Interview with Kena Sosa, author of KINDERTRANSPORT

What projects are you currently working on?

I am an extreme busybody, so I am always in the middle of a cornucopia of projects. Currently, I am promoting my latest release, Kindertransport-A Child’s Journey. This is my first middle grade chapter book, heavily influenced by interviews with actual Kindertransports, Jewish children who escaped to England just before the onset of WWII,  whom I was able to interview for oral histories at the University of Connecticut. Their generosity in sharing their experiences on the Kindertransport, coupled with the opportunity for trip with the Billie Levy Research and Travel grant, made this possible.  All of the interviewees shared a message of hope through the darkest times made this book a necessary and powerful story I couldn’t wait to write.

I am also awaiting the release of my third book, a new picture book called The Unhuggables, in early October. The Unhuggables is a fantastic action-packed tale about a boy named Oliver who doesn’t want to be hugged, and his mother who loves him through this wild, yet loving adventure. I look forward to sharing it with you soon!

I am also playing drums in a few local groups, specifically taiko for Dallas Kiyari Daiko, Goisagi Daiko and a fun, rockin’ cover band called Exactamundo.

And of course, I am adventuring with my awesome sons, Ale and Lucca, who inspire, entertain me and make me smile more than I can handle. My heart and my schedule are jam-packed. 🙂

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part of writing Kindertransport – A Child’s Journey was hearing the heart-wrenching true experiences of the Kindertransports themselves. One broke down in tears as she told her story. I wanted to ensure they only told what they wanted to, knowing so many of the pieces of this would be unhappy for them. However, through it all, they persisted because overall, their experiences were ones of hope and they were grateful for the chance at life. They were fortunate, all three, in that they were reunited with their families after the war. I feared pushing them too much, making them relive sadness they didn’t want to remember, yet, surprisingly, they wanted to talk about it, even the saddest part. They wanted their stories told, and for that, I am forever grateful to all three: Rita Kaplan, Ivan Baeker, and especially Eva Greenwood, who attended my presentation in person at the end of the project. I had to honor them by telling their stories well and in the voice and eyes of a child. I think there are children who, although their experiences are very different, can identify with leaving home, or saying goodbye to a parent or loved one, or just living the unknown. This book brings a message of hope, that no matter how far away we are or who we are, we have the power to help others and in opening our hearts and doing so, we can impact lives. Each one of us wields this power, the question is whether or not we choose to reach out and use it.

What’s in a name?

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Would I refuse thy name? The answer is yes and no. Names are so reflective and meaningful when you think about it. That was

Shakespeare’s Juliet’s dilemma because if she had any other name, she could have her Romeo. Names can indicate culture, gender, even class or status. I like names that reflect the personality more than anything else. A name that fits that particular person.

Names are always a challenge. I don’t like names that are too common for characters, because I want to picture a character when I hear a name. I chose the name Helen for the girl in Kindertransport – A Child’s Journey. It was my grandmother’s name. I think it sounds stoic, feminine and strong. When I hear a name I like, I jot it down in my notebook so that I can use it when I find the right character to fit it. I save the name I like for when that particular character is born.

Despite the frustration growing up with a weird name, having so many people spell it wrong or pronounce it wrong, I’m glad my own name is unique and unassuming. It suits me. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

What book do you wish you had written?

Just like names, I think some books were meant to be written by certain authors. I do secretly wish I had written Alice in  Wonderland because that story is just so timeless and wonderful. Yet, the story just wouldn’t be the same in anyone else’s voice. The books I wish I had written are yet to come. I do wish, however, I had the skills of some of

my illustrators though. Kudos to the artistic talents of those who’ve worked on my books, Jessica McClure on Rey Antonio and Rey Feo; Jeanne Conway on Kindertransport-A Child’s Journey, and coming soon, Alexis Braud on The Unhuggables.

I do dream of one day joining the ranks of author/illustrators and doing both jobs for a future book. Someday maybe I will!

What superpower do you wish you had?

