Q&A with Alice McGinty, Author of Globe-Trotting Picture Book ‘Pancakes to Parathas’

Pancakes to Parathas author Alice McGinty knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This drool-inducing picture book, illustrated by Tomoko Suzuki, features morning meals from all over the globe, including Japan, Nigeria, and Brazil. It’s a smart, engaging way to help kids gain an introduction to world cultures, all while stimulating their appetite for learning! We asked Alice a few questions about the inspiration behind this book and her writing process along the way. Here are her answers:

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

It was very early in my life, when I was a child. I always loved books, but after reading Charlotte’s Web, I felt such a strong magic in that story, I knew I wanted to create that kind of magic too.

2. How did you come up with the idea for Pancakes to Parathas?

The idea began when my agent sent me a photographic article from the New Yorker showing pictures of children from around the world eating breakfast. “Could this be a picture book?” he asked.

I thought about it and decided that it could make a great picture book. But breakfast is complicated. Foods in one country can be very unfamiliar to people from other countries. As I looked at the photos and read the descriptions of the foods, I wondered how I could make breakfasts around the world accessible and understandable to young readers.

After a few weeks of thinking, I had an idea. I decided to focus on the things that we had in common. I chose one familiar element from each of the breakfasts, such as “breakfast in Australia is salty” and “breakfast in Israel is a homegrown feast” and I worked the text around that. That’s how the book began!

3. Which part of Pancakes to Parathas was your favorite to write? Why?

I loved writing this book!

My favorite part of the process was communicating with the people from each country in order to get the breakfast time details needed to make the book truly authentic. I loved the process of finding and communicating with people from each place, asking them about their memories of breakfasts as a child. This involved reaching out to friends who grew up in, or still lived in, each country. It also gave me the chance to meet new friends. I had a lovely time at an Indian restaurant in my hometown, talking with the owner about his memories of breakfasts in India. Then, as an extra special surprise, he brought me back to the kitchen and had the chef give a demonstration of how to make parathas – with delicious samples to taste.

I think everyone enjoyed sharing their experiences, and the unique details they gave me helped each country in the book come to life!

4. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to be active when I’m not writing (sometimes I’m active when I’m writing too – I can get kind of fidgety and walk around while I’m thinking of what comes next), and I enjoy many types of dancing, running, long walks, swimming, and hiking. I like to play the guitar and sing, too. And I love to travel and explore new places around the world, meet new people, and try new foods – especially breakfasts!

5. What was your favorite book to read as child?

Besides Charlotte’s Web, I loved From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Such adventure! I loved the feeling of independence in running away and hiding in a museum, and then solving a mystery to boot. I wanted to be as spunky and smart as Claudia was in the story, and to this day, I still strive for that!

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