The Gems: Revolutionize Your Teaching of Writing

Margo Sorenson

Mar­go Soren­son

The stack of stu­dent papers lurks on the cor­ner of your desk, just wait­ing to be marked and grad­ed. Yes, the rubrics and grad­ing stan­dards will be applied con­sci­en­tious­ly, paper after paper. Your stu­dents wait, some in dread, some in hope­ful antic­i­pa­tion, for your final judg­ments on their papers. But wait — there’s anoth­er way to eval­u­ate stu­dent writ­ing — one that I read many years ago in the Eng­lish Jour­nal. It rev­o­lu­tion­ized the way I taught writ­ing to my mid­dle school­ers, and I hope it may res­onate with you.

This inno­v­a­tive method rewards those spark­ly gems in stu­dent papers that stand out in and of them­selves, even just one sen­tence or one para­graph, regard­less of the mer­its of the rest of the paper. Indeed, my stu­dents eager­ly looked for­ward to get­ting their papers back, just to see if they got a “Copy to the Green Book” nota­tion in the mar­gin. Even a sen­tence in a “C” paper could qual­i­fy for being includ­ed in the Green Book, if the voice and word choice were exem­plary. Some­times, a paper that earned an “A” did­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly con­tain a sen­tence or para­graph that could earn a place in the Green Book.

What, then, is this Green Book, into whose pages my stu­dents yearned to be able to copy their work? It was a large, green (imag­ine that!) three-ring binder on a shelf in my class­room, with plen­ty of blank, ruled note­book pages on which stu­dents could copy their gems. The bril­liance of these con­tri­bu­tions was admired by all the stu­dents who would eager­ly pick up the Green Book and page through it in their odd moments in class or at recess­es. By doing so, they not only could appre­ci­ate good writ­ing and be inspired them­selves, but they caught a glimpse of what vivid writ­ing real­ly was. Stu­dents from oth­er class­es enjoyed read­ing the Green Book, as well, and com­pli­ments and fist-bumps were the orders of the day, bring­ing shy or tri­umphant smiles to the authors.

from the Green Book

A sam­ple page from the Green Book

One of my fond­est mem­o­ries of teach­ing writ­ing was a day I was pass­ing papers back to my 8th graders, and one of the ath­letes in the class raised both his arms in the air and exclaimed joy­ous­ly, “YES! I got some­thing in the Green Book!” The Green Book both inspired and affirmed my stu­dents’ excel­lent writ­ing gems and made them excit­ed and eager to write. Let­ter grades, of course, are always impor­tant, but the pos­si­ble reward of being in the Green Book was what often moti­vat­ed my stu­dents to try their best, no mat­ter what the assign­ment was. In short, it tru­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ized my teach­ing of writ­ing, and I hope it may do the same for you.


Bedtime for Sweet Creatures

Bedtime for Sweet CreaturesSuch a charm­ing book! From Nik­ki Grimes, we hear the sto­ry of a young boy stalling his bed­time, all the while col­lect­ing a menagerie of imag­i­nary crea­tures. This is a child who has well-prac­ticed ploys for avoid­ing bed­time. His par­ents respond with play­ful­ness and good humor. Mom and dad are patient but, final­ly, the child is too sleepy to stay awake.

Eliz­a­beth Zunon’s imag­i­na­tion-fueled crea­tures are vivid­ly pat­terned, cre­at­ing cap­ti­vat­ing images of a lion, a bear, a snake, an owl … just right for nam­ing out loud.

Nikki Grimes' Bedtime for Sweet Creatures

The blend of Grimes’ smile-induc­ing accu­ra­cy about bed­time rit­u­als and Zunon’s exu­ber­ant ani­mals cre­ates a book that par­ent and child will glad­ly read each night. It’s fun!

Bed­time for Sweet Crea­tures
writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
illus­trat­ed by Eliz­a­beth Zunon
Source­books Jab­ber­wocky, 2020
ISBN 978 – 1492638322


My Word for the New Year

As in past years, in lieu of a New Year’s res­o­lu­tion, I’ve cho­sen a sin­gle word to frame the year ahead. There are numer­ous web­sites and blogs that cel­e­brate this idea. This is my favorite. The fol­low­ing sen­ti­ment from the site real­ly sums it up beau­ti­ful­ly; My One Word replaces bro­ken promis­es with a vision for real change. When you choose a sin­gle word, you have a clar­i­ty and focus. You are mov­ing toward the future rather than swear­ing off the past. 

Drum roll, please … PERSPECTIVE. That’s my focus and goal for 2020. When I chose the word “per­spec­tive” I hon­est­ly didn’t even make the con­nec­tion with the num­bers in the new year, 2020. It seems so fit­ting that “20÷20” vision means visu­al acu­ity, the clar­i­ty and sharp­ness of vision. For me, gain­ing per­spec­tive is all about expand­ing my under­stand­ing of sit­u­a­tions, of oth­ers and of life so that I have mul­ti­ples lens­es with which to view them.


Once my word was cho­sen, I began con­tem­plat­ing how I would add more per­spec­tive to my think­ing, feel­ings, beliefs and, ulti­mate­ly, my actions. It will come as no shock to my friends, col­leagues, and faith­ful Teach it For­ward fol­low­ers, that the ulti­mate answer lies in the pages of my many books.

While lis­ten­ing, real­ly lis­ten­ing, with the heart and not just one’s ears, is an essen­tial way to gain per­spec­tive, I believe that vora­cious read­ing is also an espe­cial­ly impor­tant approach to gain­ing and focus­ing on per­spec­tive. Find­ing myself lost in a book that takes me to anoth­er place or time, with char­ac­ters so real they feel like long-lost friends, is def­i­nite­ly one way I will keep per­spec­tive in the fore­front of my mind through­out the year ahead.

When I read books for plea­sure, whether it be for my month­ly book club, from a rec­om­men­da­tion from one of my book enthu­si­ast friends (join our Face­book group here) or a title I’ve dis­cov­ered from the many book blogs or sites I fol­low, I often find myself think­ing about my stu­dents. I share my read­ing life with them reg­u­lar­ly, but I also want them to hear about how and why the books I read change me and make my life bet­ter.

One idea I have for pro­mot­ing the idea of per­spec­tive is to not only offer insight about what I’m read­ing, but also to offer kid-appro­pri­ate book rec­om­men­da­tions that con­nect to the themes and top­ics of my books. Fol­low­ing is a list of books I have on my “just read,” “cur­rent­ly read­ing,” or “to-be-read” lists and the children’s or mid­dle grade titles I would pair with them. My hope is that as I gain per­spec­tive from read­ing, I can share that goal and ben­e­fit with my stu­dents, inspir­ing them to be life-long read­ers.