When I lived in Japan there was a cartoon character I adored called Doraemon, a weird little blue, catlike guy who had a “dokodemo doa,” basically a door he could enter that would take him anywhere, kind of reminiscent of all the doors in the movie Monster’s Inc. I wish I had a “dokodemo doa,” then my fear of flying wouldn’t stop me from being anywhere I wanted to be. I could just turn the doorknob and go there-free, fast, and take anyone I wanted to with me! Til then, I am waiting for someone to build a transatlantic bullet train. Just putting it out there….

What jobs have you had?

Well, I still work as a school librarian, in addition to being an author. I have also been a teacher both here and abroad. I was a cashier at HEB grocery story in college in San Antonio. My first job was as a Sandwich Artist at Subway, so much fun and so many memories sandwiched into my early years. The worst job ever, I hope no one holds this against me but I was young and it paid the bills. I was a telemarketer for a while- I sincerely apologize to the world for that. Please, forgive me and read my books anyway! I promise, it built character in me and the unfortunate souls the computer called at random! I write much better scripts now!

Have you ever allowed a game of Monopoly to ruin a friendship?

Well, I have not allowed the capitalism of Monopoly to ruin anything, but my mom and I are known to play Scrabble to the death. We can play for hours and are fiercely competitive, but it’s part of the fun! My friend Sara and I also used to play air hockey until our fingers got bloody. I still challenge anyone on that, at the risk of injury to both their hands and their pride ;).

Chocolate or vanilla?

Oh chocolate any day, but only dark chocolate. The rest might as well be vanilla, which I tease my son who loves it, as the flavor which is the absence of flavor.

Tea or coffee?

Well, considering I have more coffee flowing through my veins than blood, I have to say coffee. I might actually need coffee rehab. I am allowed one vice. Yet, if you offer me bitter Japanese green tea, I will toss some coffee away. It tastes like memories of a place I miss. And if you offer me some authentic chai, I will take that too. Everyone needs some

spice now and then. If you want the perfect mixture of anything though, Turkish coffee reigns supreme. Wow, now I’m thirsty.

Roller coaster or Ferris wheel?

Hands down, put me on the Ferris wheel. I enjoy observing people and things around me. Not only will I not get bruises from the Ferris wheel but I can enjoy the scenery and the breeze and the slow happiness of it. It’s like running versus walking. I won’t run unless you chase me, but I will walk endlessly and relish what it brings to all the senses any day.

—   —   —

Thank you, Tabatha, for your thoughtful and delightful questions! I can’t wait to hear what you think about Kindertransport-A Child’s Journey and greatly look forward to sharing The Unhuggables with you soon. Readers can contact me directly through email or Facebook if they’d like a great deal on a personally signed copy mailed straight to them 🙂

 

abouttheauthor

37

A school librarian by day, and writer by night, Kena Sosa adores words. She also loves playing the drums. She earned her Bachelors degree from Our Lady of the Lake University and her Masters in Bilingual Education from SMU. She lived abroad in Japan and Mexico, experiences which instilled within her a love for culture and language, as reflected in her stories.
Her first children’s book, Rey Antonio and Rey Feo, was born of the celebration of her colorful childhood in San Antonio. Her second book, Kindertransport – A Child’s Journey is a middle grade chapter book about the hopeful escape of children on the Kindertransport train just before the outbreak of WWII. This book, The Unhuggables, is a fun story about love and the power of hugs. Sharing stories with her two sons and other eager readers has been her favorite adventure yet!

 

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Aboutthebook

KINDERTRANSPORT – A CHILD’S JOURNEY

written by Kena Sosa; art by Jeanne Conway

Audience/Genre: Middle Grade Chapter Book/Historical Fiction – Holocaust/WWII

Kindertransport - A Child's Journey - 9781940310596-Perfect.indd

 

Just before the outbreak of World War II, the Nazis pushed Jewish families to do something they never imagined they would. They sent their children away on a train to faraway places to live with strangers so that they would be safe until the danger passed. As she gets onboard the Kindertransport, a train to hope, ten-year-old Helen will never be the same.

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