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Author Insights with Karima Cammell author of Commonplace Birthday

April 7, 2013

by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief

Recently I had a chance to connect with Karima Cammell, author of Commonplace Birthday, a children’s book that hits the message home that even in our fast-paced world, there’s nothing more important than spending time with those you love and care about. I asked her a bit about her book and her background, and here’s what she had to say.

eNannySource: What inspired your book Commonplace Birthday?

Karima: When people want to throw a party or make a celebration extra-special, they often end up at my shop, Castle in the Air. Despite that, I personally have a tremendous amount of party anxiety. I think it is very common to become overwhelmed with the details and preparation that go into throwing a party and lose sight of the point behind these events. So I tackled that topic through the characters of Minikin—the commonplace mouse—and his wife Belinda as they get ready for Minikin’s birthday party. Commonplace Birthday is the second book in my Commonplace Mouse series, and his stories take inspiration from the Latin word “Perseverando,” meaning to continue through difficulties to achieve your goals.

eNannySource: What’s the take-away message you hope readers come away with?

Karima: Minikin’s example of perseverance is a timely message. We live in a magic-wand culture these days, where we expect everything to be quick, easy and princess-perfect. But life’s not always like that. Perseverance is underrated, but it is one of the most important qualities we can have.

eNannySource: Why the commonplace mouse? What does he represent?

Karima: The name comes from the idea of commonplaces—aphorisms or popular sayings that sum up lessons we learn in life. “A stitch in time saves nine.” “Actions speak louder than words.” In Minikin’s adventures, he embodies the commonplaces. He shows us that these popular sayings contain magic we can apply to our own situations, time-honored wisdom to help us pick a path through the day-to-day of life. The fact that Minikin himself is commonplace makes him special.

eNannySource: Tell us about the illustrations. They are delightful.

Karima: Thank you. Minikin and Belinda have built a simple but beautiful home from the world around them, using natural objects for everyday life and decoration. When they prepare for the party, they do the same thing. That’s how I paint, too, using natural pigments including color from berries, stones, soil, and nuts that I collect in my own travels. So there’s not much of a gap between how the mice live and how I’ve chosen to paint them, and my hope is that this comes through in the illustrations.

eNannySource: As a working mother, how do you balance work, family and home?

Karima: I try to integrate them as much as I can, so there isn’t really a division. I won’t say it doesn’t involve a lot of hard work, compromise and some setbacks, but the balance becomes easier if I let all the sides influence one another. I make the books with my children in mind. And my work at Castle in the Air is running a business that brings people together with stories, dreams and beautiful things for a creative life. The shop is really about integrating one’s dreams into everyday life. And that is something I try to practice every day.

eNannySource: Is there anything else you want readers to know?

Karima: I would say that just like in the story, perseverance is the ability to hold together all the chaotic pieces that make up a life, and that this is a skill we can all learn and practice. All books are autobiographies in a way, but anyone can identify with the satisfaction of seeing a large project through to the end.

Karima Cammell is an author, painter and book publisher in Berkeley, California. In 2001, Karima opened Castle in the Air, a celebrated shop, studio, classroom and gallery, which recognizes the internal life of the artist and all those who dare to live their dreams. Her books have won several awards, including an IPPY and most recently a Gold Medal Moonbeam Children’s Book Spirit Award for Imagination. Karima lives with her husband and two daughters in her native Berkeley, California. Learn more about Karima on her author page at Amazon.com.


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