Giver of Stars and BiblioburroThe Giv­er of Stars by Jojo Moyes + Bib­liobur­ro: A True Sto­ry from Colom­bia by Jeanette Win­ter

Both books fea­ture sto­ries of trav­el­ing libraries, with books deliv­ered to read­ers in remote loca­tions by horse­back and don­key. Five fierce women in the late 1930s impact the lives of the moun­tain folk in rur­al Ken­tucky as well as expe­ri­ence dra­mat­ic change in their own lives, thanks to FDR’s New Deal. In Colum­bia, a boy named Luis decides to share his love of books by deliv­er­ing sto­ries to chil­dren in far­away vil­lages with his bur­ros, Alfa and Beto. Read­ers of these books will gain per­spec­tive about the deter­mi­na­tion of some very spe­cial librar­i­ans who are will­ing to go to the extreme to spread lit­er­a­cy to all cor­ners of the world.

This is How It Always Is and Julian Is a MermaidThis is How it Always Is by Lau­rel Frankel + Julián is a Mer­maid by Jes­si­ca Love

Both books invite the read­er to imag­ine what it is like to yearn for a trans­for­ma­tion even when that change risks ridicule and requires a great deal of courage. Frankel shares the heart wrench­ing yet uplift­ing sto­ry of a child named Claude, a family’s secret and the lib­er­at­ing free­dom that comes from hon­or­ing the truth. Love’s ten­der sto­ry about a boy, his secret desire and his grandma’s uncon­di­tion­al love and accep­tance is sim­ply exquis­ite. Read­ers of these books will gain per­spec­tive about being the par­ent or grand­par­ent of a pre­cious child who is deal­ing with a desire to be who they are meant to be (along with per­spec­tive about being that child).

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate + For­ev­er or a Long Long Time by Caela Carter

Both books explore the com­plex and unre­solved feel­ings that some­times impact kids in fos­ter care or orphan­ages. Wingate’s saga is based on actu­al events from the Ten­nessee Children’s Home Soci­ety orphan­age and reveals the incred­i­ble bond that can nev­er be sev­ered among sib­lings. Carter’s poignant sto­ry por­trays the strug­gle of build­ing trust when your life has been a nev­er end­ing series of good­byes and start­ing over. Read­ers of these books will gain per­spec­tive of the need to explore one’s past in order to see the future. 

The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede + Tow­ers Falling by Jew­ell Park­er Rhodes

Both books exam­ine the after­math of 911. The adult book fea­tures the true sto­ry that inspired the hit Broad­way musi­cal Come from Away about a small town in New­found­land that wel­comed 7,000 strand­ed pas­sen­gers fol­low­ing the cri­sis. The mid­dle grade book intro­duces Dèja’s point of view, a fifth grade girl search­ing for answers about the ter­ri­fy­ing event that impact­ed her fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty in so many ways. Read­ers of these books will gain per­spec­tive about how we can find some­thing about human­i­ty to trea­sure even in the midst of tragedy.

The Atom­ic City Girls: A Nov­el by Janet Beard + Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Both books are based on true events and shed light on a tough and sen­si­tive top­ic, the atom­ic bomb. The first title delves into life in Oak Ridge, Ten­nessee, lat­er known as “Atom­ic City,” where peo­ple worked unknow­ing­ly on the Man­hat­tan Project dur­ing World War II. The sec­ond book is a trib­ute to a young Japan­ese girl who was just two years old when the bomb was dropped in Hiroshi­ma and was lat­er diag­nosed with leukemia. Read­ers of these books will gain per­spec­tive about the dev­as­tat­ing effects of war.

Edu­cat­ed: A Mem­oir by Tara West­over + Schooled by Gor­don Kor­man

Both books present a nar­ra­tive about learn­ing in an unortho­dox man­ner. West­over shares the sto­ry of her incred­i­ble jour­ney of learn­ing which start­ed as a child in Ida­ho with her sur­vival­ist par­ents and even­tu­al­ly led to a PhD from Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty. Korman’s mid­dle grade nov­el fea­tures a young boy, Capri­corn (Cap), who has lived most of his life in a com­mune with his grand­ma. Iso­lat­ed from the real world until his grand­ma is hos­pi­tal­ized, Cap is sud­den­ly thrown into an unfa­mil­iar world and the harsh real­i­ties of mid­dle school. Read­ers of these books will gain per­spec­tive on what it’s like to assim­i­late into a soci­ety that seems for­eign while try­ing to under­stand the life and fam­i­ly you’ve left behind.

A read­er lives a thou­sand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who nev­er reads lives only one.” ― George R.R. Mar­tin, A Dance with Drag­ons


A Blizzard of Snow Books

We’re snowed under right now, what with teach­ing and writ­ing and, well, snow, so we thought we’d offer up a bliz­zard of books about the white stuff that falls from our skies.  Curl up with a child, a cup of warmth, and enjoy win­ter in the pages of a book.

The Snow Party, Snow, Snowy Day

The Snow Par­ty by Beat­rice Schenk De Reg­niers and Ber­nice Myers

A lone­ly woman who lives with her hus­band on a Dako­ta farm wish­es for a par­ty.  When snow piles up out­side, knock after knock at the door brings strand­ed motorists who make her wish come true.  This sto­ry, says one source, was “inspired by a 1957 Life Mag­a­zine report” — most like­ly on a bliz­zard in Kansas.

Snow by Uri Shule­vitz

In a grey city, snow starts to fall, delight­ing a boy and his dog despite naysay­ers includ­ing radio and tele­vi­sion.  “But snowflakes don’t lis­ten to radio, snowflakes don’t watch tele­vi­sion.  All snowflakes know is snow, snow, and snow.” And they trans­form the town.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

A clas­sic sto­ry about a lit­tle boy explor­ing a snowy day in the city, smack­ing a snow cov­ered tree, mak­ing a snow­man and snow angels, slid­ing down a snowy hill, and putting a snow­ball in his pock­et to save. Sad that night when the snow­ball has melt­ed, he wakes to new snow and goes out into the snow with a friend.

Snowflake Bentley, Wolf in the Snow, Over and Under the Snow

Snowflake Bent­ley by Jacque­line Brig­gs Mar­tin and Mary Azar­i­an

Calde­cott-win­ning book about a man who loved snow more than any­thing from the time he was a boy, and patient­ly fig­ures out how to take the first-ever pho­tographs of snowflakes. (Jack­ie: Sor­ry for the self-pro­mo­tion, but Snowflake Bent­ley was all about snow and would give me trou­ble if we left him out of this list].

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

In this word­less book, a lit­tle girl going home from school in a snow­storm dis­cov­ers a lost wolf pup and braves the storm to return it to its moth­er. When she her­self is lost and exhaust­ed, the wolves sur­round her and howl until her par­ents find her and bring her home safe.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Mess­ner and Christo­pher Silas Neal

A girl and her father ski through the woods, where wildlife abounds both above and below the snow. 

White Snow Bright Snow, Katy and the Big Snow, The Big Snow

White Snow Bright Snow by Alvin Tres­selt and Roger Duvoisin

A post­man, a farmer, a police­man (all male — the book was pub­lished in 1947) and a “policeman’s wife” go about their dai­ly tasks as snow falls and chil­dren exu­ber­ant­ly play in the snow until spring and the sun return.

Katie and the Big Snow by Vir­ginia Lee Bur­ton

Katie, a big trac­tor who bull­dozes in sum­mer and snow­plows in win­ter, is the only plow big enough to dig out the city of Geopo­lis fol­low­ing a huge snow­storm with blow­ing winds. The maps add to the fun of this sto­ry.

The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Had­er

A 1949 Calde­cott medal win­ner, The Big Snow tells about the wood­land ani­mals as they pre­pare for the win­ter blow­ing down on them. Lots of text by today’s stan­dards. Gor­geous illus­tra­tions.

Small Walt, Toys Meet Snow, The Snowman

Small Walt by Eliz­a­beth Verdick and Marc Rosen­thal

Walt is the small­est snow­plow in the fleet, the last one picked by the dri­vers.  “I’ll dri­ve him,” says Gus as the snow starts to fall.  As the snow­storm turns into a bliz­zard, Walt plows and plows, even up to the top of the high, high hill and down the oth­er side.  Even Big Buck the biggest plow says Walt did a good job.   

Toys Meet Snow by Emi­ly Jenk­ins and Paul O. Zelin­sky

A stuffed buf­fa­lo, a plush stingray, and a rub­ber ball ven­ture out into the first snow­fall, build a snow­man (with Plas­tic, the rub­ber ball, for a head), make snow angels, sled down a hill, and pon­der what snowflakes are and what a sun­set is before they go in at the end of the day.

The Snow­man by Ray­mond Brig­gs

In this mag­i­cal word­less book a lit­tle boy builds a snow­man who comes alive at night and takes him on an adven­ture.

Goodbye Autumn Hello Winter, The Tea Party in the Woods

Good­bye Autumn, Hel­lo Win­ter by Kenard Pak

Two chil­dren greet the late autumn — the leaves, birds, deer, flow­ers, sun, clouds, stars, trees, all of whom greet them back and say how they are get­ting ready for win­ter.  Then, as snow falls, the chil­dren greet the ici­cles, snowflakes — and win­ter itself.

The Tea Par­ty in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi       

A lit­tle girl sets out through a snowy wood fol­low­ing her father to give him the pie he for­got to take along to her grandma’s and finds her­self at a tea par­ty of wel­com­ing ani­mals instead. Her red wool hat adds bright splash­es of col­or and echoes (at least to us)  Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hood but with more cel­e­bra­to­ry results in this strange and won­drous sto­ry.

First Snow, Owl Moon

First Snow by Bomi Park

In this spare and beau­ti­ful book a lit­tle girl is awak­ened by pit pit pit, the sound of snow, and goes out in the night in her boots, coat, (red) scarf, and mit­tens.  Accom­pa­nied by her lit­tle dog she rolls and rolls a snow­ball into a mag­i­cal world of many chil­dren all build­ing snow peo­ple .  When she returns home, we see the snow per­son she built back in her own yard, wear­ing the bright red scarf. 

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoen­herr

Anoth­er Calde­cott win­ner, a lit­tle girl and her father go owl­ing in the woods on a win­ter night. This real­is­tic sto­ry has a mag­i­cal feel­ing. And why not? There is after all, some­thing won­drous about snow.

Hope you all are able to enjoy snow, even if it’s just read­ing about it, this win­ter.


Melanie Heuiser Hill

Melanie Heuiser Hill's Self on the Shelf

This stack is large­ly the Self-On-The-Shelf stack of my child­hood. There would be stacks of oth­ers, as well, you under­stand. I was sur­prised how many were miss­ing when I went to pull books for this col­umn, actu­al­ly. Where were all the Judy Blume books? Where was How To Eat Fried Worms? And, I sup­pose if I’m real­ly hon­est, I would need to include a small stack of Guin­ness Book of World Records from the late seventies…I wore the cov­ers off those books. Alas, some of my favorites from child­hood were library books that I checked out again and again but nev­er owned. And I sus­pect the world record books were thrown out by my moth­er who did not share my fas­ci­na­tion. (The lady with the longest fin­ger­nails in the world is the one that sticks forty years on….)

But the books in this stack — these were deeply deeply loved  by me as a child. The Pooh books are the ones I have very clear mem­o­ries of my Mom read­ing to my broth­er and me. I know she read oth­er things to us, but these are the sto­ries and poems I remem­ber. She gave me the leather bound edi­tions when I had lit­tle ones of my own — our orig­i­nal copies, which were paper­backs, are a bit frail look­ing and might not have sur­vived anoth­er generation’s love.

Bev­er­ly Cleary’s Ramona books — and the Hen­ry Hug­gins and Rib­sy books, too— were favorites when I was in sec­ond and third grade and div­ing into inde­pen­dent chap­ter book read­ing. I picked up Ramona The Brave off a RIF table when I was in sec­ond grade. Mrs. Perkins, my teacher, read sev­er­al Cleary books to us and I was, and remain, a huge fan.

Ramona Quimby

Ramona Quim­by, illus­trat­ed by Louis Dar­ling, from the books by Bev­er­ly Cleary

But Charlotte’s Web is the first chap­ter book I clear­ly remem­ber read­ing on my own — same year, same teacher. I fell so com­plete­ly into this sto­ry that I couldn’t bear to go out to recess. I couldn’t even extract myself from the sto­ry to close the book and get my boots and coat on—it felt phys­i­cal­ly impos­si­ble. I remem­ber Mrs. Perkins say­ing that just once I might stay in dur­ing recess to read. I’m sure I didn’t even say thank you, just kept turn­ing the pages, know­ing I had to fin­ish since I’d have to go out the next day.

From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er was kept from much of my ele­men­tary school because I so con­sis­tent­ly had it checked out from our school library. I was required to return it for a week every once in awhile “to see if some­one else might want to read it,” but I vol­un­teered to re-shelve it so I could hide it behind oth­er books and be assured it’d be there for me the next week. (This auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal detail found its way into my nov­el Giant Pump­kin Suite—dif­fer­ent book, but one also on this list!) The Mixed-Up Files won the New­bery Award the year before I was born. It is bril­liant, as are all of E.L. Konigsburg’s books, in my opin­ion. The book­ends of the nov­el are impor­tant, but if you’d asked me when I was a kid about Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er, I would’ve said her name was sim­ply in the title, for rea­sons I real­ly didn’t under­stand…. For me, the book was entire­ly about sleep­ing at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art. I have always had a fas­ci­na­tion with what it would be like to be locked in after hours at a muse­um, or a library, or a gro­cery store — to just have run of the place and have it all to myself. I don’t know if I had the fas­ci­na­tion before read­ing this book or if this book spawned it, but I remem­ber tak­ing notes on Clau­dia Kincaid’s bril­liant plans of hid­ing in the bath­rooms until secu­ri­ty was gone, blend­ing in with school groups dur­ing the day so as not to be noticed, fish­ing the coins out of the foun­tain to spend at the automat, etc. I nev­er owned this book as a child, but I bought it as an adult at the Met the first time I went to New York City. I read it on the plane home…which was the first time I noticed Mrs. Basil E. Frankweil­er!

Har­ri­et The Spy was a favorite of mine around the same time as The Mixed-Up Files, and between the two of them, I fell in love with New York City decades before I ever set foot in the city. I loved Har­ri­et because she was not nice — her blunt voice was often the tween voice in my head — and because she kept a note­book. I used to ask for note­books and pens/pencils for Christ­mas and birth­days. I loved that Har­ri­et did her spy­ing and wrote down what she noticed in ALL CAPS. Some­times I do that in my note­book, in homage. When Ole Gol­ly gave Har­ri­et advice, I con­sid­ered it advice to me, as well. This book, maybe more than any oth­er, gave me a yearn­ing to be a writer.

And the best for last…. The Anne of Green Gables series. I received the first nov­el in this series for my tenth birth­day. Over the next few years I received the next in the series each birth­day and Christ­mas. I love this series so much it makes my heart ache. And, as I wrote here, I per­pet­u­al­ly read them as an adult. I always have one going. It’s not great for my writ­ing. L.M. Mont­gomery wrote in a dif­fer­ent time, and style has changed con­sid­er­ably. I always have to cut my drafts by half — and I still use more words than many writ­ing today. But for char­ac­ter study and emo­tion­al arc, I think I can still learn from Mont­gomery. In any event, there’s not a bet­ter way to end the day than read­ing a chap­ter of Anne, as far as I’m con­cerned. I com­mend the prac­tice of “per­pet­u­al read­ing” to you — what­ev­er series makes your heart glad.       


Susan Fletcher

Susan Fletcher

Sto­ry­teller adept Susan Fletcher’s mind has giv­en us The Drag­on Chron­i­cles, Alpha­bet of Dreams, the star­tling Fal­con in the Glass, and most recent­ly Jour­ney of the Pale Bear. As you’ll read below, she has trav­eled to amaz­ing loca­tions and had envi­able expe­ri­ences as she researched her nov­els. Susan taught at the Ver­mont Col­lege of Fine Arts’ Mas­ter of Fine Arts in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults pro­gram but now she lives full-time in Texas. We can’t wait for her next absorb­ing book!

The best way to stay fit: My mom and dad used to walk up a long, steep, forest­ed hill on their prop­er­ty every night. They stayed remark­ably robust into their mid-eight­ies. Lack­ing such a hill, I have tak­en up run­ning sev­er­al morn­ings a week. Well, I run for a while, and then walk for a short­er while, and then run for anoth­er while again. Repeat until spent. In the evenings, our bot­tle-rock­et of a dog leads me a mer­ry chase on the nether end of a leash.  I can’t speak for every­one, because some peo­ple do real­ly well in the gym, but I don’t.  I love exer­cis­ing out­doors, prefer­ably in a park or near run­ning water.

My phi­los­o­phy: Be kind. Nev­er stop learn­ing.

One habit I keep try­ing to break: Los­ing my phone! When my fin­gers release it — on the kitchen counter, by the bed­room table, on my desk — wher­ev­er! — that pesky thing van­ish­es com­plete­ly from my mind. Poof! By the time I think of it again, it could be any­where. In my defense, I didn’t grow up hav­ing to keep a device the size of a pack of cards beside me at all times. Whose idea was that?

I nev­er thought I would… Stand a foot and a half away from two polar bears; trav­el along the Silk Road in Iran; ride on a camel, a don­key, and a glid­er (a plane with no motor); spend the night in a light­house alone, halfway hop­ing to ren­dezvous with the light­house ghost; have a pri­vate show­ing in a plan­e­tar­i­um; cut up dead chick­ens and mice for a gyrfalcon’s din­ner; go spelunk­ing in sea caves and lava tubes; and wan­der among nar­row streets and canals in Venice and Mura­no. Research! Some­times I’m scared to do what I have to in order to find out stuff for my books, but my research expe­ri­ences have giv­en me mem­o­ries I’ll cher­ish for­ev­er.

Murano glass

Mura­no glass, a part of the sto­ry­line in Susan’s book Fal­con in the Glass

I don’t believe in… tal­ent. Well, I do believe that tal­ent exists, in unequal mea­sures, but I don’t think it’s the most impor­tant thing. This busi­ness of peo­ple being heroes by virtue of hav­ing some spe­cial tal­ent they didn’t earn…that doesn’t real­ly res­onate with me. What mat­ters more is tak­ing what­ev­er gifts you have, large or small, and day by day putting in the effort to devel­op them into some­thing unusu­al and spe­cial. To me, it’s char­ac­ter — not luck — that makes a hero.

The Gene an Intimate HistoryI’m cur­rent­ly read­ing… The Gene: An Inti­mate His­to­ry by Sid­dhartha Mukher­jee.

My tough­est les­son has been… To try for what you want in life, even if it means risk­ing fail­ure. I mean, if it doesn’t work out, that’s one thing, and it’s nev­er a bad idea to have a sol­id Plan B to fall back on. But if you nev­er even try…that’s real­ly let­ting your­self down.

My favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion… When I was grow­ing up, my moth­er made huge Thanks­giv­ing feasts and invit­ed old­er rel­a­tives, sin­gle peo­ple, and col­lege stu­dents who were away from home to dine with us. I loved shar­ing deli­cious food and sto­ries, but I didn’t real­ize quite how much I loved it until, in grad school, while strand­ed one Thanks­giv­ing, my room­mate and I cooked Tuna Helper in an elec­tric skil­let on a card table in our dorm room. So sad! After that, I made a point of learn­ing how to cook turkey and a feast of trim­mings, and I’m always look­ing to expand the Thanks­giv­ing cir­cle.

Guilti­est plea­sure… I eat one Dove dark-choco­late-and-almond nugget almost every night after din­ner. Er, some­times two.

I yearn to… write a bunch more books; see Flo­rence, Scot­land, Moroc­co, Provence, Istan­bul, the south of Spain; learn how to make crusty bread, how to draw, how to take real­ly good pho­tographs with my phone; learn cal­cu­lus, tap danc­ing, gar­den­ing; take fly­ing lessons; gaze at the stars through a tele­scope at night (and under­stand what I’m see­ing); brush up on my Span­ish; start a “Vil­lages” com­mu­ni­ty; hike in the woods every day; teach Eng­lish as a sec­ond lan­guage, teach nov­el writ­ing; join the Peace Corps; write some songs and essays; have a long chat with Barak Oba­ma, with Michelle Oba­ma, with the Dalai Lama, with Kather­ine Pater­son; with Andy Pud­di­combe, with Antho­ny Doerr; raise a pup­py… And that’s just for starters. The world is huge and rich and fas­ci­nat­ing; life’s not long enough to expe­ri­ence every­thing. Still, it’s fun to have a list.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Dalai Lama, Katherine Paterson, Andy Puddicombe, Anthony Doerr

The food I can’t resist… Bread! I know, I know, it’s full of carbs and gluten. And hon­est­ly, for a while I tried to cut way back, but now I’ve giv­en up the fight. Can you say, “staff of life”? I don’t care what they say: a nice, thick slice of whole-grain bread with but­ter is food for the soul.

The piece of cloth­ing in my clos­et I can’t let go… Fun­ny you should men­tion this. Right now I have in my clos­et a crinkly white cot­ton shirt that I owned in 1990, and maybe before. You wash it, and then you twist it up and let it dry that way, to keep the crin­kles intact. No iron­ing, ever. I love that shirt. I used to get com­pli­ments every time I wore it, but now the cot­ton has grown thin and, truth to tell, it has sprout­ed a few small holes. For a while I tried to per­suade myself that nobody would notice the holes, espe­cial­ly with a white camisole under­neath, but it’s gone way past the stage of plau­si­ble deni­a­bil­i­ty. It’s time to throw that shirt out. It real­ly is. I’m going to do it soon, I swear. Maybe tomor­row.


Library EMT

The best way to find your­self is to lose your­self in the ser­vice of oth­ers.”

—Mahat­ma Gand­hi

World Wildlife FundI went into the week­end pre­pared to take it easy from a long and busy week. I quick­ly shift­ed my focus to the hor­ror hap­pen­ing in Aus­tralia. I was watch­ing a video that showed a small frac­tion of the ani­mals and humans faced with this dis­as­ter. I began to think what I might be able to do to assist. I remind­ed myself of a con­ver­sa­tion I had with my local Y‑Camp coör­di­na­tor who was look­ing for a ser­vice project and a light bulb went off. Upon my return to work I con­tact­ed them, and I pro­posed a project to give back to the World Wildlife Foun­da­tion (WWF), Aus­tralia. For this project, we will encour­age patrons to stop by the library to write and/or draw some­thing for WWF to let the ani­mals know that we are think­ing of them.  Our pro­gram is called Ani­mal Pen Pal.

The pur­pose of my arti­cle this month is to share how your library can begin an Ani­mal Pen Pal pro­gram for WWF, along with oth­er ser­vice project ideas. 

Start­ing an Ani­mal Pen Pal Pro­gram with WWF

An Ani­mal Pen Pal pro­gram does not have to be spe­cif­ic to WWF; how­ev­er, this is the focus on my library’s Ani­mal Pen Pal cur­rent­ly. 

Step 1: Vis­it WWF’s web­site for infor­ma­tion about the wild fires and about their work. Quick fact: Only 5% of koalas still exist as quot­ed by WWF!

Step 2: Reach out to a cur­rent part­ner or a com­pa­ny organization/agency who will par­tic­i­pate. Exam­ples include: A local Y‑Camp, parks and recre­ation, con­ser­va­tion, Unit­ed Way, or an after school pro­gram, to start your ideas rolling. 

Step 3: Gath­er sup­plies, includ­ing pen­cils, paper, crayons, stick­ers, envelopes, pup­pets of Aus­tralian ani­mals (kan­ga­roos and koalas) and pic­tures.

Step 4: Set up a space at your library for patrons to drop by and write and/or draw some­thing to send to WWF. Pro­vide a space for them to take a pho­to of them hold­ing one of the pup­pets, if desired.

Step 5: Gath­er all let­ters and draw­ings and send them off to the WWF, Aus­tralian. 

Address: Lev­el 1, 1, Smail Street Ulti­mo NSW 2007 or PO Box 528 Syd­ney NSW 2001.

Oth­er Ser­vice Project Ideas:

Ser­vice Project #1: Sto­ry­time Food Dri­ve: Part­ner with a local food dri­ve and design a sto­ry­time around kind­ness. Encour­age fam­i­lies to bring a non-per­ish­able item to donate to the shel­ter. 

Ser­vice Project # 2: Gar­den Cleanup: Design a pro­gram that encour­ages patrons to assist in clean­ing up the library gar­den. Reach out to a local nurs­ery and ask for a dona­tion of flow­ers for the library gar­den and encour­age patrons to help them. 

Ser­vice Project #3: Recy­cled Crafts: Take a pledge to pro­vide craft projects where recy­cled items are used. Cre­ate a recy­cled craft night where patrons attend with items and design and cre­ate any project they wish.

Arti­cles and Web­sites on Libraries, Envi­ron­men­tal­ism, and Ser­vice

  1. Sus­tain­able Think­ing for Libraries 
  2. Learn about Green Libraries 
  3. Nation­al Day of Ser­vice web­site 
  4. World Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Ideas 
  5. 35+ Ser­vice Projects for Kids

Mr. Z’s Book Sug­ges­tions on Ser­vice

Books on Service


Looking Both Ways

I Caution road signgrew up a bit unclear about what is con­sid­ered accept­able risk.

My mom was an ear­ly adopter of the entire “don’t run with scis­sors” canon. And my dad reg­u­lar­ly told us about his teenage antics blow­ing things up and catch­ing rat­tlesnakes.

Find­ing the bal­anc­ing point between tak­ing risks and stay­ing safe proved a lit­tle con­fus­ing for me.

It con­tin­ues to be some­thing I meet up with when­ev­er I do class­room writ­ing work­shops. Some stu­dents jump into wild cre­ativ­i­ty with­out hear­ing a sin­gle warn­ing rat­tle. Oth­ers stop to look both ways so often that they nev­er suc­cess­ful­ly make it across the writ­ing street.

The truth is that both approach­es serve stu­dents well at dif­fer­ent stages of the writ­ing process. Dur­ing the ear­ly brain­storm­ing and draft­ing stages, it’s best to surge for­ward with­out over­think­ing the fact that a writ­ing project can blow up in your face at any moment. And espe­cial­ly dur­ing the lat­er writ­ing stages, stu­dents need to take the rules of writ­ing into account. Yes, writ­ers can and do break those rules. But it is best to do it with appro­pri­ate cau­tion, only cross­ing that street if they have con­sid­ered both ways and deter­mined that their deci­sion best serves their read­ers.

No won­der some young writ­ers are con­fused! I’ve seen those who are unable to cre­ate ear­ly drafts because they’re so wor­ried about break­ing the writ­ing rules. And I’ve seen those who are unable to take the appro­pri­ate care and con­cern with their work in the lat­er stages, so that they can’t cre­ate some­thing that trans­lates for an audi­ence.

Despite their risk-tak­ing dif­fer­ences, my par­ents man­aged to cre­ate a har­mo­nious house­hold. Work to help your young writ­ers see that they can bring a har­mo­nious bal­ance to their writ­ing by learn­ing to look both ways: there is a time for tak­ing risks and a time for let­ting the rules rule.


Timeless Tales Program

Cre­at­ing a Con­nect­ed Com­mu­ni­ty of Read­ers: Inter­gen­er­a­tional Sto­ry­time

After see­ing a hand­ful of arti­cles about nurs­ing homes open­ing up preschools in a shared space, as well as the ben­e­fits from this part­ner­ship, I want­ed to find a way to cre­ate the same inter­gen­er­a­tional con­nec­tion in a library set­ting. We already had a rela­tion­ship with our local retire­ment home as our Cir­cu­la­tion Super­vi­sor does month­ly out­reach and book check­outs for the res­i­dents, so I approached their staff with the idea.

I was for­tu­nate to have a very will­ing com­mu­ni­ty part­ner in Fran­cis­can Vil­lage Assist­ed Liv­ing at Our Lady of Vic­to­ry Con­vent, who could not have been more sup­port­ive of my vision for bring­ing fam­i­ly sto­ry­time to their facil­i­ty. Work­ing with their staff, we planned a day that worked well both for them and for our sto­ry­time fam­i­lies. The major­i­ty of our pro­gram par­tic­i­pants are preschool aged and younger. We also chose to have me present to their mem­o­ry care res­i­dents.

