Miss Rita, Mystery Reader
Hey! It's May 3, 2022, and today is my (Kristen's) book birthday! It's my first traditionally published book.
I wrote it with my nephew Sam Donovan who is a fashion designer for drag queens as well as a teacher and a pretty awesome human. The illustrator is Violet Tobacco.
Here's a quote from the Booklist Starred review: "This sweet and reassuring picture book tells the story of a young child, Tori, who’s worried how their class will react to their dad, the designated “Mystery Reader.” Wise, empathetic Dad lets the child come up with a solution: the two will do the reading presentation together, to great acclaim and a happy ending. There’s one twist: Dad is a drag queen."
We wrote a tagline in the book: "Sparkle is serious business." Because to drag queens, it is. More on that in a moment.
I asked Sam to do a blog interview with me over on PB22Peekaboo's website. He said this about why we decided to write Miss Rita: It felt really important to write this book because they are just isn’t enough kid accessible queer culture, particularly culture associated with drag. Drag is such an inspiring and affirming part of queer culture that I can remember feeling connected to it as a very young person before I really had a name for it. (According to my mother, I saw my first drag queen when I was three years old walking down the streets of Provincetown – my mother remembers the queen as looking exactly like Barbra Streisand while singing like Frank Sinatra.)
We had one event already, at Brookline Booksmith, sort of a pre-launch launch, and we read Miss Rita aloud. (Yes, I am wearing a tiara. Talk about sparkle.)
After that, a drag queen named Patty Bouree sang a song inspired by the book. Never having inspired a song before, it was a pretty moving experience for me.
The chorus of the song goes,
"I intend to sparkle seriously,
can't imagine things any other way,
I intend to sparkle fearlessly,
That's how I make it through the day."
I don't think she was just singing that about herself, though that was part of it. I think sparkling seriously and fearlessly is something we can all do more of. Whatever your sparkle is, I hope you let it shine, today and all the days after.