August 23, 2017

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Q & A with ‘KidLit TV’ Host Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino hosts KidLit TV’s “StoryMakers” series.

Launching November 12, the new YouTube channel dedicated to the world of children’s literature, KidLit TV, will present a can’t-miss lineup of shows, including “StoryMakers,” a weekly video series that interviews authors, illustrators, and other figures in kid lit. The brainchild of author and former TV engineer Julie Gribble, KidLit TV is an online video resource produced by New York Media Works.

“StoryMakers” is hosted by SLJ contributing editor Rocco Staino, who describes his series as “a mix between Inside the Actor’s Studio and The Tonight Show.” Staino caught up with SLJ, discussing what he and Gribble have planned, the award-winning authors and illustrators he’ll be speaking to, and the behind-the-scenes hijinks of the first “StoryMakers” interview.

How did you get involved with KidLit TV?

I was at a gathering of kid lit folks at New York Media Works in TriBeCa…[when] Gribble mentioned her interest in developing an online resource with original and vetted content. Illustrator Roxie Munro mentioned her new project, K.I.W.i. Storybooks, [which combines life-size, illustrated backdrops, with themes that include outer space, dinosaurs, and a farm, with iPad apps and programming]. She suggested that Julie record me interviewing Munro about her project. Thus was born KidLit TV.

Any fun stories from your interview with Munro?

The crew rigged an iPad to “float” into a space station set. It kept swinging around, and I think it almost clocked me a few times. Luckily, I was wearing a space helmet.

Who else are you planning to interview for “StoryMakers”?

Our starting lineup of interviews includes authors and illustrators Dan Yaccarino, Paul O. Zelinsky, Pat Cummings, Rita Williams-Garcia, and George O’Connor, [as well as an upcoming] Holiday Special with Jenny Brown, director of the [Bank Street College of Education’s] Center for Children’s Literature; blogger Susannah Richards; and SLJ’s Luann Toth, who will talk about cherished holiday books.

We’ll also have red carpet coverage of the National Coalition Against Censorship’s 40th anniversary gala [which took place November 3] and the National Book Awards [November 19]. In future shows, we will be talking to guests about challenges they have faced—both personal and professional.

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Interviews for each of the authors and illustrators featured on KidLit TV can be watched using the free app Aurasma and holding a device up to cover of the author’s book.

Who’s your intended audience?

Anyone interested in children’s and teen books but especially educators, librarians, authors, illustrators, and, of course, parents and children.

Can you walk us through how an episode is created? 

As a longtime contributing editor for SLJ, I have come to know many people in the world of kid and teen literature, including editors, publicists, and library marketing people. So finding people to interview [isn’t hard], but finding something about the guest that may be new or enlightening to our viewers proves to be a little more difficult.

What have been some fun moments?

The program is unscripted, and it seems that I use the phrase “tell me about it” a bit too often.  So it has now been turned into a joke, and I have often humorously said to a guest “Tell me about xxx, but I really don’t care.”

We are [also] introducing a game we will play with some of our guest called “How Well Do You Know Your Book?” It was first played with Rita William-Garcia (author of One Crazy Summer, HarperCollins, 2010). I came up with it after reading [one of Rita’s] books, which had a lot of facts and details. I wondered how much of it she would remember.

What else does KidLit TV have planned?

We’re also building a community. KidLit TV and the KidLit TV YouTube Channel will showcase an extensive collection of videos for creators, consumers, and industry insiders. [They will offer] tips for navigating the kid lit world, how-to tutorials on new technology, and entertaining [looks at] contemporary and classic books. KidLit TV is also bringing virtual reality into your local bookstore. Interviews for each of the authors and illustrators featured on KidLit TV can be watched [by using the free app Aurasma and holding a device up to] cover of their books.

If you could interview anyone from the world of kid lit—past or present—who would you choose?

I have had the opportunity to interview some legends in the world of children’s literature, including Jean Craighead George and Beverly Cleary. I am envious of Stephen Colbert’s interview with the late Maurice Sendak.

You’re a former librarian who has expanded to writing and now hosting a kid’s lit series. Any other ventures to share?

I have ventured out on a new challenge as chair of the American Library Association’s Children’s Book Council Committee. The project is to dedicate seven new Literary Landmarks related to children’s books during 2015 Children’s Book Week (May 4−10), one for each day of the week.  We have interest from around the nation and hope that we have even more than seven by then.

Watch the premiere episode of KidLit TV’s “StoryMakers” on YoutTube, featuring author/illustrator Roxie Munro.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.

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