We adver­tised the pro­gram in our newslet­ter with the fol­low­ing descrip­tion: “Enjoy sto­ries, songs, crafts, and a spe­cial treat at an inter­gen­er­a­tional sto­ry­time with the res­i­dents of Fran­cis­can Vil­lage. Join us off­site at the Assist­ed Liv­ing at Our Lady of Vic­to­ry Con­vent.” We post­ed fly­ers in the library and on our dig­i­tal sig­nage, cre­at­ed Face­book events, and had the events list­ed on our online cal­en­dar. We are lucky to have a very involved patron base of fam­i­lies so with those pro­mo­tion­al items and word of mouth at oth­er pro­grams, word spread eas­i­ly.

families attend Timeless Tales storytime

At this once-a-month pro­gram, I plan a reg­u­lar sto­ry­time with a craft, aimed at the kids that are going to be par­tic­i­pat­ing (because this is a reg­is­tered pro­gram, I have a gen­er­al idea of the ages of the par­tic­i­pants). So far our reg­is­tra­tion has been full for all ses­sions, but I do have a con­tin­gency should no fam­i­lies show up. This would con­sist of read­ing longer pic­ture books to the res­i­dents, so that they will still be pre­sent­ed with a pro­gram.

For our Decem­ber ses­sion, I chose four win­try sto­ries and we dec­o­rat­ed wood­en orna­ments with mark­ers and stick on gems. It was heart­warm­ing to see how quick­ly all the chil­dren took to the res­i­dents and how easy the inter­ac­tions were. When it came time for the craft, the kids and res­i­dents worked side by side, and any res­i­dent that need­ed help with the fine motor skills, the kids would step in and assist. There were some that even made the craft out­right for the res­i­dents so that they would leave with a fin­ished prod­uct.

Both our library and Fran­cis­can Vil­lage are very encour­aged by the start of this pro­gram and have dates planned into the Spring.

Please feel free to con­tact me with any ques­tions about the pro­gram: Rachel Sny­der, Children’s Ser­vices Man­ag­er, Lemont Pub­lic Library, rsnyder@lemontlibrary.org.

Rachel Snyder, Lemont Public Library

Rachel Sny­der, Chil­dren’s Ser­vices Man­ag­er, Lemont Pub­lic Library


A Broken Wrist Isn’t All Bad

Lynne Jonell Page Break


For the Love of Pickles

Know some pick­le crazy kids? I do! A favorite birth­day din­ner that my grand­kids request is Pick­le Pas­ta (recipe below) — not the cold pas­ta sal­ad vari­ety, mind you, but warm but­tery noo­dles dot­ted with briny pick­les. My daugh­ter cre­at­ed this sim­ple but oh-so-sat­is­fy­ing dish dur­ing her col­lege days when the cup­boards were some­times near­ly bare.

Sarah's Pickle Pasta

I guar­an­tee you will have eaters who pick the pick­les out to savor sep­a­rate­ly; and eaters who will pre­fer bites of pas­ta with their pick­les — either way it’s the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to chant: “Peter Piper picked a plate of pick­led pas­ta.” Then it’s time for a pick­le sto­ry or two.

Two favorites are Lau­ren McGill’s Pick­le Muse­um (Har­court 2003) by Jer­dine Nolen and the ever­green Pick­le Things (Parent’s Mag­a­zine Press, 1980) by Marc Brown.

Lauren McGill's Pickle MuseumKids will enjoy Jer­dine Nolen’s unique tall-tale voice and super descrip­tive lan­guage in Lau­ren McGill’s Pick­le Muse­um. Lau­ren McGill is obsessed with pick­les until the day she vis­its a pick­le fac­to­ry and her class­mates go crazy for pick­les, too.

Sud­den­ly, Lauren’s spe­cial thing doesn’t seem very spe­cial. After adjust­ing her out­look, Lau­ren dis­cov­ers a way to share her love of pick­les that brings hap­pi­ness to oth­ers and her­self.

Look for this book with its cheery and charm­ing illus­tra­tions (don’t miss the pick­le quilt) by Deb­bie Tilley at the library or used book store.

Pickle ThingsPick­le Things will get every­one gig­gling. Marc Brown’s clas­sic rhyming book is great for new read­ers, while adults find the sil­ly pick­le inter­ac­tions fun­ny, too. The illus­tra­tion of a pick­le leav­ing a ring in the bath tub is my favorite. And don’t laugh too hard at the notion of pick­le pies and pick­le cakes. Check the inter­net for trendy pick­le cup­cake recipes. Hmm…The per­fect dessert for pick­le pas­ta night?

The old­er edi­tion of Pick­le Things is avail­able at libraries, while a new­er reprint (Marc Brown Stu­dios, 2016) can be found at stores or online.

Sarah’s Pick­le Pas­ta
Serves 6 – 8

1 16 ounce box elbow mac­a­roni*
6 Tbsp. but­ter
2 cups (or more) chopped dill pick­les
Splash of pick­le juice (option­al)
Sea­soned salt
Fresh grat­ed parme­san cheese

Boil the pas­ta accord­ing to box instruc­tions and drain.

Sautée the pick­les in melt­ed but­ter until heat­ed through.

Add but­ter to drained pas­ta and sprin­kle with plen­ty of sea­soned salt.

Mix in a splash of pick­le juice and top with fresh­ly grat­ed parme­san cheese.

*Veg­etable pas­ta can be used to improve the health­i­ness of this dish  


Equality’s Call

Equality's CallWrit­ten by Deb­o­rah Diesen in read­able-out-loud verse with a refrain that reflects the cumu­la­tive action in the pre­ced­ing pages, this pic­ture book traces the dili­gent efforts of those who worked for decades to make Amer­i­ca’s vot­ing rights more inclu­sive. There is his­to­ry here for every­one to know.

The illus­tra­tions add pas­sion and under­stand­ing to the text, help­ing us with more infor­ma­tion. Mag­dale­na Mora cre­at­ed them with gouache, water­col­or, ink, pas­tel, pen­cil, and dig­i­tal col­lage. The results are movi­ing. There is a soft­ness and an edge, the faces are dis­tinct and diverse, the col­ors are warm, invit­ing us to under­stand that we are part of the ongo­ing effort to make equal­i­ty the law.

The jour­ney’s not over.
The work has­n’t end­ed.
Democ­ra­cy’s dream
must be con­stant­ly tend­ed.”

Equality's Call illustration

illus­tra­tion from Equal­i­ty’s Call: The Sto­ry of Vot­ing Rights in Amer­i­ca,” writ­ten by Deb­o­rah Diesen, illus­trat­ed by Mag­dale­na Mora, pub­lished by Beach Lane Books, Feb­ru­ary 2020. Illus­tra­tion copy­right Ⓒ Mag­dale­na Mora.

