Author Interview and GIVEAWAY with Joana Pastro about her PB LillyBelle: A Damsel NOT in Distress

Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,

I’m so excited to share this interview because Joana Pastro’s picture book is the kind of book I’ve always wanted for my daughter, and you’ll know why just by the title: LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS.

Kaitlyn: Hi, Joana, thanks so much for joining us!

Joana: Hi, Kaitlyn. I’m thrilled to be here. I’m a big fan of your blog. Thank you!

Kaitlyn: Aw, that’s so sweet! I’m a big fan of you and your awesome book! In fact, this is one of those books that makes everyone think why didn’t anyone think of this before? Those are so few and far between that you must be extra proud! Please share how you thought of this story.

Joana: Yes! I absolutely love this title. This is one of those stories where the title came first. I was researching with the theme Knights and Castles in mind, when I came upon the phrase “damsel in distress”. I started thinking how damsels typically behave, and how should they behave, and I went from there. I figured it’d be cool to have this little girl that attends a school for damsels, and loves all the damsel-y stuff, but simply can’t accept the number one rule. The one that says that when in danger, damsels must always wait for rescue. She’s like, “No way! I won’t be sitting here, waiting to be saved.” So she uses her skills and smarts to ultimately prove girls can very well save themselves!

Kaitlyn: Yes, I love that, she loves everything but can’t agree with the first rule, and that leads perfectly to my next question! I really appreciate that you don’t make LillyBelle the anti-princess, she still likes tea parties and baking, etc, she just doesn’t feel the need to be in distress, why did you make this decision?

Joana: First of all, I think children should be allowed to enjoy whatever they want. Boys can have fun playing with dolls as much as girls playing with toy cars. Around the time I had the idea for LILLYBELLE, the news about a little girl wearing a hot dog costume went viral. Everyone loved seeing the class picture of the hot dog girl surrounded by princesses. I loved it too, but as the comments on social media poured in, I was bothered by how people were praising the hot dog girl, while harshly judging the ones who dressed as princesses. As if those little girls were weak because of their costume choice. I had my own daughter showing me it wasn’t true. She was strong girl, who loved dressing up as princesses, as super heroes, as dinossaurs, playing ball, dancing ballet and doing karate kicks. Children shouldn’t be judged by their choices, their tastes and who they are. Let them explore and play!

Kaitlyn: Oh, Joana, I got the chills. I agree, we tend to overcorrect when we try to compensat for things (as a kid I loved pink and when I decided to be a “tomboy” all the time, I decided it could no longer be my favorite color) so I ADORE that you wanted to combat both extremes and show you can be what you want and how you want, so beautiful. What do you hope children will get out of this book?

Joana: I hope this book will help children–girls and boys–feel empowered, break harmful stereotypes and build a better dynamic between them. I hope it’ll help children build confidence, and they can be and do whatever they want,  and learn to stand up for themselves in a smart non-violent way.

Kaitlyn: I think you have definitely succeeded in your goals! You’ve worked with editors at Boyds Mills Press and Scholastic now, can you share some insight about what it’s like working with different editors?

Joana: Both experiences have been wonderful, although very different. LILLYBELLE was acquired by Jes Negrón (Boyds Mills Press). Shortly after signing the contract, she sent me line edits and I loved her vision for the book. Our communication was solely through emails, and very responsive. She had a lot of patience with this newbie! I didn’t get any say on the illustrator, but I was absolutely thrilled when I heard Jhon Ortiz would illustrate. His style was exactly what I had in mind for LILLYBELLE. Jes has a great eye for books. Sadly, she isn’t working in publishing anymore. 

My editor for BISA’S CARNAVAL is Jess Harold (Scholastic). I love seeing her enthusiasm about this project. We talk over the phone and Facetime, almost as much as we e-mail each other. I love chatting with her. I consider her a friend, and hope we get to work together on other projects. I was able to share how I envisioned the art for BISA’S CARNAVAL, even suggesting Carolina Coroa’s name. I was absolutely thrilled when she agreed to illustrate. I can’t wait to share this book with the world. The art is just… *sighs* breathtakingly gorgeous!

Kaitlyn: Omg those both sound like dream experiences, and I hope you get to work with Jess Harold again soon, too! Thank you for sharing these relationships with us. I think many people who haven’t had the joy of working with editors yet don’t know anything about the relationships, and it’s so nice for people to know that they are wonderful relationships! Can you share some advice you like to give to aspiring authors?

