Meet Susie Jaramillo, children’s book author and CEO of Encantos, an award-winning storyteaching platform. In this month’s author spotlight, preview Susie’s upcoming book Skeletina and the In-Between World, publishing simultaneously in English and in Spanish on September 6, 2022.
Where did the idea for Skeletina and her story come from?
Susie: As a child, I suffered from intense nightmares until one night, I figured out that if you manage to let go in your dream and not fight the nightmares, you find that they dissipate. Now, I’m a mom and my daughter also suffers from intense nightmares, and I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool, if there was a little girl who lived in the in-between world who could help kids like my daughter deal with their nightmares?” And I imagined this little girl to be like my alter-ego: funny, friendly, irreverent, and knowledgeable about all things in the in-between world!
A big theme in the book is confronting and coping with fears. You have these side characters which at first seem scary, but one by one, Skeletina comes up with a way to tackle those fears. Can you speak a bit to that element of the book?
Susie: Most of us don’t realize that we are having the same nightmares and that these all come from similar experiences. With the Skeletina books, I’ve distilled a nightmare into the work of a particular monster who can be easily diffused once you get the hang of what it responds to. The trick is to remember that NOTHING can hurt you in the in-between world. You are truly in control of everything, and once you crack that, amazing things can happen here.
We love all of the call outs to Latinx culture and folklore. Was there a lot of research that went into writing this book, or are a lot of these characters you heard in stories growing up?
Susie: These characters are a mish mash of the lore I grew up with; the people I grew up with; the environments I love about Latin America (tile floors, vintage clocks, phones, furniture, staircases) and the nightmares that plague us all.
Do you have a favorite spread in the book?
Susie: My favorite spread would have to be spider Grandma. Both of my grandmothers did so much with their hands. They were constantly making, crafting, cooking, crocheting. It’s a big part of the culture. In general, Latin culture is very crafty. We love to make things – and we like our little espresso cups, too!
What’s next for Skeletina?
Susie: Skeletina will continue to help kids one nightmare at a time! With our next book, we will take a deep dive into a dream that is super common and find out who’s behind it, and how we diffuse it. It’s one of the most common and strange dreams that we all have… and it’s all because of a greedy tooth fairy!!
How do you hope this book will be used in classrooms and libraries?
Susie: I hope this book will be used to acknowledge to kids that we understand that they have unsettling dreams and fears and that these things can be diffused with humor, self awareness, and a few great techniques that Skeletina shares.
Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.
Susie: As a 3rd grader, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I had no trouble reading, but I had a lot of trouble writing, and as a result I felt insufficient and inadequate. My special education teacher Mrs. Osborne went to great lengths to make me feel like I was special and bright and she helped me with techniques that helped me understand better how letters came together.
What advice would you give to young writers?
Susie: Trust your voice. Don’t fear the blank page. Do not try to be brilliant with every first sentence you put down. Write without worrying if it’s good or not. Just put all your thoughts down and then edit, reorganize, edit, reorganize and edit again! Think about the ending and your story structure. If you can figure our the major beats of a story first, the writing flows easier.
What was your favorite book when you were a young reader?
UUUuuuff. That’s like asking me what my favorite food is.
I was always a massive fan of Greek mythology and Grimms’ Fairy tales, anything by Hans Christian Anderson, Arabian Nights, Aesop’s Fables – and in general, fairy tales from around the world have always been my jam!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Susie Jaramillo serves as the President and Chief Creative Officer of Encantos, an award-winning entertainment-driven edtech company creating direct-to-learner family brands that both kids and parents love. Susie is also the creator of Canticos, the Emmy-nominated Latino-inspired bilingual nursery rhyme series which launched in 2016, and is also the author/illustrator of over 20 children’s books.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Skeletina and the In-Between World
Skeletina y el Entremundo
By Susie Jaramillo
On Sale 9/6/2022
Inspired by Mexican culture and perfect for fans of the hit movies Coco and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Skeletina and the In-Between World is the first book in a series that combines kooky characters and a spooky story with important and resonant themes about empathy, bravery, self-esteem, and the enduring power of love.
Meet Skeletina, a fun-loving, fearless little girl who lives in the in-between world with her friends, who include monsters, creatures, ghosts, and more. The upside-down, inside-out, in-between world is where the living go when they are fast asleep and where the dead hang out when they have unfinished business. Visitors to the in-between world are children who come to confront their fears or to see a loved one who has recently left the world of the living. Either way, Skeletina is there to guide them and help children conquer their anxieties.
PRAISE FOR SKELETINA AND THE IN-BETWEEN WORLD:
“Susie Jaramillo’s artwork is captivating, with details, bold colors, and intricate use of delicate grays and blacks that result in an ethereal look… Unique characters and rich illustrations.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Despite the ghosts and skeletons, this isn’t scary, as the story is presented in a positive way, bursting with color and an emphasis on the fact that the world in-between can be shaped and molded however the dreamer wishes. A playful story full of Latinx cultural touchstones.” — Booklist, on Skeletina y el entremundo
“I love how Skeletina and the In-Between World is inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead, but most importantly that I can read this book to my daughter and it will not only entertain and delight, but also inspire conversations about our fears and how to face them.” — Eugenio Derbez, Actor, Director and Producer, 3Pas Studios
“There’s something deeply comforting about being led by the hand through the weird, wild, and downright bizarre by a pigtailed skeleton girl. I can think of no better book upon whom to bestow the phrase ‘otherworldly charm’. Tim Burton-meets-Coco, and it’s all thanks to the in-between world’s most charming little skeleton.” — Betsy Bird
“Susie Jaramillo has created such a cinematic universe—uniquely rendered but universally appealing. It’s magical and delightful and with so much substance as well. Any kid will love to explore this world and any parent should feel great about the lessons it’s teaching them about facing their fears.” — Ben Odell, Film & TV Producer, 3pas Studios
“I absolutely love how Susie merges the In-Between World and the seemingly scary and unfamiliar to inspire children (and us adults too!) to find magic and comfort in the things we may not understand.” — Valery Ortiz, Actress, Disney’s Gabby Duran and the Unsittables
“Kids and parents will be mesmerized by the beautiful characters and brilliant colors that pop off the page. And the storyline will resonate with both children and caregivers who are exploring the world through different cultures and perspectives of childhood. A must read for all families and kids.” — Anna Maria Chavez, Former CEO, Girl Scouts of America