I am so pleased that Danielle Joseph took time to visit with us today to share a bit of the story behind the story of her new picture book, I Want to Ride the Tap Tap, illustrated by Olivier Ganthier (FSG/Macmillan). This book is the perfect summer read with its upbeat energy and colorful illustrations! I thoroughly enjoyed this Politics and Prose Bookstore interview with Danielle, and I think you will, too. Read on and then head to YouTube to take a listen!

Danielle Joseph/ photo credit: Rouchel Esposito

Hi Kirby! Thanks so much for having me as a guest on your blog. I’m delighted to be here and share my inspiration for my latest picture book, I WANT TO RIDE THE TAP TAP (FSG/Macmillan). This story takes place in Haiti and follows the journey of a young boy named Claude who wants to ride the tap tap bus.

Haiti is a country that is dear to my heart because my husband was born and raised there. We have three children, and it was really important to us that they visit both of our mother countries (I was born in South Africa). On our first trip to Haiti, I was in awe of the tap tap buses. They are privately owned and one of the best ways to get around the country since there is no public transportation service. No two tap taps are alike. Most are colorfully decorated and are moving works of art.

I knew young readers would love to see these beautiful tap taps because when my kids were small, they loved reading books about different types of transportation. I also wanted to showcase the beauty of Haiti with its magnificent beaches, mountains, and rich history.  

Since there is so much negativity in the news about Haiti, I wanted to share the happy side of the country and that’s how Claude and his family were born. Often when we watch the news, we tend to forget that there are people going about their everyday lives in these places having similar experiences to ours. There are kids going to school and playing and spending time with their families. This is a universal experience and I wanted to be able to relay this to readers. 

When I sold the book to my lovely editor at Macmillan, it was important to both of us that the book be illustrated by a Haitian artist. Olivier Ganthier is a street artist, and his work was recommended to us through a friend of my husband’s and that is how I WANT TO RIDE THE TAP TAP was born.

Olivier lives in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and we met there as he was working on the art for the book. He took me on a tap tap tour of the city and we even made stops to see some of his street murals. We had so much fun, and it really was amazing to sit inside all those beautiful works of art and discuss our shared vision for the book. I think Olivier really captured all of this in his illustrations.

I want to Ride the Tap Tap Written by Danielle Joseph Illustrated by Oliver Ganthier

Danielle Joseph was born in Cape Town, South Africa. In addition to I WANT TO RIDE THE TAP TAP, she is also the author of several young adult novels, and the forthcoming middle grade novel, SYDNEY A. FRANKEL’S SUMMER MIX-UP (Kar-Ben/Lerner, 11/1/21). Danielle lives in Maryland with her husband, three kids, and a dog named Ringo. When not writing, she’s swimming, listening to music, or chasing after her dog!