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  • Caron Levis

Mamas Making It Work!: Jessica Runs her Bookstore in "Clonky" Shoes!

Hello Jessica Stockton-Bagnulo!

Please describe a pair of your favorite work shoes and tell us what sound they make?

I have some suede high-heeled boots that make me feel very professional. My daughter (Marian) describes all my nice shoes as “clonky shoes” so they must sound clonky.

What’s your occupation? Bookstore owner! I also do a lot of planning and hosting events, so I have to be on stage sometimes (that’s when I wear the most fancy shoes.)

CL Must Add: Jessica is the co-founder/owner (with Rebecca Fitting) of the incredible Greenlight Bookstore with two Brooklyn locations. Not only is Jessica an incredible role model of a successful entrepreneur, but also of a generous one. Jessica was one of the first people to make me feel like a real author when she signed me up for my very first storytime before the book was even printed. I still get tingles every time I walk by this warm, savvy, bustling store knowing my books are on its shelves.

What age children do you have? One daughter, Marian, age 7 1/2

What does your child think you do all day? (please ask them and tell us in their own words if you can!)

Sell books and work in the bookstore office and shelve. When you work at night time you’re getting ready backstage and introducing people onstage and interviewing people onstage.

How do you and your family benefit from your being a working mama?

Marian gets to see an example of a woman who started and runs her own business. She is friends with a lot of the booksellers, who talk to her about books and give her treats. We get lots of special books and get to meet authors too.

What are some steps (pun intended!) you took that helped make the transition back to work, work for you and your family?

We had a nanny share when Marian was little with a close friend; the nanny took both kids for three days, the other mom had them one day and I had them one day. It was a great way for us to transition slowly (and Marian and Colum are still best friends.)

What is one of the challenges you face as a working mama? How do you navigate this?

I have to work a lot of nights for events, and I hate being away for dinner and bedtime. Luckily my husband (Marian’s dad) is an awesomely patient and enthusiastic co-parent, so I never have to worry that she’s lonely or not taken care of. We make up for it with special “girls days” when there’s a school holiday, since my schedule is more flexible.

In Mama’s Work Shoes, Perry shows some of the big feelings she is having about Mama’s return to work by clinging to her, pushing food off the table, and even hiding mama’s shoes! How did/does your child reveal any big feelings about separation?

Daddy was her favorite for a while! Since he was around more in the evenings she would choose him for all activities to show she didn’t need me.

In Mama’s Work Shoes, Mama and Perry establish some routines like putting each other’s shoes on in the morning, and pulling them off when they get home. Does your family have any ritual, phrases, objects, or other magic tricks that have helped your child navigate transitions or separation?

In the morning we ask each other “How are you going to be today?” and we answer “Curious, brave, and kind.” Marian and her daddy listen to their watches to remember each others’ heartbeat. Marian (who loves fashion) gets to wear my “clonky shoes” around the house as a special treat, and she helps me choose outfits when I have to host a big event.

What has your child done or said which indicates that, despite challenges, they are doing mighty fine?

Marian is now old enough to walk to school by herself with friends. She loves her growing independence, and I think we’ve all gotten some good practice at it.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to future working mamas?

Be proud of the expanded ideas of how to be a woman that your career provides to your daughter!

What’s one question you’d love to ask other working mamas?

Do you get enough sleep?...

Jessica, thank shoe for sharing your working mama story and for being such an amazing (arch) support to this and so many other authors!


P.S. You can always ask for a signed or personalized copy of any of my books at Greenlight!

Mama’s Work Shoes (Abrams) text by Caron Levis, art by Vanessa Brantley Newton

All about the adjustment a toddler makes when her mother returns to work, this humorous picture book takes on a big emotional milestone with a light hand.

Perry knows all of Mama’s shoes. She knows that the zip-zup shoes are for park. She knows that the pat-put shoes are for the rain. And she knows that no-shoes are for bath time and bedtime. But, one morning Mama puts on click-clack shoes, and Perry wonders what these new shoes are for. When Mama drops Perry at Nan’s house, and the click-clack shoes take Mama away for the whole day, Perry decides she hates these shoes! Perry later hides the click-clack shoes . . . and all of Mama’s shoes, just in case. Mama then explains that the click-clack shoes bring her to work in the morning, and they will also bring her home to Perry every single evening—clickety-clack fast!


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