I’m excited to introduce you to Dr Tamara Pizzoli of The English Schoolhouse, previously a language school in Rome that has evolved into a boutique publishing house.
How and why was The English Schoolhouse created?
I created The English Schoolhouse initially as an early childhood alternative to daycare or Kindergarten for my two young sons. After a series of unfortunate events, namely the unexpected passing of my sister, I closed it as a language school and repurposed it, so to speak, as a boutique publishing house. Now we have five titles in print with active plans for at least six more on the way this year.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process for writing your children’s book?
It really does vary. There’s a lot of movement of energy, I can say that. Each book is different and a variety of methods were required to birth each one. The Ghanaian Goldilocks was written while I was trying to open the school, so I wrote very early in the morning or late at night, and usually on the couch. F is for Fufu was written in one day at my ex-husband’s mother’s home in Umbria. My illustrator had an opening and gave me a really great price for it…it was Christmas Eve of 2013 and I said no, I’ve got to knock this out. So I wrote it in an upstairs bedroom of what used to be an old farmhouse. Auntie Nappy came over a cup of hot tea, very quickly in an afternoon. M is for Marrakech and M is for Mohawk were both written on my living room floor in Rome, but they wrote themselves in my mind as I walked around the city.
Now, what’s interesting is that a couple of days ago I wrote a story that I still haven’t named. It, as in the story, woke me up and would not let me sleep. It demanded to be written. I just listened to the urge and what emerged some six hours later is really something phenomenal. Truly. I can’t wait to share it.
My new book that Phil is illustrating right now and is about halfway finished with is B is for Breakdancing. I had the idea for the book a couple of months back but forgot about it, I suppose. That’s the great thing about good ideas, though. They don’t normally leave you alone.
It’s so important for children of color to see themselves represented in books.
Can you share your thoughts on how important it is for all children to see different cultures represented?
Reading from diverse literature is such a gift for children and adults alike. The cultural nuances and lessons presented with each story are true gifts. I think every single occurrence in life is a story, so it makes sense that we are introduced to and explore new concepts through stories. That’s actually one of my next ventures…a story-based curriculum for young children. One of the most satisfying feelings now having the schoolhouse as a publishing house is when kids and adults look at an illustration and say, “That looks like me!” or “Whoa! That reminds me of!” or “Oooooh, that’s something my mom would have said.” To see yourself in a story is to yourself in a reflection. That recognition extends beyond where words can arrive.
Likewise, to see others and their stories and narratives depicted allows the reader to connect their experiences to those of different backgrounds in a way they otherwise might not. Stories connect us and teach us to look for similarities and meanings as opposed to focusing solely on differences.
What is it like living abroad?
Welp. It depends on what day you ask me and what we’re talking about. It’s an adventure every day; I can say that. Today if you asked me after I was caught in a rainstorm AND happened to have my umbrella with me, I’d say there are no complaints. If you asked me yesterday when I was mistaken for a working girl in a tiny mountain village in Umbria because I’m young, Black, and a woman, I would have had a different answer. Most days though, Italy is glorious. Most days.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
Absolutely! Thank you for taking the time to interview me and thanks to your readers for taking the time to check out this post. I invite you all to check out all the great stuff The English Schoolhouse is doing at www.theenglishschoolhouse.com. We also have a blog: blog.theenglishschoolhouse.
And speaking of social media, if you’re interested in connecting here’s all the deets:
I first came across her books on Facebook and instantly fell in love with the illustrations.
The Ghanaian Goldilocks is the first one I ordered for Samuel, and we’ve listened to the audio book on YouTube.
It’s a modern take on a classic fairytale set in West Africa, where the star is a curious little boy named Kofi, aka Goldilocks.
I’m really excited to read Dr Pizzoli’s newest book, B Is For Breakdancing, and I think we’ll add M Is For Mohawk to our collection as well.
You can’t see my face, but I’m grinning at the thought of all these books on the shelves where my children can see themselves as the stars.
to order copies of the books: