word craft


Avi’s 2024 Summer Blog Series

Jolene Gutiérrez

From Avi: As I did in the sum­mer of 2023 and the sum­mer of 2022, I’ve invit­ed 13 admired mid­dle grade authors to write for my blog for the next three months. I hope you’ll tune in each Tues­day to see who has answered these two ques­tions we’re fre­quent­ly asked by read­ers. You should have a list of ter­rif­ic books to read and share by the end of the sum­mer … along with new authors to follow!

Where did you get your idea for a specific book of yours?

Too Much! an Overwhelming Day

I’d love to tell you about my pic­ture book, Too Much! An Over­whelm­ing Day. One day while I was think­ing about how I was over­whelmed by lots of things when I was a child, the words, “Too loud! Too bright! Too itchy! Too tight!” came into my mind. I’m still over­whelmed by loud nois­es, bright lights, and itchy, tight clothes, and I know lots of kids who are over­whelmed by dif­fer­ent things like that, too. Because the “Too loud! Too bright! Too itchy! Too tight!” stan­za was in an ABCB rhyme scheme, I knew I’d be writ­ing in rhyme.

Even though rhyme and rhythm are a chal­lenge for me, I knew I want­ed to tell this sto­ry. I thought that by writ­ing about a day that is stress­ful and over­whelm­ing, I would help some read­ers see them­selves in this book and I would help oth­ers under­stand what being over­whelmed feels like. I also want­ed the main char­ac­ter to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to advo­cate for her­self and find a way to calm her­self, which she does.

[Ed: Jolene shared that Too Much! An Over­whelm­ing Day isn’t even a year old and it’s already being trans­lat­ed into sev­en lan­guages. Congratulations!]

What’s your best writing advice for young writers?

If you want to become bet­ter at any­thing, you’ll need to:

  1. Research, or learn about the thing, and
  2. Prac­tice and grow your skills.
  3. Bonus points for perseverance!

This is true for things like rid­ing a bike, math skills, and cook­ing. It’s also true for writ­ing. Some peo­ple are tal­ent­ed in dif­fer­ent areas but most peo­ple who suc­ceed at some­thing do so because they’ve worked real­ly, real­ly hard. My inter­est in writ­ing start­ed when I was young and I was sup­port­ed by peo­ple like my mom who read with me and my 2nd grade teacher who “pub­lished” my sto­ries for me. As an adult, I kept read­ing books for young read­ers because I’m a school librar­i­an (that’s the “Research” part) and in 2008, I decid­ed I want­ed to write with the goal of pub­li­ca­tion. I wrote and wrote and wrote (that’s the “Prac­tice” part) and after 10 years of prac­tic­ing, my first pic­ture book was pub­lished (that’s the “Per­se­ver­ance” part).


Avail­able August 6, 2024,
co-authored with Sha­ian Gutiér­rez, Jolene’s daughter:

The Ofren­da That We Built

It is Día de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—and the fam­i­ly ofren­da is at the cen­ter of the cel­e­bra­tion! Inspired by the pop­u­lar nurs­ery rhyme “The House That Jack Built,” The Ofren­da That We Built invites read­ers to join in the build­ing of a col­or­ful ofren­da, a home altar full of sym­bols and mean­ing, one spe­cial ele­ment at a time.

This is tru­ly an inter­gen­er­a­tional hol­i­day with deep famil­ial love at its heart. Read­ers will rec­og­nize these mov­ing and uni­ver­sal themes in the hands-on activ­i­ty of build­ing an ofren­da togeth­er, an acces­si­ble way of learn­ing more about oth­er cul­tures and cel­e­bra­tions. Told in warm and wel­com­ing rhyme, with beau­ti­ful, immer­sive illus­tra­tions, this is a delight for read­ers of all back­grounds to enjoy when the hol­i­day arrives each autumn or any time of year that calls for remem­brance and con­nec­tion with loved ones.

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