Open Up Your Bag is a new picture book written by Mike Lawson for young children living with type 1 diabetes or who have a family member or friend with diabetes. Zip, zip, zip…
I had a chance to interview Mike, author of Open Up Your Bag, to find out what inspired him to write the book, why the characters are animals, who his hero is, and much more.
What I liked about the book was how cute the concept was and the character design and colors. I would have loved this book when I was a little kid. It’s a great book for kids who are new to diabetes.
If you would like your own copy, you can purchase the Open Up Your Bag picture book from Amazon.
My Interview with Open Up Your Bag author Mike Lawson
D-Kid: What inspired you to write this book?
Mike: I have always really loved children’s books. I like the illustrations and all of the different types. Some books have elaborate pictures that tell the story. Others have really simple pictures that accompany the text. There are such a large and diverse number of books to explore.
D-Kid: What is it like living with diabetes?
Mike: As you know, it sort of just depends on the day. Some days are tough, and my Dexcom alarms high or low every freaking hour. And other days I can skate through with steady BGs and not a care in the world. I guess that unpredictability makes this stuff manageable though. If I thought that every day was going to be tough, diabetes might be a lot harder.
D-Kid: Why did you decide to make the characters animals?
Mike: That’s a good question. I wanted this book to tell young people with diabetes that there are other people out there that have diabetes too. I intentionally was trying to make the characters look nothing like the people that I thought would be reading it… and I just assumed that there would be no lady penguins picking up the book. Using animals was an easy way to easily ensure that all of the characters were telling the kids reading it that there are other people out here doing what you do.
Animals are also way more interesting than humans. A book filled with four human characters is not as fun to draw as a book with a panda, penguin, raccoon, and lion. I got to use more color and shapes. People rarely have a huge mane. Drawing humans doesn’t allow me to have fun with sketching out a penguin beak. I feel that having animal characters helped me make the book a little more interesting for the audience I was drawing it for.
D-Kid: What was your favorite part of writing the book?
Mike: I really enjoy creating a color palette. For any new project, I usually start by just picking out a handful of colors that I try to stick to when illustrating. This part of the process really gets me excited to start doing the work and helps me set the tone for what I’m going to create. This is the palette I used for this book and the DiabetesDoodles.com website:
D-Kid: Who is your hero?
Mike: I look up to a lot of people. Sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury had a big impact on me. Way before I was old enough to understand his books I got to meet him and I fell in love with the idea of who he was… it had nothing to do with what he wrote. I just really wanted to be a writer. I wanted to create something permanent. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to really love his books and the pure fantasy that he writes. And I’ve also come to really appreciate how prolific he was — he wrote 27 books and published more than 600 short stories. This dude wasn’t just talented; he had hustle.
D-Kid: How long have you had diabetes?
Mike: I was diagnosed a little later than you; when I was 20 years old I found out that I had diabetes, but I was mistakenly misdiagnosed with type 2 at first. It took almost a year of unsuccessfully battling high blood sugar with diet and exercise that I finally found out I had type 1.
D-Kid: How did your diabetes affect the book?
Mike: Having diabetes certainly inspired me to write and illustrate this book. But diabetes doesn’t affect my drawing at all. When I work on a long-ish project like drawing this book, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the audience that will ultimately be seeing the finished product. So when I was doing most of the work on this book I did spend a lot of time looking at some of the resources out there for parents of children with diabetes… the different blogs and books (like your mom’s). Since I don’t have a kid with diabetes, it was helpful to read stories from those perspectives because it is a much different life than the one that I have.
More Info About Open Up Your Bag
Read more posts written by D-Kid Q to learn her perspective as a kid living with type 1 diabetes.
Disclosure: Mike is a longtime friend and sent us a copy of the book for review consideration. We were not compensated, and opinions are our own.