Daria Peoples-Riley’s debut picture book is a celebration of individuality, self-expression, and dance. Fans of Misty Copeland’s Firebird and Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street will want to read it over and over again.
When a young dancer is nervous about her upcoming auditions, her shadow springs to life and leads her on a joyous exploration of their city. Soon enough, the young girl finds confidence in her skills, her body, and her ability to shine.
With an energetic, rhythmic text that begs to be read aloud and striking, exuberant artwork, This Is It is a love story to originality and the simple joy of movement.
If you missed the trailer for the book on my social media pages, check it out here: https://t.co/PJN3rbkTBe
Who is the author behind this beautiful story?
On the flap of your book, it says that your book was inspired by your first trip to New York City. Can you tell us more about that experience?
Yes, our family took our first trip to New York City, and my daughter requested to visit Julliard. As I took her picture, I realized two things. One, she was going to walk into an audition one day that would change her life forever, and I was her mother, so I probably should think of something pretty inspiring to say. And two, she dreamed of becoming a brown ballerina, and I knew that wasn’t going to be easy. I went home and wrote a poem to give to her on the day of her first
audition, and titled it THIS IS IT and tucked it away in a drawer.
Three months later, an agent passed on a manuscript I sent to her, and told me I should take an online picture book class through the Children’s Book Academy to develop my craft. I received a scholarship to take the class and enrolled. In the class, they asked me to illustrate a manuscript. I didn’t have a manuscript, but I remembered the poem, and thought I’d try to make it a picture book. Worst case scenario, I thought I’d create a great portfolio piece or two, but I received a lot of positive feedback and decided to send the dummy to a publisher and some agents after the class was over. An intern whose name was also Daria found my manuscript in a slush pile. She shared it with her editor who loved to dance. The editor and I revised it for awhile, but her publisher eventually passed on it. However, Marietta, one of the three agents I sent the manuscript to offered me representation. Marietta and I revised it together, and almost year after she signed me, THIS IS IT was acquired. The biggest lesson I learned was one moment, a YES or a NO, always gives birth to the next moment, and eventually, we arrive exactly where we are meant to be.
How has THIS IS IT inspired you as a creative?
Everyone has a moment in life where passion meets purpose, and we have to make a decision to walk through the door of our destiny. We actually have to decide to surrender our fear of failure, and accept it as apart of the journey. A year after I wrote THIS IS IT, Jonah was denied access to a pre-professional ballet school. She had an audition at the only other Russian classical ballet school in Las Vegas, and I recited the poem to her. She was accepted into the program and has been dancing ballet ever since. It’s become my personal manifesto for facing challenges.
What comes after THIS IS IT? Are there any future projects?
Yes, a companion book about a basketball player and his shadow. I am also illustrating GLORIA TAKES A STAND, a picture book about the life of Gloria Steinem. Both will be out in 2019.
Where are you from?
Paso Robles, California, a small town in Central California.
Did you always know you wanted be an author/illustrator?
Nope. Definitely not. It’s not something I figured out until a few years ago.
What inspired you to become an author/illustrator?
I majored in English, and I loved to paint and draw. Seven years ago, author Brian Falkner came to my school and taught a writing workshop in my classroom. He encouraged me to start writing and spending time being a creative. Looking back, God was planting a seed in my heart for becoming a storyteller. Years later, and very unintentionally, I became represented by the same agent as Brian Falkner. God always provides signs along our journey to help us find ourselves if we just pay attention, and the message usually comes through people who see something in us before we see it in ourselves.
What do you want your books to known for?
I love children, and I know being in their lives is apart of my calling. I want their dreams to come true as passionately as I want my own dreams to come true. I hope my books will give them the hope they need to navigate life’s obstacles and celebrate their victories.
List three of your favorite artists.
Oh, so many artists. I love Marla Frazee, Maira Kalman and Kadir Nelson are also in that top
What is your dream project?
I don’t think I have a dream project. I believe the right stories will come to me throughout my journey, and every project will become a dream project. Outside of making children’s books, like Maira and Kadir, I dream of doing a cover for The New Yorker.
What are some new projects your working on?
I’m working on the companion book for THIS IS IT, about a basketball player and his shadow, inspired by the relationship between my son and husband, a player and a coach. Basketball was my first love, so it’s a special book for me.
Does it have a title yet?
YES! To be announced soon.
What advice would you give to aspiring author/illustrators?
Be patient. Learn to wait well. There is a lot of waiting in this industry. A very good friend always reminds me, “What is for you is for you, and nothing or no one will ever prevent you from attaining it.” So remember that and don’t give up. Keep waiting. Keep working.
Where can people purchase the book?
This Is It is available now online (the publisher’s website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble) and in bookstores wherever books are sold. You can also check your local library to see if they have it in their circulation. If they don’t simply request your library to order a copy.
If you and your kids love dance, buy the book. If you don’t love dance, get the book anyway! Let’s support!
- Age Range: 4 – 8 years
- Grade Level: Preschool – 3
- Hardcover: 40 pages
- Publisher: Greenwillow Books (February 6, 2018)