Joana: First of all, be patient. 

Find like-minded individuals, people who share the love for the craft and understand the process. Join SCBWI, learn the craft and read as many books in the genre you plan to write as possible. Keep learning. Keep reading.

Join a critique group and be open to feedback.

Develop a thick skin to endure the rejections, and celebrate every small victory. 

And lastly, be patient! (Seriously.)

Kaitlyn:  Yes! to all of this and especially celebrate every small victory, that’s so important! Can you share with us what you’re working on now?

Joana: Sure! I’m revising two picture books for my editor, working on a chapter book and, my new newest endeavor: a board book series. Also, I’m about to start planning the launch for my second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, that comes out in November/21. Yes, I’m big on planning stuff!

Kaitlyn: Woohoo! You are on a roll! I can’t wait to hear about all of these other projects, especially Bisa’s Carnaval! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, historical figure, or mathematician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?

Joana: I love a good adventure, but I think in this case I’d be happy chatting by a fireside and picking their brain. I’d ask all the hows and whys and make sure we become best friends forever! 

Kaitlyn: That sounds lovely! Thank you so much for sharing, inspiring, and for joining us today.

Joana: This was so much fun! Thank you so much for having me, Kaitlyn!

Book Info


Written by Joana Pastro

Illustrated by Jhon Ortiz

Boyds Mills Press, October/2020

At the School for Damsels, LillyBelle enjoys many damsel-in-training classes, like cake baking and vocal training, but therule that a damsel must be in distress? Not so much.

When she’s captured by one villain after another, LillyBelle will need to use her charm and wit to save herself and prove once and for all that damsels don’t have to be in distress–and all in time for tea!

Author Bio

Joana Pastro always wanted to be an artist of some sort. So, she became an architect. But once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana start dreaming of becoming a children’s book author. After a lot of reading, writing and revising, her dream is coming true. Her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, will be published by Boyds Mills Press, an imprint of Boyds Mills & Kane, on September 8, 2020. Her second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa will be published by Scholastic in Fall/2021. Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her husband, her three extremely creative children and a rambunctious Morkie. You can find her on Twitter @jopastro, Instagram on @joanapastro, on her website at

Kaitlyn’s Review 

LillyBelle: A Damsel NOT in Distress is an inspirational story where kids discover it’s great to be themselves, and it’s a full-on fun adventure for kids and adults alike! The art is as playful as the fun story, and everyone will be rooting for LillyBelle through this story!


Do you want to win a signed copy of LillyBelle: A Damsel NOT in Distress? (Contiguous US only please)

You can enter in the follow ways (each earns you another entry into the random drawing)

  1. Comment on this post
  2. Share in the comments below that you added LillyBelle: A Damsel NOT in Distress to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist 
  3. Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of LillyBelle: A Damsel NOT in Distress
  4. Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for LillyBelle: A Damsel NOT in Distress at your library
  5. Quote retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.


Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez

PS. If you haven’t checked out our Week 4 Analysis for the Fall Writing Frenzy winning entries, check it out now and join the conversation! I’ll post another next Wednesday, but you can visit and comment on any week’s analysis anytime! It’s so fun learning with you all!

36 thoughts on “Author Interview and GIVEAWAY with Joana Pastro about her PB LillyBelle: A Damsel NOT in Distress

  1. I love this interview & can’t wait to read this book! My daughter has always loved pink and general fanciness and she’s also a total badass (snowboards, did her first triathlon when she was 5). I remember feeling the same way about the shaming those “girlie” girls got for not dressing as a hot dog, or something other than a princess, and even as a parent trying to encourage my kid to like other colors besides pink & purple (that failed & rightfully so). Anyway, Thank you, Kaitlyn, for bringing this book to my attention & thank you Joana for writing this important book!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Interview is out of this world! The book also is of great structure, including theme and illustrations. This sure to be added to my book list. For many children will enjoy such a relatable, inspiring, and comical story, that grasps one’s attention on every page!


  3. I already have this fun book on my Goodreads list. I love the message behind it and can’t wait to read it when my library reopens (I hope next week, but it’s still up in the air like the virus).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonderful interview, and you’re so right Kaitlyn – big slap to the forehead – why didn’t anyone think of this before?? The message that children shouldn’t be judged by their choices is soo important! Play, explore and have fun. Can’t wait to read this one! Congratulations Joana!

    Liked by 1 person

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