Welcome to #TheQuickSixInterview with Maura Pierlot!

Our ultimate aim is to raise our younger generation to act with kindness, compassion and inclusivity. It has never been more important for us to value life, to act as moral and ethical citizens, and to care deeply about the future of humanity and the world we live in. The timing of this new release couldn’t be better, and the topic couldn’t be better. We are privileged to welcome Alphabetter, written by award-winning author, playwright and ethicist, Maura Pierlot. This jewel of A to Z books playfully and gently characterises each letter with a strength or virtue, encouraging readers to practise these actions and make good choices. With each bright, bold and colourful page turn, Jorge Garcia Redondo‘s animated illustrations exude the exhilarating and joyful values in brilliantly diverse and interactive ways. This book will leave you with a true appreciation for Yourself and a Zest for life.

Thank you, Maura, for this genuinely valuable book! 🙂

About the Author

Maura Pierlot is an award-winning author and playwright based in Canberra. When she’s not busy writing, Maura visits schools and libraries as a guest reader and speaker, serves as a Role Model for Books in Homes Australia, and contributes reviews for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s online magazine, Reading Time.

In an earlier life, Maura was an ethicist and business owner, and editor at Australian Medicine. She has a PhD. in philosophy, specialising in ethics

Visit Maura Pierlot at her website: maura pierlot – Author and Playwright and on Facebook and Instagram.

About the Illustrator

Jorge Garcia Redondo is a designer and illustrator who began drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil, and hasn’t stopped since! Inspired by a weird mix of elements, such as 90s cartoons, comics, mid-century design and street photography, he works both traditionally and digitally for both publishing and a wide range of commercial projects. His work is character-based, colourful, whimsical, and always tells a story. When he is not drawing or designing, he can be found lost in a bookshop buying more books to read, sketching people in coffee shops, or trying to befriend each cat he finds! Jorge lives in Spain.

Jorge Garcia Redondo can be found at his website: JORGE GARCIA REDONDO (jorgegarciaerre.co.uk) | Twitter Instagram

Alphabetter can be purchased via the Affirm Press website.

WHO wrote, illustrated and published this book?

Author: Maura Pierlot

Illustrator: Jorge Garcia Redondo

Publisher: Affirm Press

WHAT is it about?

Alphabetter presents an A to Z list of positive character traits designed to help young readers to understand values, and what they mean in practice, as the foundation for making good choices. Each page includes a definition of the value, two synonyms and a relatable scenario that demonstrates the value. Open questions encourage young readers to reflect on what the values mean to them and how they can be incorporated in their day-to-day lives. The book is a valuable and practical resource for parents, caregivers and educators wanting to engage in important conversations with children about making good choices.

What is your favourite part of this book?

I have many favourites. I’m a huge fan of Jorge’s artistic style and sensibility, and his choice of bold and vibrant colours. I like the simplicity and uniformity of the book’s format, which makes it easy for young readers to identify, comprehend and anticipate the meaning of the values. I love the portrayal of inclusive characters in relatable scenarios and the open questions posed on each page. Together, these features encourage children to open their minds to possibilities and discover additional meaning in the text through their own reflections and experiences.

WHEN did you begin writing this book?

I wrote Alphabetter in lockdown (a wild, somewhat surreal but highly creative period for me) in 2021. But I had thought about writing the book for a long, long time before I put pen to paper. That’s often how I write. I live with the ideas for months, exploring them from all angles, imagining the shape of the work, wrestling with the bits that don’t fit, following the energy of what works intuitively.

When is its release / launch date?

The release date for Alphabetter is 27th February, coincidentally the date of the CBCA BOTY Notables announcement. I’m thrilled to be tag-teaming with CBCA ACT to launch Alphabetter in Canberra on 27th February at my wonderful local bookstore, The Book Cow. The celebration kicks off at 6pm, leading straight into the CBCA Notables announcement at 7pm. I’ll be chatting about my inspiration for the book, how I hope families and educators engage with the material, and why I believe talking about values and ethics is so important, especially for young children. Kellie Nissen, a retired teacher with over 30 years of experience, has prepared amazing Teacher Notes, and will offer a few words from an educator’s perspective.