Read this book in the class­room, your library, and at home to start dis­cus­sion and piqué curios­i­ty. In this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year, the more our chil­dren (and future vot­ers) under­stand about the ongo­ing his­to­ry of our democ­ra­cy, the more they will feel a part of nec­es­sary deci­sions and under­stand the mean­ing of their right — and respon­si­bil­i­ty — to vote.

Equal­i­ty’s Call: The Sto­ry of Vot­ing Rights in Amer­i­ca
writ­ten by Deb­o­rah Diesen
illus­trat­ed by Mag­dale­na Mora
Beach Lane Books, 2020
ISBN 978 – 1534439580


Heidi Bread

I real­ized (again) over the win­ter hol­i­days this year that much of hol­i­day friv­o­li­ty cen­ters on food. I’d have it no oth­er way, myself, but I must say that after a couple/few weeks of eat­ing grand meals, too many sweets, and grab­bing tea/coffee more often than usu­al, I crave sim­plic­i­ty when I sit down for lunch in the mid­dle of a writ­ing day. Soup and sal­ad is good, of course — and just what the body needs after too much food and drink — but this last week, I find that I’m hun­gry for some­thing more…fundamental. Basic. Easy. Warm and fill­ing with­out being exces­sive.

And so I’ve been eat­ing Hei­di Bread.

If you don’t imme­di­ate­ly know what this is, let me jog your mem­o­ry with a scene from Hei­di by Johan­na Spyri.

 The ket­tle soon began to boil, and mean­while the old man held a large piece of cheese on a long iron fork over the fire turn­ing it round and round until it was toast­ed a nice gold­en yel­low on each side….. Then he brought her a large slice of bread and a piece of the gold­en cheese, and told her to eat….

Was the milk nice?” asked her grand­fa­ther.

I nev­er drank any so good before,” answered Hei­di.

Then you must have some more,” and the old man filled her bowl again to the brim and set it before the child who was now hun­gri­ly begin­ning her bread, hav­ing first spread it with the cheese, which after being toast­ed was soft as but­ter…..

I have such a vis­cer­al mem­o­ry of read­ing this scene as a child. Per­haps I was hun­gry, but I could taste that cheese and bread washed down with milk. I’d cer­tain­ly nev­er been any­where like the Swiss Alps, but I knew some­how that this sim­plest of sim­ple dish­es would be unlike any­thing I had ever eat­en. (Side note: when I did make it to the Swiss Alps as an adult I was ever so slight­ly dis­ap­point­ed that nobody served me Hei­di Bread. But I learned about museli and full-fat yogurt, so the trip was worth it.)

I remem­ber ask­ing my moth­er if we could make Hei­di Bread. She was not up for the long iron fork over the fire but sug­gest­ed we use the toast­er oven to approx­i­mate the dish. She under­stood that this was not a toast­ed cheese sand­wich I was after. My Mom made home­made whole-wheat bread and she cut a thick­er than usu­al slice of it, put some cheese on top—not Velvee­ta, but col­by cheese also thick­ly sliced — and popped it into the toast­er oven. It was absolute­ly an accept­able vari­a­tion. One has to work with what is avail­able, after all.

When I read Hei­di to my own kids, they too — and I swear I did not lead them into it — were fas­ci­nat­ed with the cheese melt­ed over the fire and spread on the bread. I explained it was called Hei­di Bread. They imme­di­ate­ly want­ed it for lunch. With a bowl — not a cup — of milk. We were read­ing out­side and #1 Son pro­cured a stick he thought might work for the cheese toast­ing. (Nev­er mind we did not have a fire in the back­yard.) I gen­tly sug­gest­ed the toast­er oven vari­a­tion. And because I also make whole-wheat bread reg­u­lar­ly, I was able to cut thick rus­tic slices and top them with thick­ly sliced cheese. (Some­how thick­ness makes it feel more authen­tic.) We poured milk in cere­al bowls and feast­ed, agree­ing that it was entire­ly deli­cious and a most­ly accept­able alter­na­tive to the iron fork over the fire. We also agreed maybe we would try that camp­ing sometime…and I can’t think if we’ve done that or not (yet!)

To this day we call this sim­ple meal Hei­di Bread. It makes an excel­lent lunch. I’m not so much for the milk in bowls part, but a few pages of this clas­sic nov­el is an excel­lent accom­pa­ny­ing side. I com­mend it to you.


Reading Books Through the Lens of Peace

Wel­come to Peace-olo­gy. We are two children’s authors team­ing up to review children’s books with peace in mind. 

Caren Stelson

Caren Stel­son, author and edu­ca­tor, peace advo­cate

Caren: After all our inter­views for our book Sachiko: A Nagasa­ki Bomb Survivor’s Sto­ry, I asked the book’s inspi­ra­tion, peace edu­ca­tor Sachiko Yasui, if she had any last words she would like to share with chil­dren.

Sachiko’s response was to think about this:

What is peace?
What kind of per­son should I be?
Keep pur­su­ing answers to these ques­tions.

I haven’t stopped think­ing about Sachiko’s ques­tions. When I met Ellie, we dis­cov­ered we ask the same ques­tions when look­ing for books for kids.

Ellie Roscher

Ellie Rosch­er, author and edu­ca­tor, peace advo­cate

Ellie: I read to my three- and five-year-old chil­dren every sin­gle day. They mem­o­rize lines from books and book char­ac­ters are the basis for our imag­i­na­tive play. I also teach peace lit­er­a­cy to teenagers. I am fas­ci­nat­ed as a par­ent and teacher which books spark curios­i­ty in kids and broad­en their uni­verse. Which books lead to true explo­ration around pow­er and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion? Which beau­ti­ful­ly show human­i­ties unfold­ing with a bend toward jus­tice? I am active­ly on the look-ut for books that inform our imag­i­na­tions about what kind of healed world is pos­si­ble.

Caren and Ellie: In our upcom­ing Peace-olo­gy series, we’ll be on the look-out for peace books we can rec­om­mend to you. What is the lan­guage of peace? Which sto­ries cap­ture peace in ways that inspire inquiry? How can children’s books help adults and chil­dren explore the mul­ti-lay­ers of peace togeth­er… because Mahat­ma Gand­hi said, “If we are to teach real peace in this world … we shall have to begin with the chil­dren.”

PeaceHere is the first book we’d like to share to ring in the New Year: Peace by Wendy Ander­son Halperin, Atheneum Books for Young Read­ers, 2013.

Weav­ing the words from the Tao Te Ching, “For there to be peace in the world …” as well as oth­er quotes from world’s peace­mak­ers, chil­dren explore a peace jour­ney through Wendy’s exquis­ite­ly detailed draw­ings, inspired by ele­men­tary chil­dren. Snug­gle up and togeth­er wend your way from peace in the world to peace in your heart.

What can you do in 2020 to cul­ti­vate peace in your body, your fam­i­ly, and your world? Maybe it’s design­ing a quilt of peace inspired by Wendy’s book, or lis­ten­ing deeply to per­son­al sto­ries of a friend, fam­i­ly mem­ber, or a staff mem­ber in your school. Or maybe it’s slow­ing down, adjust­ing neg­a­tive self-talk, and help­ing our chil­dren appraise the pos­i­tive. Our world needs more peace, and it can start with each of us.


illus­tra­tion copy­right Wendy Ander­son Halperin, from Peace, Atheneum, 2013

Do you have children’s books or ideas with peace themes you’d like to share? Please do.

