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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Hacket

The Backstory: THE AMAZING POWER OF GIRLS

I am delighted to welcome my friend, critique partner, and fellow Kidlit Clubhouse pal, Maria Marianayagam to the blog today. Maria is here to chat about her latest book, THE AMAZING POWER OF GIRLS with illustrations by Skylar White. Keep reading to learn about this powerful and inspiring book and for your chance to win a signed book or an AMA with Maria.


AH: Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind THE AMAZING POWER OF GIRLS.


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


MM: Thank you for having me on the blog, Andrew! The Amazing Power of Girls is a STEM-based girl empowerment picture book that personifies girls as the forces of physics–gravity, buoyancy, magnetism, and more. Each line is a double entendre, simultaneously conveying what the force does and also the traits of a girl.


AH: I couldn't love this more! It is so clever how you found a way to intertwine science concepts with uplifting and inspirational characteristics to empower young girls.

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


MM: I’ve always loved math and science. I grew up in a household where a love of STEM was encouraged, so I was really surprised when I started my engineering degree to see how few women were there with me. This disparity followed me throughout my career. So when I started writing, it was one of the first ideas that came to me. I thought it would be cool to write a book that introduced kids to the forces of physics but also empowered them to try STEM. I’ve always loved the phrase “I am a force” or “I am a force to be reckoned,” and I thought, what if you were actually a force? What would that look like? I loved the play on words and continued it throughout the book. 


AH: It's so wonderful how you saw this need based on your professional life and found a way to inspire young girls to see their potential. I can just imagine you years from now getting fan mail explaining how this book was the inspiration some child needed to pursue a STEM career.



AH: How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now THE AMAZING POWER OF GIRLS? 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?


MM: I’d say it was more something undeniable I had to write. I felt like I took the page right away. And it sort of flowed out of me but had to get revised several times before getting to its final place.


AH: With your personal connection to the book this doesn't surprise me at all.


AH: THE AMAZING POWER OF GIRLS undergo any major changes/revisions from the original version? If so, what led you to make these changes?


MM: It did go through lots of revisions before submission. I had other forces included that I removed. I’d also originally written it in five-line stanzas, but a critiquer told me that if a publisher ever decided to split the stanza over two pages, an odd number of lines would be hard to divide. I added another to make it six for that reason. It ended up that each force got its own spread, but I still thought it was good advice! I also added a lot of art notes (GASP!). Shocking, I know. But, I had received feedback saying that the manuscript was hard to visualize given the double meaning of each line, so I added a whole lot of “suggested” art notes to convey what could be illustrated. I think it made a big difference in getting this manuscript acquired.


AH: This sounds like the perfect instance to use art notes. I am curious how many of those suggestions from the art notes found their way onto the illustrated page.


AH: Are there any books/authors that you feel influenced your work on The Amazing Power of Girls?


MM: I feel like IN MY HEART by Jo Witek had an influence on this book; I liked how it showcased a different feeling on each spread, and I felt like that structure could work well for the forces. I also liked how I AM EVERY GOOD THING by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James included these empowering “I am” statements; in revision, I used more “I am” statements throughout the book to make it feel more personal and that book was one of my inspirations in the process.


AH: Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?


MM: My identity is usually where I start. My faith, my engineering background, and my South Asian culture are things I reflect on when I’m writing something new. I like to write books that showcase the intersections of identity. I think most of my stories fall into two categories: the stories I wish I’d had as a child and the stories I wish my children had now. Starting from that place always makes my books feel more personal and important to me.


AH: As someone who is lucky to call themselves your critique partner, I absolutely see these influences in your work and you create such beautiful pieces based on them.


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


MM: I have two more books coming out in my board book series, The Baby Virtues (WorthyKids/Hachette). They are Baby Love and Baby Faith, releasing December 2024 and February 2025, respectively. The Baby Virtues personifies toddlers as different virtues and using action-oriented language and familiar settings, they showcase how these values can be lived out in everyday toddler life. 


My debut middle-grade novel is coming out in January 2025 with HarperCanada/HARPER called No Purchase Necessary. It’s about a boy who wins a prize in a stolen candy bar and whose life spirals out of control as he navigates his identity and morality in deciding whether to claim the one prize that could change his family’s life forever. I have two other picture books coming out later next year as well: Wait Till You’re Older (Sourcebooks eXplore) and Curry Means More (Astra Books for Young Readers). 


AH: You are on fire!!! I am thrilled to hear about all of your success and I can't wait to read these new books.


Where can people connect more with you?


MM: You can learn more about me and my books at marianayagam.com and connect with me on X, Facebook, or Instagram.


AH: Readers be sure to connect with Maria on her socials and website to

hear all about her latest publishing news. While you are at it, please consider

supporting Maria and THE AMAZING POWER OF GIRLS in any 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


Maria, thank you so much for sharing all about THE AMAZING POWER OF GIRLS. I loved

learning the inside scoop on how this book came to be!

 

GIVEAWAY!


Maria is generously offering one winner their choice of a copy of one of her books or a 20-minute AMA.


Ways to enter:

1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!

or

2. Leave a comment on this post.

or

3. Post about this interview on social media and tell me in the comments that you did.


Each method earns an extra entry!

 

About Maria Marianayagam


Maria Marianayagam is a Tamil Sri Lankan-Canadian children’s book author. She was born in India and grew up in Nigeria and four provinces across Canada.  Maria graduated from the University of Calgary with a B. Sc. in Chemical Engineering and spent a decade working in the energy industry. She fell in love with children’s books (again!) after becoming an Amma (mom). Maria enjoys writing lyrical picture books centered on STEM, faith, and South Asian culture, as well as high-concept middle grade grounded in culture.


When Maria is not writing, she can be found traveling the world, devouring books, and spending time with her wonderful family. She resides in Alberta, Canada, with her husband and two daughters.


 

About Andrew Hacket


Andrew Hacket  is a writer, second-grade teacher, and father of three. He is also the author of the upcoming Ollie, the Acorn, and the Mighty Idea,  Curlilocks and the Three Hares, and Hope and the Sea. Andrew recognizes that being a kid is hard and he writes to create ways for kids to see themselves in stories and characters, to accept and overcome their insecurities, or to escape for just a little while through the power of their imaginations. 

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8 Comments


Lori Tecler
Lori Tecler
3 days ago

I really enjoyed the book! Empowering messages, STEM content, and fantastic and inclusive illustrations. Looking forward to sharing it with readers at my school

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vsubhat
4 days ago

What a great concept for a book!

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Sarah Skolfield
Sarah Skolfield
Jun 18

Such a great concept! I'm looking forward to reading.

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KatieLeeReinert
Jun 18

Thanks for sharing your inspiration and a bit about your story!

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Jessica Yoon
Jessica Yoon
Jun 18

Congrats Maria! I've been excited about this book ever since it was announced (back when it was named I AM A FORCE). So excited that it's out now!

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