SPEAK UP! An interview with Miranda Paul

I am so very impressed by Miranda Paul’s latest book, SPEAK UP (Clarion, illustrated by Ebony Glenn).

This one is an excellent tool for teaching kids the whens and hows, but what I’m most impressed by is that Miranda manages to give the subject the depth it deserves (in rhyme!) while keeping the tone light and sweet, gentle and encouraging, rather than frightening in any way. 

Ebony Glenn’s illustrations match the tone beautifully and include a multi-ethnic cast of characters we follow through a typical school day and a number of situations in which somebody does or should speak up. One of the kids uses a hearing device, which I thought was especially cool in a book on this topic. Each page is colorful, bright and clear, and just as charming as we’ve come to expect from Ebony. 

Parents/Caregivers, if you’ve found yourself stuck for the right words to help empower your kiddos in a simple way, you’ll love this book. But, people, the back matter. The back matter! Worth the price of the book, all by itself. Here’s what you’ll find:

1.  Author’s note in which Miranda reveals what a quiet child she was … until she began singing/acting, and about the experience that led to the book (below).

2.  A list of Real Kids Who Spoke Up, quick profiles of people as familiar as Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai. But also included are kids you may never have heard of, like Acacia Woodley and Christian Bucks.

3.  A list of specific, kid-centric situations, letting kids know when they should speak up and, just as importantly, when they shouldn’t.

4.  A list of ways (13!) for kids who are still finding their voices to speak up without saying a word.

I wondered what had sparked this idea for Miranda. So I asked.

JE: Miranda, what sparked this idea for you? Was there an incident of some kind, or was it more of a slow burning inside of you?

MP: I’d been tinkering with a song/poem called SPEAK UP for some time years ago when my son’s teacher reached out with words that made my heart drop—Don’t worry, your son’s OK, but I want to tell you about an incident that happened today.

One of my son’s friends told him a secret—that he’d brought a weapon to school. My son hadn’t seen it, so he wasn’t sure if it was true. Moreover, my son didn’t have a ton of friends so he didn’t want to put that friendship in Jeopardy. But he remembered me telling him that, “If ssomeone could get hurt, you have to blurt.” So he told his teacher, and they were able to find and remove the weapon safely. Speaking up meant the whole school stayed safe that day. I wish these kinds of scenarios weren’t the reality for our babies, but I’m forever proud that he recognized a situation in which telling was the right thing to do.

Issues that plague children around the world have been bubbling a cauldron of emotions inside of me for decades. Speaking up about injustice has been a part of my life since age sixteen, when I attended my first rally/protest and saw how actions and voices can change policies, legislations, prejudices and violence toward individuals and groups. While SPEAK UP primarily empowers children with actionable items that fit their everyday lives, the message for any reader is one of empowerment. Never doubt that one voice speaking up can make a difference. My son and I will certainly never forget the power of a single choice.

Amen! Thanks, Miranda.

Readers, you can learn more about Miranda by visiting her website, here. And more of Ebony Glenn’s work is here.

Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum is the author of more than 50 children's books. Recent picture books include JACK KNIGHT'S BRAVE FLIGHT (a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection), HOW TO GROW A DINOSAUR, WHERE'D MY JO GO?, FROG BOOTS, and WE LOVE BABIES! She is also the author of a graphic early reader series, Thunder & Cluck (another Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection). In addition, she has authored two dozen nonfiction series books for Nat Geo Kids, including several titles in the immensely popular LITTLE KIDS BIG BOOK OF–– series. Next year brings her first humorous informational fiction pb, STINKBIRD HAS A SUPERPOWER. Lots more books are on the way! For more information about Jill and her books, visit her website at www.jillesbaum.com


  1. Congrats, Miranda,
    I think this book looks amazing. My heart breaks for you and your son. I’m so glad that you taught him not only to speak up, but that he is safe doing so.

  2. Cindy Schumerth

    Great job on this book Miranda! Hope it gives a lot of kids the courage to SPEAK UP !

  3. Weaving courage and choice into the decision to take action and speak up will be so helpful to many readers and parents. Thank you Miranda!

  4. Miranda, you have written such an important book! And ,the illustrations are perfect. I am gifting this to my teacher friends.

  5. “If someone could get hurt, you have to blurt.” Is so easy to remember and such a good lesson!

  6. Congratulations, Amanda! Sounds like an excellent book. Love the interview story and line “… you have to blurt.” Great parenting too : )

  7. Jilanne Hoffmann

    I love how you provide so many ways to use your voice, without necessarily having to say a word, Miranda. As an introvert, with an introverted son, these are important options. Congrats on a great book!

  8. My kindergartners were lucky to get a sneak peak of Speak Up! when Miranda zoomed with us a few months ago. Can’t wait to read the whole thing! It’s a wonderful, needed book.

  9. Congratulations, Miranda! And many thanks to you, Jill, for this wonderful interview and introduction to an amazing book. The world is waiting for this one!

  10. Sheri Delgado-Preston

    What an important book for children. Congrats & thank you!

  11. Miranda, your son is a hero! Speaking up isn’t easy for anyone, but especially for children. Your book is going to make a huge difference and empower children around the world! Thank you!

  12. Wonderful book! Wonderful interview! Congrats to Miranda and Ebony!
    Many of my books are written in rhyme. More than once, for me, the seeming mismatch of rhyme and a serious topic has halted my creative process with developing a story idea. I LOVE how Miranda made this combo work, and by doing so she will reach a younger audience who will benefit from a serious message. And even for older kids, the rhyme helps deliver an important message in a way that isn’t too “heavy. Thanks so much! I loved reading the backstory.

  13. Congratulations Miranda and Ebony! What an important book for kids. As a person who stuttered severely as a child, I know the pain of not being able to speak up even when I wanted to.

  14. I have your book at my side right now and will be featuring it in a blog post soon. It won’t be easy to do a better job than Jill did here, but that doesn’t mean I won’t SPEAK UP about what a valuable book this is, and a helpful one for teachers and parents who need some of those clever lines at the tip of their tongues when a situation arises.
    As your story with your sons demonstrates, having conversations (and sharing books) in advance of issues arising is the smartest thing we can do for kids. Thanks, Miranda and Jill.

  15. Angie Quantrell

    Sounds like just the book we need. Thank you!

  16. This is an important book that will help empower kids. Thank you, Miranda. And the story about your son and the gun gave me the chills. Heroes come in all sizes.

  17. I’ve been looking forward to this book, Miranda!! Congratulations to both you and Ebony. Great interview, Jill! 🙂

  18. Miranda, I revere you for so many reasons.

  19. Thanks for writing this book and what it will bring to readers. And thanks for sharing the story about your son’s bravery. Speaking up has never been so important as it is right now. (and voting!)

  20. Speaking up is hard for kids (and adults). Thank you for this book, Miranda.

  21. This sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to read it. Congratulations and thank you, Miranda!

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