THE BARN is a beautifully written lyrical picture book with lovely illustrations that takes us on a journey from morning through evening from the perspective of a big red barn. The barn stands for comfort- a steady and sturdy, ever-present structure from which the animals set out to explore the world each morning and return to at the end of the day. The book is a soothing sensory experience with wonderful descriptions of daily routines of the many animals that call the barn home. It is full of warmth and heart- a perfect bedtime book.
René Bartos: I am so excited to be able to chat with author Leah H. Rogers. Your debut picture book THE BARN illustrated by Barry Root, Candlewick Press, 2021, came out in November. Welcome to Writers’ Rumpus, Leah, and congratulations on your new book!
RB: THE BARN is your first book for children. Can you tell me a little about what inspired you to write for children and your journey into the kidlit world?
LHR: I was fortunate enough to have an amazing childhood, one that I honestly never wanted to grow up from. It was full of imagination and play. My experience is something that I wanted to find a way to continue to enjoy as an adult and also share with other children.
RB: Could you share with us what sparked the idea for the book? Having grown up in a farm family myself, I have an affinity for barns and jumped at the chance to interview you for this book. I am curious to know if you have farm roots.
LHR: I have a huge love of horses and have from a very young age. The barn is based on the barn that I grew up with. It was owned and run by an amazing woman who not only taught me how to ride and care for horses, but also taught me about living off the land on a working farm. She had a large garden, cows, chickens, and many other animals that I was able to take care of and learn about. Growing up with horses that were part of a larger barn only strengthened my love and appreciation for farm life.
RB: I love that you wrote this from the barn’s perspective. What brought you to this idea of writing from the barn’s point of view?
LHR: The point of view of THE BARN was originally from an exercise that my professor, Susan Goodman, at Lesley University suggested to me during my MFA program. I was feeling really stuck in my writing, and my work felt very superficial, forced, and what I expected everyone else wanted me to write. Susan asked me to tell a story from the perspective of an inanimate object, with the hope that the change of perspective would allow me to loosen up and stop overthinking. She said, “write about what you know” and so, I did.
RB: The illustrations in this book are lovely and complement your lyrical language and the heart of the story. Did you have a chance to work with the illustrator-Barry Root in the making of the book?
LHR: I was so incredibly lucky that Candlewick Press paired me with such a seasoned and talented illustrator, especially for my first book. However, what I think was so amazing is that from the start, Barry understood the book the way I had intended, even without us ever discussing it together. It was a fear of mine that the illustrator would be presented with the story, and then interpret it incorrectly. It is really a book about comfort, home, and the safety one feels when they are in a familiar place, despite what might appear to threaten it from the outside. The end result for me could not have been any better for what I had envisioned. The barn even very closely resembles my childhood barn. I had hoped, being an artist myself, that the words would give enough visualization to an illustrator to elevate the book to another level, and Barry’s illustrations took this book to a level I couldn’t have even imagined.
RB: Do you have any helpful writing tips or advice for others new to the kidlit writing business?
LHR: You hear people say this all the time and it almost becomes trivial, but it is something that rang so true for me that I feel it is necessary to share as well. I am someone who suffers from bouts of extremely low self-confidence, and I learned that if you cannot believe in yourself fully in the moment, surround yourself with people who will do the believing temporarily for you. Then, take their love and find a way to teach yourself how to believe in yourself as much as they do. This process taught me to take that extra chance and put myself out there in way I never thought that I could. It was overcoming these seemingly debilitating challenges that was critical to my being able to publish my first book.
RB: Do you have any other children’s books in the works or planned? We would love to see more!
LHR: I have many ideas I am working on, and hopefully you will see more in the future.
RB: Thank you Leah! We look forward to more of your work in the future.
Leah H Rogers is an artist and author of picture books that evoke emotion, and spark imagination. Leah has always loved animals, especially horses, which have been a part of her life since she was two years old. Leah resides in New York with her husband, son, poodle, and Appaloosa.
You can connect with Leah on her website: www.Leahhrogers.com and on Instagram @leahhrogers