WHERE did the inspiration for this book come from?

I had been thinking about writing a book on values for quite some time because I had a growing sense that the topic, despite its importance and relevance in our lives, was fundamentally misunderstood. Values are the foundation of who we are (our character), which shapes how we live our lives. But despite striving to be ethical, and to raise our children with core values, we rarely seem to sit down and talk about ethics and values in an ongoing, consistent way. Perhaps that’s because values aren’t the type of thing that can be easily taught, at least not in a traditional sense. It’s not a matter of the parents or a teacher simply saying to a child ‘Be kind’ or ‘Be adventurous’ or ‘Be tolerant’ (‘… because I said so’). The best way for children to learn about values is by modelling positive behaviour. And there’s no doubt that parents, caregivers and educators are ideally placed to accompany children on this journey.

WHY is this book meaningful to you?

I’m proud of all my writing but Alphabetter is perhaps my most meaningful work. It allows me to use my formal training as an ethicist and my professional experience to unpack an arguably esoteric topic and make it engaging, useful and meaningful for a young audience.

I’ve always been drawn to big ideas and to philosophy, which I believe is the most valuable and practical discipline that anyone can study. Philosophy cultivates one’s mind; it poses enduring questions at the heart of the human condition that require contemplation and lead to greater self-understanding. Philosophy teaches analytic thinking, logic, argumentation, critical thinking. It encourages us to examine issues from all angles, and to broaden our perspective, while considering the consequences of our actions on others.

Many people believe values should be taught at home, yet others maintain they should be  reinforced at schools. In my view, both are essential. Children explore and embed values through modelling behaviour of the adults who are important in their lives. For the most part, this is parents, caregivers and teachers. But there are few resources to accompany them on this important journey. Alphabetter is intended to fill this gap. I hope the book helps children learn how to navigate life’s challenges, while thinking about the type of people they would like to be, and how this can be reflected in the values they inhabit and the choices they make.

Why would its message resonate with readers?

I believe Alphabetter will resonate with young readers who aspire to make good choices and to parents, caregivers and educators who are keen to have an open dialogue about values as the foundation for building character. Alphabetter is rich with possibilities, offering definitions and descriptions through kid-centric scenarios and synonyms for each of the 26 values (over 70 traits) – a wonderful opportunity for vocabulary-building, supported by open questions that make terrific conversation starters. It’s a unique, deceptively simple book that will appeal to children of various ages; a four-year-old could easily engage with Alphabetter, but older children will also find value and meaning within the pages, dipping into the book on their own or with others, depending on their interests and needs. Alphabetter is a wonderful resource for families who want to embark on a dialogue but aren’t quite sure how.

HOW do you feel about the illustrations / cover design? How do they convey the feeling or mood you envisioned?

Jorge’s illustrations exude expressiveness, freedom, inclusion and countless other positive traits – just like those covered in the book! I love the cover’s energy and pop of colour, and the diversity of characters engaged in various states of activity. Jorge has perfectly captured the mood and intent of the work, and I couldn’t be happier.

How have you promoted this book and how can we find it?

Promotions are underway in the four weeks prior to Alphabetter’s release on 27th February. I’m promoting the book on my socials, mainly Instagram and Facebook, and also on my website. There will be news coverage in Canberra and beyond, along with some podcasts, interviews and short ethics pieces I’ve penned. Alphabetter is available at most bricks and mortar booksellers and online retailers including Booktopia, Dymocks and Angus & Robertson.

(Trailer and Teaching Notes can be found here).

OTHER information or experiences you’d like to share?

Today, we often talk about values only after the fact, when something goes wrong. Alphabetter aims to explore the issues pre-emptively because knowing the vocabulary, meaning and strength of values builds a strong framework for making good choices. In simple terms, Alphabetter puts positive values on the map in a more overt way, positioning these traits as ways to be that we can all aspire to, and making ethics part of everyday conversations.

Thanks so much, Maura! We absolutely love and appreciate having Alphabetter in our lives! Congratulations! 🙂

#thequicksixinterview #alphabetter #values #inclusion #ethics #picturebook #justkidslit

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