In the middle of the night, Finn feels something strange and exciting. Something forming slowly, getting sharper and clearer each moment: it's an idea. And the idea fills Finn with a thrilling kind of joy—until a bully knocks the idea, hovering happily over Finn's head, right to the ground.
Bree Galbraith Hold That Thought! (Owlkids, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield), is a totally charming story that anthropomorphizes that most delicate and fabulous mental process: coming up with, nurturing, and executing an idea. Tackling self-doubt, the need for support and encouragement, and more, it's an incredibly creative way to engage with an experience most kids will deeply relate to. And when Finn's idea is revived when friends offer support—and even help it grow by contributing their own ideas—young readers will see the potential we have in our communities to take our best ideas even further.
Galbraith's gentle, wise storytelling is refreshing and compelling, as is her inclusion of a non-binary protagonist in Finn, and we're excited to welcome her to Open Book today to talk about Hold That Thought! as part of our Kids Club interview series.
She tells us how amazed she was at Lynn Scurfield's ability to illustrate the abstract concept of an idea and how it influenced her writing, what she hopes kids will learn from the book, and why Finn's non-binary pronoun (them) was an important part of her idea for the book.
Tell us about your new book and how it came to be.
Hold That Thought! is a story that came to me as the character, Finn, evolved in my head. They have a thoughtful, nurturing spirit, and an inner voice that they use as a guiding principle in their life. I connected the concept of an idea growing and evolving with Finn because it seemed like such an important message to share – the value of listening to yourself and sharing your ideas to allow them to expand and create change. It was vital the story wasn’t didactic or moralistic, but remained playful and inquisitive, like Finn!
Is there a message you hope kids might take away from reading your book?
I hope kids see that there is power in sharing ideas, not hoarding them, or believing them to be one-size-fits-all. There are many challenges this generation will face, and are already well aware of, and problem solving happens when you share, listen, and are inclusive of all voices.
Did the book look the same in the end as your originally envisioned it when you started working, or did it change through the writing process?
This was the first book I have written where I changed some of the text to reflect the artwork, because the art was too amazing to alter when I saw it. The illustrator, Lynn Scurfield, did such a phenomenal job of capturing a very ambiguous concept (the physical embodiment of an idea!), and each spread is a piece of art.
How do you cope with setbacks or tough points during the writing process? Do you have any strategies that are your go-to responses to difficult points in the process?
When I started writing the book years ago, the use of the non-binary pronoun them was not common-place, and there was fear that the audience would not be able to separate the story from Finn’s pronoun, and they would believe this story to be about gender, which it’s not. But I was very lucky to work with an editor (Debbie Rogosin) who fell in love with the story and helped me make it happen just as I knew it could.
So, I rely on my intuition, and the support and brainpower of others – and a great publishing house, like Owlkids, who are forward thinking, and stand behind their authors visions. The process of overcoming a setback in real life is the same as what Finn goes through in Hold That Thought!
How, if at all, does social media feature in your writing process?
I definitely use social media to share my life – and a big part of my life is writing. I share my books, the process, the rejections... You name it. I also use it to connect with other writers, illustrators, and publishing houses to keep up with what’s happening in the industry. Social media is a great tool to use to support local book retailers, and to get to know book reviewers who use it as a means to have their voice heard. So while it doesn’t play into the process of writing for children directly for me, it plays into the larger picture in terms of promotion and creating community.
What are you working on now?
I am busy writing the Wednesday Wilson series, I have a few picture books being shared with publishing houses across North America, and I am working on a YA novel as we speak!
Bree Galbraith likes writing stories that inspire kids and adults to think critically about the world around them. Her books include Usha and the Stolen Sun, Milo and Georgie, and the Wednesday Wilson series. Bree holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and a Master’s degree in Communication Design from Emily Carr University. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her family.