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Book Nook

Cleo Wade on Her New Children's Book

The poet, community builder, mother and best-selling author of "Heart Talk" and "Where to Begin" has been called the poet of her generation by Time Magazine and one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company. Here, she dishes on her new children's book, "What the Road Said."
Interview By
Liz McDaniel
Book cover of What The Road SaidBook cover of What The Road Said

You started this book with your younger self in mind and became pregnant with your daughter half way through. How did that change the process of writing for you?

When I first started writing this I thought about all of the things I needed to hear as a child that no one told me. When I got pregnant, the writing evolved more into the things I wanted my daughter to know as she entered the world and things I wanted to remember to say to her as a parent.

The book is for children, of course, but it is also encouraging for adults. Did you have that as a goal as you were writing? How important was it to create something that parents and their children could enjoy together?

I read over 250 childrens books researching this book. So much of the process brought me back to my earliest days of learning to read and being a young reader and I realized that all of my early memories involved a grownup reading the books to me- whether it was my mother, a teacher, a family member or librarian. When I had that a-ha moment I knew I wanted this to be a book that spoke to both children and adults because I knew that more often than not they would be reading together. As I finished the book, I was so proud because I realized that it could be a great conversation starter for so many of the hard talks we end up having with our kids.

Spread from What the Road SaidSpread from What the Road Said

One of my favorite pages in the book says "All things grow and change. That is the magic of being alive....No living thing is meant to stay the same." How did writing this book change you?

Honestly, I am not sure yet. This book continues to be an experience that has really busted me open emotionally. I have spent a lot of time feeling my way through a lot of my childhood and motherhood because of this book so I am actually looking forward to taking some time off after it's release to really process this experience. Writing this book was really so personal and at times a little sad because I really had to reckon with some of my lonelier moments in life. It has been a labor of love and a therapy session all tied into one.

I love how the book encourages children to be the leader in their own lives...what do you hope children take away from that?

I hope they see all of the qualities that create a real leader: curiosity, kindness, vulnerability, compassion, empathy, and an ability to love in the face of hate.

Certainly the past year has meant a change in direction for children and adults the world over. What would you say to anyone who is struggling to trust the road in difficult times?

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. :)

"What the Road Said" is available everywhere you buy books and if you want to support an indie BIPOC owned bookstore, here are ten that ship nationwide!

  1. Baldwin in New Orleans, LA 
  2. Brain Lair in Indianapolis, IN 
  3. Brave and Kind Bookshop in Decatur, GA 
  4. Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, NY 
  5. Eso Won Books in Los Angeles, CA 
  6. The Lit. Bar in Bronx, NY 
  7. Loyalty Books in Washington, DC 
  8. Mahogany Books in Washington, DC 
  9. Semicolon Bookstore in Chicago, IL 
  10. We are Lit in Grand Rapids, MI 

And don't miss Cleo chatting all things motherhood with Maisonette founders, Sylvana and Luisana, and Goop's Megan O'Neill!