Washington Post Interview

A Q and A with Innosanto Nagara, author of social change books for kids

By Frankie de la Cretaz

November 15, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. EST

Innosanto Nagara is a graphic designer and children’s book author and illustrator who lives in Oakland, Calif. His first two books, “ ‘A’ is for Activist” and Counting on Community were geared toward the 3-and-under crowd. His newest book, “My Night in the Planetarium,” targets an elementary school-age audience with a true story from Nagara’s childhood in Indonesia. [Answers edited for length and clarity.]

Your books are unique in the world of children’s literature. Can you tell me a bit about your work and what motivated you to start writing children’s books? I live in a co-housing community with eight kids and nine adults. The first kid was born 16 years ago and so I’ve been reading books to children for the last 16 years at least. Six years ago, my own son was born and I was still reading the same books to him, and some of them were very boring and meaningless, but he really enjoyed them. I thought maybe I should do something that actually reflected my values and was fun to read for me. Initially, I was just going to do an A-Z book and ended up doing ‘A’ is for Activist. I was on a retreat with my co-workers and we sat down and wrote it from there. Because I’m a graphic designer, the illustration was what I knew how to do; it was the writing part that I had to learn.

Your books take big ideas and attempt to make them accessible for children. It’s a lofty goal and seems to give children a lot more credit than other books might. Children are usually way far ahead of where most adults think they need to be and should be. My philosophy is that it’s important to actually have these conversations early on. There is an adult layer and a child’s layer to both books. The goal is to have a book you are going to read over and over again be enjoyable for you, that has poetry and politics that adults who are reading to them can appreciate and enjoy, but also there is a kid layer. . . .

. . . Read the full interview HERE.