A book about a book named Book: Kirsten Hall '96 draws praise for her unique children's tale
“Why do books have jackets?”
It was an innocuous question posed by Stefan, the young son of Kirsten Hall ’96, as he sat down to read a book. Without a good response, Hall went with the boring, technical answer: to increase a book’s value at point of purchase and protect its condition.
But her son’s question sparked an idea: What if a book needed a jacket?
Hall, the author of more than 100 children’s books, pitched the idea to Enchanted Lion Books for “The Jacket,” now a critically-acclaimed trade picture book that has made Hall a household name.
“The praise has been mind-blowing,” Hall said. The book was listed on The New York Times Book Review’s list of Notable Children’s Books of 2014, awarded honorable mention by The Huffington Post for “Most Charming” Picture Book of 2014, and presented with the Leo Choice Award for best picture book of the year by the young students from The School at Columbia University. The Baltimore Sun also featured “The Jacket” and noted, “You’re never too old for picture books.”
“The Jacket” follows an endearing storyline. It’s a book about a book named Book, who is loved by a young girl, who also happens to love her dog, Egg Cream. One day, an “accident” — perpetuated by Egg Cream — leaves Book muddy and the young girl sad. But after a good night’s sleep, the girl has an idea: She will create a colorful jacket for Book that will make him look and feel good again.
On the final page, Hall includes instructions for children to make their own jacket for their book, a big part of what has made “The Jacket” a huge success. Hall has traveled to libraries, schools and bookstores — often with the book’s illustrator, Dasha Tolstikova — reading the book to children and helping them create their own jackets. She has received countless emails and photos from parents whose children have created their own version of Book and sleep with him every night.
Inspiring a love of books in children has been immensely gratifying to Hall, who herself fell in love with — and began writing — books at an early age. On one family vacation, her mother, a publisher of easy-readers, was unhappy with an author’s manuscript. Hall asked her mother if she could take a try at writing. When she liked what she saw, her mother submitted Hall’s manuscript to Scholastic (without attribution at first), where it was acquired and published.
From then on, Hall’s mother let her write manuscripts for her clients from time to time, earning her a small allowance. This practice continued well into Hall’s years at Connecticut College, when she would write stories in her residence hall.
“It was a natural ability,” Hall said of discovering her love of writing. “And I love children; interacting with them is so pure and fun. Sometimes, I feel like a child who hasn’t totally grown up.”
Hall majored in English at the College and also studied child development, working at the Connecticut College Children’s Program. She became an elementary school teacher after graduation, but continued writing educational and nonfiction books for children and teachers.
Today, in addition to her writing, Hall is the sole proprietor of Catbird Productions, a boutique children’s book illustration and literary agency in New York City. Hall calls her office a “creative playground,” where she assists authors and illustrators in the development of fresh ideas and content for many of the world’s top publishers.
And because of the success of “The Jacket” — the first print has already sold out — Hall is planning a sequel.
“Kids want to know what happens to Book,” she said. “That is my next challenge.”