Five Questions for Five Stars for Breaking to the Beat!

To celebrate a brilliant ⭐ FIVE STARS FOR BREAKING TO THE BEAT! ⭐ we chatted with debut author Linda J. Acevedo about her reaction to the news, the gorgeous art, her writing process, and more!

Question 1: Congratulations on FIVE starred reviews for Breaking to the Beat!! How does it feel to have such a warm reception for your debut picture book?

Linda J. Acevedo: This journey has been a group effort. I’m appreciative of all the hard work everyone put into the final product, launch, and ongoing support. The reviews are a shared win. I’m joyful we are all being celebrated.

Question 2: What did your writing process for this book look like? In addition to your firsthand experiences with breaking, what research was needed to write this story which is based on real people, places & events from the era?

LJA: While writing the first draft, I rarely slept. For two weeks I researched, wrote, and revised and revised. And then revised some more.

In a picture book every word counts. I centered my writing on telling a true-ish story with no excess while educating and entertaining the reader at the same time. It was a juggling act, for sure. But so worth it!

In terms of research, I read books, watched documentaries, news clips, interviews of Hip-Hop legends, and YouTube videos. Lots and lots of research went into writing the book. LOTS!

Question 3: We’re in awe of gorgeous art by Frank Morrison. Tell us about seeing his illustrations for the first time. Was it what you pictured in your own head? Do you have a favorite?

LJA: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone inspired the way I told Manolo’s story. In fact, I had the book open while I wrote the first draft. Frank illustrated Little Melba so I was very excited to learn he’d be illustrating Breaking to the Beat!.

The illos for Breaking are stunning. Each spread is a piece of artwork. Frank’s imagination for the illos surpassed mine, for sure.

The first spread, the family scene, is my favorite. So much emotion and storytelling through lyrical lines. I also love the detail of Manolo at the door. Peeking. Too shy to join in. Nice touch.

On a side note, the same agent represented Breaking to the Beat! and Little Melba. Lee & Low published both. And as I mentioned, Frank illustrated both.

Pretty wild!

Question 4: What do you hope young readers take away from Manolo’s story? Do you have any advice for aspiring young authors?

LJA: Put in the effort and reap the rewards. We build character by stumbling. Don’t be the one that never gets back up.

Push through the uncomfortable parts of writing. It’s important to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Otherwise, it’s easy to fall into the trap of second guessing yourself and never achieving your writing goals.

Question 5: As you know, there’s been an alarming rise in book bans in the country. A favorite book of your youth, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, shows up on many of those challenged and banned lists. Tell us about the impact this book had on you as a young person. Why do you think that it’s important for young people today to continue to have access to it?

LJA: The Bluest Eye is the first book I read that focused on the Black experience/perspective. Or any POC experience, for that matter. I had no idea books existed outside the white experience/gaze.

It was the first time I paid attention to the structure. How the story was told. How it unfolded. 

The book felt like home. Like I knew the characters. The sisterly bond between Frieda and Claudia drew me into the story. Frieda, the older sister, acted like mine. Bossy, a know-it-all, and a loyal defender. (Anyone who has a loving big sister knows what I’m talking about!)

For the writing alone, young people should be able to access the book. The way Morrison marries words and phrases is exquisite. Another reason are themes. Among them racism, colorism, family dynamics, and beauty standards. 

Stepping into the shoes of another gender, race, and/or economic status paves the way for the humanization of people who have a different life experience. It allows for an empathic view of the world. It opens the door to becoming a better person.

Further Resources for Breaking to the Beat!
Download the Extensive Teacher’s Guide
Read more about how the Bronx pioneered hip hop and why Linda was inspired to write about it in her guest post

Linda J. Acevedo is a New York native who was known to do the toprock and six-step at birthday parties and in her backyard. She is thrilled she gets to share this story about the origins of breaking and Hip Hop with young readers. This marks her authorial debut.