Writer Amy Baron sees through her children’s eyes and through a bulldozer that carves its own path

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Amy Baron, author of “The Gentle Bulldozer”. (Photo: Amy Baron)

The hero of “The Kind Bulldozer” by Amy Baron dreams of something bigger than working on construction sites. The children’s book, with Baron’s words illustrated by Rogério Coelho, is available from the Harvard Coop, MIT Press and Porter Square Books, among others, and is expected to be featured on the “Read with your children” and “comic story” podcasts this month. We spoke with Baron, a Cantabrian mother of two, on October 18 via Zoom; conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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How did you go from optometrist to full-time writer?

I’ve always loved writing – I’ve been submitting novels to literary agents and publishers forever. But I have always been rejected. Now that I finally got a “yes”, I write full time.

When did you start writing?

Since I could. I was always writing books when I was little, making my own covers and writing the stories inside. I remember submitting my first book to a literary agent when I was in college, by mail, but like I said, it was a lot of rejection. Looking back, I don’t think those books were really ready, and I’ve learned a lot since then.

What is your advice to writers looking to publish?

Of course, it’s very cool to write something and be able to share it. But I write for myself, and I would also say: Celebrate all the little things, not just publishing. If you discover the character arc that was missing from your story, celebrate it – celebrate the small details. There’s a lot to really enjoy along the way.

Do your children inspire you to write?

Absolutely. My kids are so creative. And when I asked them questions, I noticed that there are certain things that they find interesting, that mark their day, that are not even things that made sense to me. It’s really fun to see how they think and to keep that in mind as I write. It’s always great to be inspired by the things they say and what matters to them.

What do you like to read to your children?

My childhood favorite is “There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom” by Louis Sachar. I always have the same copy by my bed and I love it. As for my kids, we love picture books – they both love Michelle Knudson’s “Library Lion”. It’s a classic with us. Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems is also very good. We have a few favorites, but we like to mix them up, sometimes reading funny books and sometimes books with bigger themes.

What do you like in your book?

I like my book because it really celebrates being yourself. My main character is a bulldozer, but even though his job is to destroy things, he just doesn’t fit that mold. So he has this complete identity crisis. It’s so big, but it’s not meant to be. And then he embarks on this journey and learns that his difference is his greatest strength. It really shows those concepts of thinking outside the box and working together.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The hope is to enjoy the book and realize that you can be yourself no matter what. You don’t have to fit into a box just because people label you and expect “Oh, you’re a bulldozer.”

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