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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Hacket

The Backstory: PAULA'S PATCHES

Gabriella Aldeman stops by The Backstory today with her debut picture book, PAULA'S PATCHES (Free Spirit Publishing, 2023) with illustrations by Rocío Arreola Mendoza. Kids everywhere will be able to relate to the worries and emotions of Paula and will be inspired by her creative solution. Keep reading to get the scoop on PAULA'S PATCHES and for your chance to win a signed copy.

AH: Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind PAULA’S PATCHES.

First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.

GA: Thank you so much for having me, Andy. My debut picture book, Paula’s Patches, illustrated by Rocío Arreola Mendoza and published by Free Spirit Publishing, is about a girl whose pants rip on her way to school. She is mortified and fears that her “teacher would try to help and all the kids would laugh” at her. Through the course of the school day, she tries everything to hide the tear, only to discover that her classmates also have torn lunch bags, spaghetti stains, and hand-me-down backpacks. Nothing some colorful patches can’t fix!

Paula’s Patches is a story that celebrates the creative spirit and illustrates the importance of kindness and empathy. Teachers, parents, and librarians can also use Paula’s Patches as a starting point of discussion for consumerism and throw away culture.

AH: What a wonderful idea! Sometimes what seems like a small problem to grownups can be a BIG worry for kids. I think PAULA'S PATCHES demonstrates this perfectly. Paula's character and her feelings and actions feel so authentic and will easily resonate with children. I also love how many conversations could be started with children after reading this book.

AH: What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?

GA: The very seed of the idea came from my daughter. Her pants used to tear all the time. This resulted in big feelings—mostly from me. Growing up, I was self-conscious about my body and the way my clothes fit. As I wrote the first few drafts, I felt Paula’s fear of embarrassment along with her. I also knew I wanted to create a character that would overcome this feeling in order to share her ideas with friends and classmates.

AH: I love how you took a spark from your present and infused it with emotion from your past. That emotion comes through wonderfully in the story and is something that I think will really help kids see themselves in Paula.

How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now PAULA’S PATCHES? 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?

GA: The first draft of the book came to me pretty fast. I still remember that morning really well. It was about the umpteenth time my daughter came down for breakfast, sat at the kitchen table, and tore her leggings at the knee. We all rolled our eyes in one loud groan. But my daughter giggled—she giggled! I’ve been in awe of my daughter so many times. On this particular day, as we spoke about whether we could save her pants by stitching or patching them, I realized how comfortable she was about it all. She was coming up with her own creative ideas when, at her age, I would’ve been covering the hole and feeling embarrassed. I wanted to write about this immediately.

AH: That is amazing that you can pinpoint the moment the idea struck! I bet your daughter loves knowing she was the inspiration behind this book.

AH: Did PAULA’S PATCHES undergo any major changes/revisions from the original version? If so, what led you to make these changes?

GA: I don’t recall major changes in the story, which is not to say that I did not revise and edit a million times. Three particular edits come to mind: 1. Paula was first a boy named Franklin. But as I revised and edited on my own, I quickly realized the character was a girl who was simmering with joy and creativity but a bit guarded in presenting herself to others. 2. I named Paula’s friends and classmates per my critique partners’ comments that I needed concrete characters behind some of the dialogue. 3. More than anything, I struggled with the ending of the story. It took me a while to come up with my own creative solution for Paula’s Patches last lines.

When the story was acquired, the last lines read: “I smiled. We all needed patches—to mend, to decorate, to make things uniquely ours.” It lacked voice and emotion. As my editor said, “Paula must be as pleased as punch by now!” and we needed to reflect that. This made me realize that the ending is not meant to be a conclusion. Paula still had to connect emotionally with readers. With this in mind, I revised so that Paula’s patch wouldn’t be revealed until the end of the book, making it a fun surprise that Paula shares with readers on the last page: “Now we all had patches—for mending, and decorating, and making things our very own. Everyone was smiling… [page turn] …and guess who had the biggest grin of all! [illustration note: Paula’s patch is revealed to be a smiley face].”

AH: Thank you for sharing. Hearing about how a manuscript grows and changes on its path to publication is one of my favorite things. It always amazes me how many hands, hearts, and thoughts go into bringing a book to life.

