May 18, 2022

Birth Stories for Books: TOGETHER WE RIDE, by Valerie Bolling

Today I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post featuring the birth story for Valerie Bolling's super cute and very clever new book, TOGETHER WE RIDE (illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, Chronicle Books, April 2022.) I interviewed Valerie for her debut book, LET'S DANCE!, back in 2020, and it's great that she's offered to share more of her perspective and experience with us here today.

Let her roll, Valerie!

by Valerie Bolling and Kaylani Juanita


by Valerie Bolling

What’s interesting about how TOGETHER WE RIDE came to be is that during “The Call” with my agent, James McGowan, he asked what else I was working on. I casually shared my Zoom screen to show him what was then titled BIKE RIDE. He liked it so much that he asked me to send it to him. Even though he had chosen to represent me based on three other manuscripts, this is the one he went out on submission with first. When I later asked him why, he said, “Because there wasn’t anything that needed to be changed.”

James’ assessment was correct because the book went to auction, and I received a two-book deal. (The sequel, TOGETHER WE SWIM, which hadn’t been written at the time of acquisition, will be released next year.) The acquiring editor, Elizabeth Lazowski of Chronicle, agreed with James – she had no plans to change any of the text. When she saw the words paired with the illustrations, however, she suggested that one word be deleted. I agreed and even offered to remove additional text that I felt wasn’t needed. I’m a writer who’s willing to “kill darlings” for the greater good of the story.

TOGETHER WE RIDE was such a fun book to write because I set a challenge for myself – to write a book with fewer words than LET’S DANCE! and to use the same end rhyme throughout the text. I met both challenges. TOGETHER WE RIDE has only 30 words, half the amount of LET’S DANCE!, and all of the words (except one) rhyme with “ride.”

In my story, I knew I wanted a parent supporting and cheering on a child during this experience. I knew there would be a failed attempt and eventual success. Finally, I knew that I wanted not only to spotlight the love and connection between a child and an adult, but ultimately, an entire family. I didn’t specify the gender of the child and parent, but my editor, Elizabeth, envisioned it as a father-daughter story.

The inspiration for TOGETHER WE RIDE came from all the children I saw riding bikes when taking my daily “mental health walks” with my husband during the COVID shutdown of spring 2020. In particular, there was a five-year-old girl who had just learned how to ride a bike. When I commented about how much her bike riding skills had progressed over the weeks, her mother told me that all of the time they were spending at home provided the opportunity for her to learn. Learning to ride a bike – without training wheels – is such an exciting milestone for children that I decided to write a story about that experience.

LET’S DANCE!, which is my 2020 debut, and RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN!, which will be released on Oct. 4, 2022 are about community – the joys of dancing together and playing with friends outdoors. TOGETHER WE RIDE, however, hones in on the joy of the parent-child relationship – specifically, the joy the father experiences while cheering on his daughter as she learns to ride a bike and the joy the daughter feels when she accomplishes her goal and experiences a sense of newfound freedom. This story depicts the importance of an adult’s love and support in propelling a child towards success and the agency that a child must have to be able to persevere to achieve victory.

What an inspiring story, Valerie. Thank you for sharing how TOGETHER WE RIDE! came to be. 

Friends, the best way to thank an author whose insights have been helpful and/or inspiring to you is to support their work. Buy their books. Request them from your library. Read and share them with others. Valerie's books, including TOGETHER WE RIDE, are available everywhere books are loaned and sold.  


Image Source: Valerie Bolling
Valerie Bolling is the author of the 2021 SCBWI Crystal Kite award-winning and CT Book Award finalist LET’S DANCE! (March 2020). In 2022 Valerie is happy to welcome TOGETHER WE RIDE (April) and RIDE, ROLL, RUN: TIME FOR FUN! (October). Sequels to these books as well as a Scholastic early reader series, RAINBOW DAYS, are slated for 2023.

A graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University, Teachers College, Valerie has been an educator for almost 30 years. She currently works as an Instructional Coach for Greenwich Public Schools and is on the faculty at Westport Writers’ Workshop. She is also a WNDB mentor and deeply immersed in the kidlit writing community, particularly involved with SCBWI, the 12X12 Picture Book Challenge, and Black Creators HeadQuarters. 

Valerie and her husband live in Connecticut and enjoy traveling, hiking, reading, going to the theater, and dancing.


Birth Stories for Books is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including, Lucy's Blooms, Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud, and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at

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