There’s something magical and calming about spending time in a library or bookstore. We are fortunate enough to have some great bookstores in our area; Politics & Prose, Walls of Books, Upshur Street Books, Kramerbooks and East City Bookshop to name a few =) I have a background in literacy and am always buying and checking out new books for my kids, encouraging them to read and have a love of reading. Same goes for seeking out new authors to become familiar with and follow. Books are my go-to gift idea for holidays and birthdays for little ones. Enter The ABC’s of Washington, DC. A great board book for little ones, newbies to DC, friends who may move away from DC or just to provide a picture walk through DC. The book provides a sightseeing tour of the nation’s capital letter by letter. I have gotten the chance to learn about Baby Ventures, a local duo (Lisa Hall and Golzar Kheiltash) who create diversity and adventure-inspired books and art based on their own real-life adventures in diverse locales across six continents. Their inaugural title, the ABCs of Washington, DC, has become a best seller at a number of indie bookstores and specialty shops in DC. They also strongly focus on early literacy, small business/shop local initiatives, and charitable giving. I am excited to share a q+a I conducted with Hall and Kheiltash and introduce you to their newest book.
Q+A with Golzar Kheiltash + Lisa Hall of Baby Ventures
BB: Please introduce yourselves to Beltway Bambinos readers.
Lisa and I met in Washington, DC in 2005, and we’ve been friends and collaborators ever since. We’ve long been avid travelers, with a deep reverence for the diversity of people, cultures, and places that make up our global village. After a decade of friendship, adventure, and ultimately, motherhood, Lisa and I co-founded Baby Ventures in 2016.
Upon returning home from each of her trips abroad, Lisa – a lifelong artist – would paint the rich diversity of people and places she’d witnessed. Our real-life travels across six continents, combined with Lisa’s detailed imagery and bold use of color, forms the creative bedrock of Baby Ventures books.
Shortly after becoming a new mom, I started looking into board books for my daughter. I soon realized that many “baby books” still featured oversimplified topics and graphics. My husband and I didn’t want to wait until our daughter was old enough to read to expand her worldview – we wanted to show her our diverse and wonder-filled world from day one. I was lamenting to Lisa about this one night over cheese pizza, and it just hit us: to combine our respective skill sets and create our own series of children’s board books. Three years and much hard work later, Baby Ventures was founded in 2016. Our mission is simple: to create books that combine themes of diversity and adventure for little ones, brought to life with Lisa’s vibrant artwork.
BB: Are you DC natives?
I am originally from California, and Lisa is from Nebraska. We met each other in 2005 as colleagues at an advocacy nonprofit located in Eastern Market, in Southeast DC. Our initial professional ties soon turned into a lasting personal friendship, sparking many adventures together around Washington, DC and beyond.
When we launched Baby Ventures in 2016, we already had the ABCs of Washington, DC vividly in mind as our inaugural title. DC is where our own story started, and we wanted to honor that with our first book. Many of the book’s twenty six pages – including “E” for Eastern Market – are an ode to the adventures we’ve had in our nation’s capital.
BB: What is your favorite children’s classic book that you think each child should have in their collection?
That’s a tough question – there’s too many to choose from! As an avid reading family, some of our favorite titles would be Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak), You are My I Love You (Maryann Cusimano Love, Satomi Ichikawa), The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein), and the adorably educational Yes Yes No No (Leslie Patricelli).
BB: Do you recall having a favorite book as a child?
Yes – The Little Prince (though I didn’t appreciate its poignant ending until I reread it as an adult).
BB: What is your writing or illustrating Kryptonite?
Golzar: A cozy café, a big latte, a fresh notepad, and a great ink pen. And enough time between toddler activities to enjoy the vibe and let the creative juices flow!
Lisa: Meeting Golzar at the cozy café for creative brainstorming! We have a fantastic collaborative work process where we build on each other’s ideas and enthusiasm.
BB: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Lisa and I both come from advocacy and marketing backgrounds, so diligent and accurate research is a must for us. Having first-hand knowledge of our subject matter and subjecting our work to peer review are integral steps in our research process. Some may say children’s board books shouldn’t require much research, but we feel it’s quite the opposite: we’re trying to expand tots’ growing minds with our books and artwork, which means what we depict – whether it be a culture or a locale – has to be accurate, inclusive, and inspiring.
BB: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Glad you asked…we do! We’re big fans of portraying a local, genuine take on the subject matter or locale we’re depicting. So if you’re a native of DC, for example, you’ll find familiar details that other readers may miss. We also have our Adventure Girls who pop up somewhere in each book!
BB: Your inaugural title is the ABCs of Washington, DC. Can we find earlier work by either of you?
Writing children’s board books is definitely all new for me! Lisa, on the other hand, is a life-long artist with a knack for children’s art, inspired by her many travels around the world. She served in the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa, worked in Australia, backpacked across Latin America, and volunteered at orphanages in India and Bolivia. She has been retailing her children’s artwork for the past decade and is now drawing from her experiences to create the Baby Ventures book series.
BB: Where can readers find ABC’s of Washington, DC?
First made available in June 2016, the ABCs of Washington, DC is now available at a number of DC’s independent bookshops and specialty stores, including Politics & Prose, Busboys and Poets, East City Bookshop, and Walls of Books. Lisa and I pride ourselves on being local authors working directly with one of a kind independent stores across DC communities. As part of our community outreach, we love to host interactive story times with our ABCs of Washington, DC at some of our wonderful retailers. A few upcoming events are: Storybook Magic, Children’s National Hospital – Tuesday, April 24 at 11:00am, First Sunday Arts Festival – Sunday, May 6 (Annapolis) and Story time at Busboys and Poets, Takoma Park – Tuesday, May 15 at 9:30am. For those who are not local and wish to purchase our book, the ABCs of Washington, DC is also available on our Baby Ventures website, in local book stores, and can be found on Amazon.
BB: What’s up next?
We have big plans across the US and abroad for 2018! ABCs of Annapolis, Maryland’s Capital City, was released in February and is now available! Little ones will love practicing their ABCs while learning about Maryland’s charming capital city by the Chesapeake Bay. This 26-page board book provides a distinctly native take on Annapolis life and locales. From the annual Tug of War to Main Street and more, Annapolis is brought to life from the distinct perspective of a long-time resident and local enthusiast, Baby Ventures co-founder Lisa Hall. Our next two upcoming titles will explore global locales and languages and will be available next in Spring 2019. We also look forward to forging closer ties to our growing DC community, and of course, our littlest bookworms!
Comment and tag your favorite local bookstore for a chance to win a signed ABC’s of Washington, DC book or a Baby Ventures onesie!