Jessie Sima: Let Yourself Be Bored

Posted by: yetheart, March 5, 2019 3:07 am
Blog Image: 
Jessie Sima (Photo Credit Tory Williams)

Jessie Sima’s grandfather took her to the library when he was watching her while her parents were at work. “It was nice to have a place to spend time where we weren’t pressured to buy anything and where no one minded if we stayed for hours,” she says.

Sima enjoyed browsing the library and learned the importance of having a choice in what one reads: “My grandpa never told me a book was too old or too young for me. If I was interested in something that was beyond my reading level, he would help me read it. I think that had a big influence on the way I think about books and reading.” Now, she has a greater appreciation for the community spaces that libraries are—beyond being places to explore and discover books for free.

For her latest book for children, Love, Z, Sima was intrigued that robots are often portrayed as not being able to understand or feel love, and wanted to explore what it would be like for a robot to encounter the word “love” for the first time. The book’s working title was Robots Cannot Love, and she says that version didn’t really discuss how love can be difficult to define or how it has different meanings to different people.

“It definitely took a long time for me to realize that the best way to write about love was through a bunch of different characters,” Sima recalls. “Having all of these voices give very personal, sometimes abstract, examples of ‘love’ helped me paint a picture of love as a complex feeling.” She says that what really helped her in writing the book were YouTube videos of kids explaining what love means to them.

Sima is both an author and an illustrator, accustomed to playing with form and content: “When I’m writing and illustrating a story I try to take away as many words as possible while still having the story make sense. Then I make sure there are details in the artwork that add to the story and show the reader something that is not described in the text.” When she’s only illustrating a book, she tries to do the same thing with the art—“to create a larger world for the story to inhabit.”

She’s just completed a new project that is inspired by silent film and is nearly wordless, in grey scale with splashes of red and pink; the picture book, Spencer’s New Pet, is slated to be published in August 2019.

Sima says that having a choice of what you read rather than an idea of what you should read is key to getting anyone interested in reading. She most appreciates that reading is a way to cultivate empathy and encourage curiosity. Sometimes, she says, it’s good to let yourself be bored—letting her mind wander is how she comes up with most of her story and character ideas.

Love, Z is available at Queens Library.

Photo of Jessie Sima by Tory Williams.

This is just one of the great stories you can read in the March/April 2019 issue of Queens Library Magazine. Other articles you may find interesting: