thought, “I could. I should.” So he did (with a lot of hard work). And while he hopes no one swallows acorns as a result of his story, OLLIE, THE ACORN, AND THE MIGHTY IDEA (Page Street Kids, 2024), he does hope kids will be inspired to grow kindness in their communities and stand up for themselves — without eating anyone, of course.
Andrew lives in Holden, Massachusetts with his wife and three children, all of whom are very mighty.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.