Selina's book has quickly become a favorite in our household for an unexpected reason: it clearly illustrates the love a birth parent has for his/her biological child who was placed for adoption.
In summary, the book is about a penguin who discovers a pinecone. He then learns that the pinecone cannot flourish being in the penguin's environment which is cold and snowy, so Penguin lovingly decides to take Pinecone on a journey to a forest. Penguin creates a "cozy nest of the softest pine needles" for Pinecone, puts a scarf around it, and leaves the pinecone, saying, "You will always be in my heart." Time passes and Penguin decides to return to Pinecone to see if Pinecone had "grown big and strong like Penguin." It turns out that Pinecone had grown into a tall, healthy tree. Penguin and Pinecone happily hug and play together before separating again.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Selina.
Rachel: Salina, tell me about yourself, personally and professionally.
Salina: I am a wife and mother of two young boys. My husband is a painter and an art instructor at a college. I work at home as a book designer, format engineer, author and illustrator. It's a long list of things,… but all of these skills are necessary to create novelty books which I am most experienced with, with about 200 published titles. Picture books are actually quite new for me
R: I was given a copy of your children's book Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship Story this past Christmas, and I was surprised that though the book isn't deemed an adoption-themed book, it features strong adoption themes. Did you intend, when writing and illustrating the book, to hint at adoption?
S: The short answer is no, not at all.
In fact, when I first thought of making a pine cone a character in the book, I really wondered if my agent would support the idea. It's brown and prickly, and not very cute. (The scarf helps, don't you think?) Could I possibly pull off showing any kind of love and affection between a pine cone and a penguin and make it believable? That was the big question. But my children would remind me that this isn't as far fetched as it seems. My kids would bring home little objects… like a sea shell, a rock, and once even a pine cone, and name it (usually, the name was simply the object's name with a "y" at the end… Shell-y, Rock-y, Pinecone-y), then keep it safe and warm in a box with a little scrap of fleece over it. So this reassured me that a child's natural sensibilities to love something was not limited to cute, furry things.
I selected a pine cone (and not some other random object) to be Penguin's friend for several reasons. I wanted an object that wasn't necessarily cute. It's not fluffy, or fuzzy, or bright. It's not soft, or cuddly, or even alive. (well… mine shivers and sneezes, of course!) A pine cone looks like something one would leave on the ground. But not Penguin. A child often has a way of seeing the beauty in simple things.
And Penguin has the heart of a child. So in my mind, I was thinking that children would identify with Penguin. It was later when it occurred to me that this may relate to adoptive families, and the child is actually Pinecone.
Another reason that I selected a pine cone is that it had the ability to transform into something new. I can show much time passing by simply showing a pine cone and then later a tree in a matter of a few pages.
One last important reason was its environment. I wanted the object to come from a home unfamiliar to Penguin, someplace uniquely different. Penguin's world is cold (white and blue). And Pinecone's world is warm (yellow, brown and green). These contrasting worlds emphasized their differences further, but they were connected by their love.
R: During the course of the book, Penguin and Pinecone are separated twice. The first time is when both are younger (and smaller, symbolizing that growth will take place), and then again when both are grown. How is the first separation different than the second?
S: The first separation is harder and sadder. There's uncertainty, fear, and a feeling of loss. I think readers can sense this sadness when Penguin leaves Pinecone in the forest in the nest he made out of the softest pine needles he could find surrounded by rocks placed in the shape of a heart. Penguin doesn't say much, but we feel his love and his sorrow.
The second separation is sad, but there's no longer uncertainty or fear. The reunion brings joy, relief and even hope for the future. Penguin sees what a beautiful and magnificent tree that Pinecone had become, and with this knowledge, he is happy and satisfied. He's helped this little Pinecone become what it had meant to be. Pinecone has a place in this world… much like Penguin has on the ice. He goes back home, but he keeps Pinecone in his thoughts. They may be physically apart, but they remain together in their hearts.
R: My favorite part of the book has to be the end. You write, "Penguin and Pinecone may have been far apart, but they always stayed in each other's hearts. When you give love...it grows." Though I picked up on the book's adoption themes, given my own situation as an adoptive mother, your book could be applied to any number of life situations. Please share your hopes for Penguin and Pinecone. Which friendships, as the subtitle suggests, or relationships, do you think this book will apply to?
S: I think what makes Penguin and Pinecone's story so special is that everyone connects with the story in a different way based on their own personal experiences. At first, I connected with Penguin as my own son. He's quite loving and nurturing. I imagined how he'd go through great lengths to keep his friend safe. And then I connected to Penguin as a parent--- and the sacrifices we make for our children for their well being. Loving them means we'll have to let them go one day--- to college, or wherever their adult lives take them. I hope Penguin's story brings comfort to those who's loved ones are far away…. whetherthrough adoption, your family or friends who live out of state or have moved away, or your husband who is overseas.
R: Finally, what is coming up for you? And how can my readers connect with you and your work?
S: Penguin has more stories to tell! The next book in this series is PENGUIN on VACATION, releasing in April. This, too, relates to long-distance friendships, but with a different message. And I have just completed Penguin's third book titled PENGUIN in LOVE, for release in Spring 2014. Penguin will have a love interest in this one, just in time for Valentine's Day.
Connect to Penguin's blog
Connect to Salina's webpage
One winner (US resident only) will receive a copy of Penguin and Pinecone.
Entry dates: 1/28-2/1 (at noon, central standard time)
Ways to enter: You may enter to win up to five times (one entry per comment)
1: Check out all of Salina's books and leave a comment telling me which one might be your next purchase.
2: Post Penguin and Pinecone's book trailer on your FB wall and leave a comment sharing that you did so.
3: Share Salina's website on your FB wall and leave a comment sharing you did so.
4: Leave a comment stating what has been the most diffcult "goodbye" you have faced on your adoption journey thus far.
5: Share this giveaway via e/m, FB, or Twitter; leave a comment sharing that you did so.
The winner will be posted on Feb 1; winner is chosen via random.org; winner is responsible for e-mailing me his/her address within 48 hours to claim his/her prize (whitebrownsugar AT hotmail DOT com). If the winner doesn't message me within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.