AH: Are there any books/authors that you feel influenced your work on PAULA’S PATCHES?

GA: As I was writing Paula and playing with her voice and character, I kept in mind two other story book characters I admire: Sophie from Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller and Anne Wilsdorf and Nancy from the Fancy Nancy series by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser. I believe Paula is very much herself, but I hope that she leaves readers as inspired with joy as I feel when I read about Sophie or Nancy.

AH: She absolutely does!

As writers there are so many amazing resources available from books to webinars to organizations. What kidlit resources have been the most beneficial to you?

GA: It was through the Twitter pitch contest #PBPitch that Paula’s Patches was acquired. Back in June 2021, I got the like from then-acquiring editor Meg Bratsch to submit to Free Spirit Publishing.

Aside from contests, conferences, and pitch parties that allow you to connect with agents and editors, I would wholeheartedly recommend being part of a critique group of writers you trust. Other favorite resources include Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 picture book challenge and Ann Whitford Paul’s amazing book on craft Writing Picture Books.

AH: Yay for pitch party success stories! I wholeheartedly recommend these and contests. While chances of winning are small, the sense of community and the connections created through participating in them can be invaluable. I met some of my most trusted critique partners from the very first contest I ever entered and we are still supporting one another.

Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?

GA: Yes! My second picture book, Squawk of Spanish, is coming out next year in English and Spanish illustrated by Romina Galotta and published by Charlesbridge Publishing. I also have a couple more picture books in the works for publication in 2025 and 2026.

AH: You are on fire! I can't wait for all of your forthcoming books!

Where can people connect more with you?

GA: You can sign up for my newsletter. Or contact me on social media @write_between. I love meeting new readers and writers!

AH: Readers, please give Gabriella a follow to stay updated on her writing journey. And while you are at it, please consider supporting Gabriella, Rocío, and PAULA'S PATCHES (Free Spirit Publishing, 2023) in whatever way you can.

This could include:

- ordering from your favorite indie

- marking as want to read on Goodreads

-leaving a review

- making a library request

Gabriella, thank you for taking the time to visit with us today and for sharing the story behind PAULA'S PATCHES.



Gabriella is generously offering one winner a signed copy of PAULA'S PATCHES and stickers.

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!



Gabriella Aldeman is a Panamanian American author. She writes picture books in hopes that more children become readers and that all readers feel seen. She is also a professional translator of academic resources and children’s books. Gabriella holds degrees from Georgetown University and the College of William and Mary. Her books include Paula’s Patches (Free Spirit, 2023) and Squawk of Spanish (Charlesbridge, 2024). She lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband and two children.

Please visit her at or @write_between on Twitter or Instagram.



Andrew Hacket is a teacher by day, parent by night, and writer in the nooks and crannies of life. When it comes to his books, Andrew aims to create stories that tickle the funny bone and hug the heart of readers both young and old.

Andrew is the author of the early reader, CURLILOCKS AND THE THREE HARES (The Little Press, 2024) and the picture book, OLLIE, THE ACORN, AND THE MIGHTY IDEA (Page Street Kids, 2024). Additionally, his short story, THE TUNNEL, has been chosen for inclusion in the SCBWI anthology, The Haunted States of America.

Andrew lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three young children, and puppy, Gus.

Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.

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Jul 21, 2023

Congratulations! Thanks for sharing how your book came about - I love how the last line changed. And how relatable - my daughter always got holes in her leggings. And Andrew, thanks for interviewing Gabriella!


Steena Hernandez
Steena Hernandez
Jul 20, 2023

Lovely interview! My family and I are enjoying Paula’s Patches so much! Thanks for sharing your journey with this beautiful book!


Suhasini Gupta
Suhasini Gupta
Jul 20, 2023

Congratulations on Paula's Patch and thank you, Andrew and Gabriella, for this interview and for sharing your writing journey!! Can't wait to read it. Shared on Twitter and Instagram.


Jessica Milo
Jessica Milo
Jul 20, 2023

Congrats Gabriella and Rocio on your book! I can't wait to read it, it sounds so sweet.!


Amy Benoit
Amy Benoit
Jul 20, 2023

Every classroom needs this in their library! Congratulations, Gabriella.

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