Meet the Author: In Conversation with Caroline Derlatka

Proceeds from her new book, When You Open a Book, will benefit The White Feather Foundation.
Caroline Derlatka headshot

She creates products and programs for children with a charitable focus. In the following interview with TWFF, Caroline discusses what led to her creative life and why it means so much to her to work on projects with purpose.

When You Open a Book cover

TWFF: Your debut children’s book, When You Open a Book, arrives on Oct. 11. What was your inspiration behind the narrative?

CD: As a child, I had a lot of anxiety and OCD. My father was in and out of the hospital with heart issues since I was very little, which didn’t help. Also, I’ve always loved fairytales and make believe. One of my favorites was the Brothers Grimm Twelve Dancing Princesses – how they would secretly enter a land under one of their beds where they would wear out their shoes by dancing all night. I adored that. So, I would create these elaborate scenarios in my head like jumping into a swimming pool, heading to the bottom where the grate was, diving inside and being met by a world of mermaids or climbing up a giant tree into the clouds where I’d ride on the back of a unicorn. I learned early on that I could escape my everyday fears by creating and losing myself in my own imagined worlds. I found a lot of peace in those places, and I wanted to share my love of that with children – showing them that books can take them anywhere.

TWFF: On your website, you mention your practice of “Creating for a Cause,” where each project helps a charity. Tell us more about that.

CD: I’m currently working on a line of emotional aid dolls handmade in Peru called PocoKins. They contribute to helping my dear friend’s In a Perfect World Foundation which empowers kids to be leaders, and brings resources and builds schools in some of the poorest countries around the globe – like Malawi, Haiti, and Guatemala. I’m also working on a line of organic snacks for kids that feed hungry children.

TWFF: Your publisher, Bushel & Peck Books, also has a charitable mission with their “Book-for-Book” Promise. Can you tell us more about that program? 

CD: For several years I had been sitting on about 5 children’s picture book manuscripts I had written when COVID hit. It was such a challenging period for everyone, and like many people, I started to reflect on my life and decided my projects did no good sitting on my laptop. During quarantine, I began researching small children’s publishing houses that give back, and Bushel and Peck was the first publisher I found. Their book-for-book promise gives one book to a child in need for every book sold. They’ve donated over 70,000 books so far. They also plant a tree through the National Forest Foundation for every online order they receive. I really loved that, so I sent them the manuscript and was lucky enough that they liked the project, and signed it.

TWFF: How did you decide that The White Feather Foundation would be the beneficiary of your book proceeds?

I’ve always been a fan of Julian’s music, photography, and his philanthropic work, so I already knew about all the good White Feather does in the world and all the diverse causes it contributes to. When I had my son, I found Julian’s White Feather Flier children’s books and read them to him. My son really loved those books. Between being inspired by that book series to knowing White Feather touches on so many things that are important to me like taking care of our planet, providing clean water to those that need it to educating girls around the world, I decided it would be a natural fit to have my first book benefit The White Feather Foundation.

TWFF: UNESCO states that 773 million people worldwide are illiterate. What do you think can be done to help solve this issue and teach more people how to read?

CD: I believe education is the key to everything. Having accessibility to books and other resources for all children is paramount to solving illiteracy. And even though social media is a double edge sword, it has brought about this global connection which has given so many issues and voiceless groups — that would otherwise be unknown / unheard — a light. I think this is why there are more and more companies emerging with philanthropic missions at their core — companies that want to make a difference and have a positive impact — for purpose; not just profit, companies like Bushel and Peck who are getting books into the hands of those that need them and making education more accessible to children everywhere. I think that’s the beginning of the solution.

TWFF: Our planet is currently facing a lot of challenges, both environmentally and socially. What advice would you give children today—the audience who will be reading your book?

CD: I would tell children that they have the ability to make this world a better place. To find something that is meaningful to them; whether that’s making no-sew beds for homeless animals so they’re more comfortable in their shelter, to picking up trash on the beach, to donating a few boxes of food from their pantry to a local food bank, to having a lemonade stand and raising money to donate to a local charity, to giving away some toys or books they no longer need to a children’s home. As small as those things seem, one little act can have huge ripple effects; therefore, they have the power in their actions to change the world. They just need to start with one little thing.

TWFF: In today’s world, where do you find hope?

I find a lot of hope talking to kids. So many children have these amazing passions and are inspired to make a difference. For this reason, I’ve stopped asking children I talk to what they want to be when they grow up, and rather what they want to do to change the world. A lot of kids have this innate feeling that they want to make an impact and give back, but over time lose that drive and start feeling powerless. What can one person do after all? But if adults help keep that momentum going for kids when they’re young, encourage and inspire them to keep those big ideas and ambitions, I think we’d have more fulfilled people and a better world.

TWFF: Where can we order your book?

My book can be preordered on Amazon.com or bushelandpeckbooks.com.

TWFF: Where can our supporters follow your work online?

CD: My projects are posted on my personal website carolinederlatka.com and on Instagram @amusedcaroline.

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