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The Last Hazelnut by Susanna Isern follows the friendship of two characters who have a misunderstanding about who ate the last hazelnut! A playful and engaging book with colorful, folklore-inspired illustrations by Mariana Ruiz Johnson, this appealing story encourages problem solving and self-awareness. It is a perfect read for encouraging children and to think about how individuals can overcome a disagreement and make amends.
Susanna is a prolific author, with 60+ books published in over twenty languages. We spoke with her about The Last Hazelnut and her work as a children’s book writer.
You are a psychologist, publisher and award-winning children’s book author. How do you manage such a busy schedule?
Writing children’s books is such a great passion that throughout the years I have always managed to find the time for this beautiful dream of mine. My reputation as a writer has grown slowly to the point that book projects have increased, and my time dedicated to psychology has been gradually reduced. To this day I dedicate myself to literature 90% of the time.
The Last Hazelnut was first published in Spain, but has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Did you have plans to publish it in multiple languages from the get go?
I am lucky that since my first book was published, it has been released in several different countries and languages. I did not plan it, but my publishers have always had a good international projection, and my books have been liked abroad. Right now, I have books published in over twenty languages and the list continues to grow. It makes me happy to know that boys and girls from the other side of the world discover my stories and enjoy them.
The story is about two friends that believe “there is nothing better than eating hazelnuts on a mountaintop”. However, they have a falling out after they both believe the other ate the last hazelnut. Fortunately, they both quickly come to the conclusion that their friendship is more important and ask for forgiveness. How important is it to help develop this emotional maturity in children?
Emotional intelligence is very important and luckily it is increasing important in the education of children. I am very interested in creating stories that encourage this understanding, and that is why today I have several published books that help to identify and manage emotions, since that helps us to have a fuller and happier life. In the case of the last hazelnut, there is talk of anger and disappointment with friends and of a misunderstanding. Fortunately, both friends reach the same conclusion and, although it is difficult for them, they can finally manage their anger and return to their friendship.
Was there a real life inspiration for the two-friends, Tim and Teo?
My three children have always brought me a lot of inspiration. Their experiences at school with their friends were decisive in sowing the seeds of this story. I think that in the end we all realize that the really important thing is to share the things we like, because if we enjoy them alone, they don’t really fill us up and we end up getting bored and missing those who matter most to us.
The illustrations are bright and dramatic with an international feel. Did you know the illustrator, Marianna Ruiz Johnson, before working on the book together? How much input did you have into her drawings?
I met Mariana with our first book Sleeping Queen Panda. I had been following her work for a long time and when I finished writing that book I offered it to her. She loved it and quickly got down to business. We really liked the experience of working together and we got to experience this again with The Last Hazelnut.
What is the best part about being a children’s author? Who were your favorite authors as a child?
The best part is that with this job I am still very close to childhood and I really like children. I love chatting with them at book fairs and also telling them stories. My favorite authors as a child were Roald Dahl and Michael Ende.
When you look around at the current state of kids and reading, what are the biggest challenges for parents or opportunities to address?
One of the biggest challenges for today’s parents is competing against electronic devices: telephones, computers, tablets … For this reason it is necessary that they offer their children substitutes, in this case interesting reading materials that entertain them and make them forget the machines for a while. For me, the challenge as a writer is to create magical stories that capture children’s attention and unleash their passion for literature.
Are you working on anything at the moment, we can look forward to reading?
I am writing the third part of the saga Los Quebrantasueños (The Dreambreakers), which are novels illustrated by Esther Gili for middle grade readers that are having great success in Spain. Hopefully some American publishers will be encouraged to publish it.
Thanks to Susanna for sharing time with us. It’s great to hear about her new upcoming work and we look forward to sharing “The Last Hazelnut” with many of our picture book subscribers this month. You can learn more about Susanna on her website.
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