Author of the beloved Dinner at the Panda Palace, Stephanie Calmenson has shared her love of literature with early childhood and elementary readers by channeling her enthusiasm for their experiences into her books.
Who was your favorite teacher in grades K‑7 and why?
I loved my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Cogan, who taught with warmth and joy. Fast forward a couple of decades and, inspired by Ms. Cogan, I’m teaching kindergarten in that very same Brooklyn classroom.
When did you first start reading books?
I was about four or five when I got hooked on the Little Golden Books edition of Heidi. I listened to, recited, and studied that book until I was actually reading it. I was even captivated by the copyright page. (Clearly an author-in-the-making, I was thrilled when I got to write my own Little Golden Books.)
Your favorite daydream?
When I was a kid, I dreamed of having a dog. In adulthood, I made my dream come true as soon as I began working at home.
My shaggy dog Rosie became the star of Rosie, a Visiting Dog’s Story. My dachshund Harry became the star of May I Pet Your Dog?
Dinner party at your favorite restaurant with people living or dead: where is it and who’s on the guest list?
No big dinner party for me, thanks. I’ll be at Pop’s Luncheonette on Flatbush Avenue with Maurice Sendak. We’ll be sharing Brooklyn stories while drinking egg creams.
What’s your favorite part of starting a new project?
When the language meets the idea. It can be as simple as a catchy title, or a few lines that sing to me.
Your best memory of your school library?
The libraries I’ve visited as an author have replaced any memory of my own school library. They’re havens for kids, lovingly created by librarians who want nothing more than to assist and inspire.
Favorite flavor of ice cream?
Mint chocolate chip. No, wait—jamoca almond fudge. Okay, it’s definitely green tea. Hold the cone! Chocolate fudge brownie!
Book on your bedside table right now?
Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.
What’s your hidden talent?
The hidden talent I wish I had is to sing well enough to fill a room.
Your favorite toy as a child …
My pink puppy. I named her Heidi, of course.
Why do you feel hopeful for humankind?
It’s a challenge to feel hopeful these days, but good people banding together and speaking out helps. As Dr. Seuss writes in The Lorax, “UNLESS someone like YOU cares a whole awful lot, NOTHING is going to get better. It’s NOT.”