Beth Kephart is no stranger to the writing process—she’s authored over 20 books for older children and young adults throughout her career. Recently, she added to her repertoire, authoring a picture book for younger children. The Devon resident wrote Trini’s Big Leap (Penny Candy Books, 44 pages) with Alexander de Wit, founder and CEO of The Little Gym, an international franchise of gymnastics programs. Adding a personal touch, Kephart’s husband, artist William Sulit, illustrated the book, which teaches children to remain tenacious and collaborative when faced with a difficult task. Here, the author shares insights into her inspiration and how Trini’s Big Leap came to be.
MLT: Tell us about the book.
BK: Trini is this little girl and she can do everything. It’s so easy for her within the context of this gym that she goes to. She’s the highest leaper, she’s got the great cartwheels, she does all of these things and she’s not arrogant about any of these things—it just comes naturally. When she discovers some of her friends quietly building in another room, she decides to try to do it herself. It turns out to be not so easy. It’s a story about what happens when she realizes that not everything is easy, what happens when she realizes that it helps to collaborate with others, to not give up, to not just look to an adult to solve it.
MLT: What was your inspiration?
BK: Alexander de Wit, who is the CEO of The Little Gym Europe, had been studying children’s brains and growth. He was interested in doing a book that celebrated persistence, courage and collaboration. I wanted to understand the stories that he would see in The Little Gym world.
Alexander de Wit researched early childhood development concepts that inspired the book.
MLT: Do you work with your husband on the illustrations?
BK: He works completely on his own. I go out to his studio, I look at everything, but Bill has a vision. I think it’s really important not to meddle because one of the things that works so well with the illustrations, in my mind, [is that] they’re absolute in their sensibility. There’s no smudge. He made choices and the characters are distinct because of that.
Local artist William Sulit illustrated Trini’s Big Leap.
MLT: You’ve written a lot of books for adults and young adults, but this is your first picture book. How’s that process been different?
BK: It is the first and now there are going to be other [children’s books]. [When] I was a young, I was a very bad poet and I was also a figure skater who did a lot of choreography of my own programs, so I’m always thinking about poetry and economy. [Trini’s Big Leap] still required the love and care and attention to words, finding the one that makes you want to turn the page, finding the one that makes you feel like you’ve been doing a somersault or a leap or that you’re stopped and confused yourself.
MLT: What was it like collaborating on this book?
BK: It’s really exciting to see Bill’s pictures in the picture book. Bill and I have collaborated on other kinds of stories. It’s really lovely to work with him. And, [Alexander] brings tremendous enthusiasm. He’s not doing this book for any other reason other than he actually has a vested interest in making life better for children and parents.
There will be a child-friendly launch party for Trini’s Big Leap at Main Point Books on Sept. 27 at 5 p.m.