Interview with Baptiste Paul, author of The Field and Climb On!, co-author of Peace
Baptiste Paul is a Caribbean-born children’s book author. He is a native Creole/Patois speaker who enjoys sharing stories of his experiences with anyone who will listen. He is the author of The Field, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara, which was a 2018 Best Book by Kirkus, School Library Journal, Shelf Awareness, and Bank Street as well as recipient of the Sonia Lynn Sadler Award, Horn Book Fanfare, and a Junior Library Guild Selection. The duo’s next book, Climb On!, goes on sale March 8, 2022.
What was the inspiration behind Climb On!? Is it based on a true story?
The inspiration behind Climb On! was based on a family hiking trip climbing the Pitons in St. Lucia. It was a few years ago, and both of my children were really young at the time. Our goal that day was to hike the three-plus hours to the summit. Unfortunately, my daughter and I did not make it to the summit.
She was pre-asthmatic at the time. The higher we climbed, the harder it was for her to breathe. She was frustrated that she couldn’t complete the hike.
Two years later, we tried again. Even though she was still pre-asthmatic, she was determined more than ever to make it to the summit. That day, she pushed passed the pain of not being able to breathe and made it to the summit. She was overjoyed. The first words she said when she reached the top was, “Wow, this is beautiful.”
Where specifically does Climb On! take place? What is the significance of your chosen setting?
The story takes place in St. Lucia, my childhood home. I wanted the book to have that tropical feel, and Jaqueline Alcántara’s beautiful illustrations delivered just that. With reference to my chosen setting, the main significance is that I see the Pitons as a place not just of beauty and wonder but a place where my daughter accomplished something extremely difficult.
Every time I look through the pages of Climb on!, I feel like I’m being transported to St. Lucia.Baptiste Paul
What do you miss most about St. Lucia? Favorite foods, things to do, sights?
My answer to that question changes quite a bit. Sometimes, it’s the weather, other times it’s the food — the dahl and chicken roti and Mama’s cooking. However, at this moment in time, the most difficult thing is not being able to visit with my family.
What is a favorite childhood memory of St. Lucia?
There are so many joyful memories to talk about. As a child, I loved the outdoors. I felt free and happy. If I had to choose one, it would be playing outside in the rain and the mud and then swimming in the river afterwards.
What aspects of Jacqueline Alcántara’s illustrations do you feel best encapsulates your experience of St. Lucia?
This is a difficult question to answer. Jackie is an extremely talented and gifted illustrator. I might run out of space to list all the things that encapsulates my St. Lucian experience. However, I love the color palette she chose for this book to the characters’ movements throughout. Every time I look through the pages of Climb On!, I feel like I’m being transported to St. Lucia.
What do you wish more people knew about St. Lucia?
I wish more people knew that St. Lucia is more than just a tourist getaway. In my biased opinion, I believe that the best part of St. Lucia is experiencing village life. There, you will get to experience the richness of the culture and its people.
What do you think are the most meaningful ways that parents can spend time with their children?
I’m definitely not an expert in that field. As a parent, I believe in the value of spending quality time with your children. For me, that means giving them your undivided attention. Too often we are distracted by the world around us, when the people we are gifting the world to are right in front of us.