1. I was looking into both of your bio’s before compiling these questions, and I was blown away by your dedication to the idea of curiosity, and your joy for the power of imagination. So often, stage fright and fear quash those feelings.  In your picture book, readers are introduced to boys and girls kids from various backgrounds all having one common fear or obstacle - stage fright! The idea of stepping up to that mic and into the spotlight. All of them are concerned they won’t say the right thing or look the right way or act the right way.  How did you come to this idea, this theme?


Malik: So this idea is generated from the pure quivering feeling that hits the pit of most people’s gut whenever they are about to do anything in front of others. I have found that this is especially the case when you’re about to do something that holds importance to you. Even more so when you feel you may be about to do something great. Now take this and amplify it through the lens of a child and I just wanted to capture how visceral and expansive that feeling is to a young imagination. That same amount of fear is typically in proportion to that amount of conquering exhilaration that comes after making it through that thing, knowing that you did it. Kids experience that in such an immediate, visible way. I wanted to capture that feeling too. It’s like floating. It was also important to me because I’ve been performing since I was young and was always encouraged by the people around me. So I feel like I missed out on a lot of childhood shyness on stages, only to experience it later in other aspects of life that are not stage-based. Irony.


Paige: Like you mentioned, “common fear or obstacle” is something anyone can relate to, which is why we are able to showcase diverse characters. And I say “characters” because this book is wonderful for all ages. As an adult and a teacher, I am pretty much putting on a performance for my students, and heaven forbid I jumble my words and cause an uproar of laughter. How do I reel my students back in after that! But all in all this book is full of fun and silly imagery that really dramatizes the fear of stage fright and hopefully brings a realization to the reader that it is just their imagination and grab the mic with all their confidence.


  1. Can we get right to the other point of your work here, so that our readers won’t think that we are leaving these kids in despair… SPOILERS! Malik & Paige take each child on a journey from uncertainty into confidence! In crafty, rhythmic text and silly laugh out loud illustrations, the kids overcome stage fright, with some whimsical fantasies, a ton of humor, and loads of confidence determination.  Were any of these scenarios from your personal backgrounds - either witnessing someone struggle with stage fright, or even from your own experience? 


Malik: As I mentioned, my shyness and nervousness manifested in other areas of life. I remember being terribly afraid of the doctor and dentist, and the scary places my imagination would take me about what they do once your name gets called from the waiting room. Those thoughts got as exaggerated as the pages in this book. I just imagined that must be what other kids feel like when faced with a task as simple to me as reading a paper in front of a class, or doing a violin recital, or a big game. I translated that animated grip of fear. Then I contrasted it with the feeling I got every time I got off stage and received accolades and imagined that this is the feeling that kids feel everywhere when they win a game, a science fair, crush a recital or even ace a test. I wanted to capture that floating feeling I described. The roller coaster effect that’s like: ‘okay, I made it, what’s next? Let’s go on another one!’


Paige: The one specific scene I enjoyed creating, and it is the character shrinking away from the microphone shadow, takes me back to an audition my mom had me participate in since big sister was auditioning. I have never felt so out of place, haha, but still went up there and let’s just say…got it over with.

  1. In grabbing the mic, the kids you write about do more than just perform a song or a role in a play - Malik and Paige are showing kids take some pretty big steps into life, and onto that stage. Can you tell us about these choices?


Malik: The aim was to tap into this idea of limitlessness. The Mic being the secret hidden character on its own because the book makes you realize how central of an instrument it is to so many different areas of life. Paige did a great job of inserting different kinds of microphones in each scene. Most of us hear the word microphone and automatically think of music, until it dawns on you that ‘wow!’ there’s a mic in a courtroom, in a space shuttle and at a podium. It’s kind of meta. But it all serves to promote the spirit of you-can-do-anything. Kids need to hear that, but also need to see examples of what it can look like.


Paige: For one, seeing our main character immersed in mathematical equations, buried in engineering blueprints, and finally in a rocket ship, is breaking those stereotypes of the capabilities of black people and more specifically black women prospering in the field of sciences. Another illustration that speaks volume is our character head full of locs front and center for the spelling bee. Visually Malik’s and I’s goal was to put our diverse characters in scenarios that seem rare, but still very much relatable to the general population.


  1. So here we are, promoting this title in what is a big anniversary year for Hip Hop, its 50th Anniversary! While the emergence of hip hop can be traced to many different sources, MC’s or zip codes, it is widely agreed that 1973 was the year that Hip Hop showed up. Malik, you are a Hip Hop Historian, and we would be remiss not to talk about the Hip Hop influence in your writing and life. We would love to hear about it!


Malik: Yes. While this is not a Hip-Hop book, the influence is definitely present. Paige brought it to my attention not too long ago that this book isn’t written in a traditional rhyming picture book pattern. It’s intended for ages 4-8 so I wanted to reach that range by having the schemes be a bit more challenging than the norm, but digestible. As a result, the sentences bounce and dip and even zigzag before hitting their landing marks. Some sentences have a lot of syllables, some have few. That’s definitely Hip-Hop inspired. It’s also quite poetic justice for me on a personal note since this book title was inspired by a line in the song that made me want to be a performer. It was the 1988 song and video “Microphone Fiend” By Eric B & Rakim. So it’s the 50th anniversary year of Hip-Hop and the 35th anniversary year of that song, on the same year that my debut children’s book hits the shelves. What a feeling!


  1. In the dedication of the book we read, “For anyone who outgrew whatever made them feel too small” We would love to hear about some of the big things you both embrace as creators and hope to model for children each day, can you share?


Malik: Just this journey alone to become a published author. While I have worked on other books and my name is out there in the world, I have found this path to be similar to my time in the music industry, where there are a lot of closed doors. It can be intimidating. Writing this book was me saying, I’m going to try anyway. And I’m going to have fun trying. I hope this means that I’m living out the message in this book. I encourage everyone to at least try. I am grateful to Jesse for believing in me.


Paige: As we grow in life, we will encounter many uncomfortable situations but must embrace these as they help to mold who we continue to become as a person. There is no doubt that growth can be unexpected, uncomfortable, unwanted, but they are instances that play as a catalyst for us to change in some direction. In this case, we are hoping our readers are inspired to move towards a positive direction that encourages them to blossom.


  1. A favorite question for these interviews - if you were to explain your book in only emojis, what would they be?





  1. We are sharing this interview with librarians across the country…  We are handing you the mic, what do you want to tell them directly about your book?


Malik: When you share this with groups of kids, make it interactive.

Pair your most introverted reader with your most extroverted reader and have them work together before presenting it.See which reader can land the rhymes when reciting the book.

Ask them which character they identify with the most, who’s their favorite, which fear they can relate to most, which was the scariest and which triumph excites them the most, which one is most similar to what they want to do/be?And if it’s not shown in this book, then how big is their dream? What does it look like?


Paige: I Grab the Mic is not your typical rhyming book, in that along with the imaginative imagery, the reader too will need to be imaginative when reading the words. The way the book should be read is almost in spoken word, that the reader is performing at an open mic and while teaching about overcoming stage fright, is paralleled in doing the same! I am so excited to share this book to the world and hope it inspires readers of all ages to overcome any fears and grow in confidence