As we can, we would like to incor­po­rate your rec­om­men­da­tions into upcom­ing arti­cles, and of course, acknowl­edge you. Let’s make Peace-olo­gy inter­ac­tive. Write to either of us and describe your sug­ges­tion, includ­ing your name, con­tact, and pro­fes­sion­al or orga­ni­za­tion­al. www.ellieroscher or www.carenstelson.com

Hap­py New Year to all. We look for­ward to being on this peace jour­ney togeth­er.


Caroline B. Cooney

Caroline B. Cooney

Car­o­line B. Cooney

To begin our year of Skin­ny Dip­pin’ for 2020, and in the cold­est month of the year (brrrrr), we inter­viewed Car­o­line B. Cooney, the author of so many beloved books includ­ing The Face on the Milk Car­tonCode OrangeNo Such Per­son, and her most recent pic­ture book, I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug! Look for her new book for adult read­ers in May 2020, Before She Was Helen. These books will warm you up! Car­o­line lives and writes in South Car­oli­na. 

What keeps me up at night: Every­thing. I have insom­nia. Who­ev­er wants to send me solu­tions, I’m lis­ten­ing. On the oth­er hand, I have a lot more read­ing time than sleep­ing peo­ple do.

I nev­er thought I would: live in a retire­ment com­mu­ni­ty, but it is so easy to make friends and find new chal­lenges and things to do — it’s a cruise ship with­out the water.

My mom was right about: pret­ty much every­thing. She died at 98 and my chil­dren still talk of the exam­ples she set and the plea­sure they had in her com­pa­ny.

If I could say one thing to my fifty-years-younger self, it would be: STAY IN SCHOOL! How­ev­er, maybe I didn’t fin­ish col­lege, but I did fin­ish dozens of books.

Miss Buncle's BookI’m cur­rent­ly read­ing: reprints of two won­der­ful Eng­lish authors, D.E.Stevenson and Geor­gette Hey­er — delight­ful gen­tle mys­ter­ies writ­ten decades ago.  They’ve all stood the test of time. Start with Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book.

No one knows that I have: per­fect pitch. It’s an asset no one can see and no one knows you’re using it.

I tell myself every day: to be thank­ful. I usu­al­ly repeat a few lines from E. E. Cum­mings:

i thank You God for most this amaz­ing day; for the leap­ing green­ly spir­its of trees and a blue true dream of sky.

DynastyWhat’s on my night­stand: Tom Holland’s Dynasty, the fol­low up to his out­stand­ing his­to­ry of Julius Cae­sar, Rubi­con.

My heroes are: my par­ents, who because of the Depres­sion, could not fol­low dreams, but who could work hard, raise a good fam­i­ly, and live well.

The bravest thing I’ve ever done: The year I packed up my chil­dren and went to live in Lon­don because it sound­ed like some­thing an author would do. We lived on a street where Mary Pop­pins might have dropped in.

Guilti­est plea­sure: I don’t feel guilty about tak­ing joy in life. Some of my plea­sures right now are pot­tery, mah jong, and, of course, friends.

The scari­est book I’ve ever read:  I can write scary books, but I don’t gen­er­al­ly read them. I am hap­py to spook oth­ers, but I don’t myself want to be on the ceil­ing with anx­i­ety.

Caroline Cooney's books


Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
January 2020

Rais­ing Star Read­ers rel­ish­es this chance to catch up with Ann Angel and her multi­gen­er­a­tional Read­ing Team. For this entry, Ann was espe­cial­ly focused on how the words and visu­al art in pic­ture books lead kids to think and to dream. Here’s how Ann describes it:

Long before I had kids and grand­kids, I thought I’d grow up to be a visu­al artist. And, although my art turned to writ­ing, I always, always, ALWAYS loved to share word play and the details of bril­liant illus­tra­tion in pic­ture books with my chil­dren. Now that they’re grown with chil­dren of their own, I catch them perus­ing illus­tra­tions with their kids to find hid­den, sil­ly, or tiny images that tell a sto­ry with­in a sto­ry. These illus­tra­tions help all of us see how artists draw that sto­ry and move it from the words on the page to art that cre­ates sub-plot and deep­er mean­ings. With­out a doubt, the dis­cov­ery helps us to think more deeply about themes, and to dream about the details of our lives.

Many pic­ture books use nuanced art so kids think about sto­ries in ways that lead them to dis­cov­er tech­niques to nego­ti­ate life and to dream about the mag­ic and, some­times, the silli­ness of the world.

Wild Wild Sunflower Child AnnaI was remind­ed of that mag­ic recent­ly when I came across a dusty copy of Wild Wild Sun­flower Child Anna by Nan­cy White Carl­strom (author) and Jer­ry Pinkney (illus­tra­tor).

When my daugh­ter Ste­vi saw the cov­er she com­ment­ed, “I loved that book. It was one of my favorites.” In part, I think she loved the book because she looked a bit like Anna, but most­ly, I think she fell into the botan­i­cal illus­tra­tions and the mag­ic of nature. After all, this was the daugh­ter who tried to keep pet worms in a plas­tic cup in her bed­room. She was also known in our fam­i­ly for play­ing with, and even kiss­ing, frogs and toads while danc­ing through gar­dens and fields.

Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna illustration

illus­tra­tion copy­right Jer­ry Pinkney from WIld Wild Sun­flower Child Anna, Simon & Schus­ter, 1987, writ­ten by Nan­cy White Carl­strom

That favorite book dis­cov­ery led to an after­noon with both daugh­ters and grand­kids. Daugh­ter Aman­da, a fifth grade teacher with a love of books (and a tal­ent for writ­ing and art her­self), delight­ed in explor­ing illus­tra­tions with nephew Ted­dy and her son and daugh­ter Andrew and Emma.

Ann Angel's family

Ted­dy, Andrew, Aman­da, Emma

Laundry DayAfter read­ing Anna’s gar­den tale, Aman­da pulled out Laun­dry Day, a book by writer/illustrator Jes­sixa Bagley.

(Of course, I joined in the fun with Laun­dry Day, which is our newest favorite.)

In this book, two bored bad­gers, Tic and Tac, help their moth­er hang laun­dry on a line to dry. They turn this into a game to hang the sil­li­est things. I won’t give all the items away but they include a broom, a comb, a pail of water, even a mouse sit­ting in a soup ladle. The images led the grand­kids to iden­ti­fy items they rec­og­nized and to learn about how some items might have been used by their par­ents and grand­par­ents when they were kids.

Laundry Day illustration

illus­tra­tion copy­right Jes­sixa Bagley, from Laun­dry Day, Roar­ing Brook Press, 2017

Vincent Comes HomeAman­da end­ed up read­ing an entire stack of favorites while grand­kids explored the pic­tures. Jessixa’s detailed art was def­i­nite­ly a top new choice.

In one case, because Vin­cent the cat who lives on a car­go ship looks like our grand-cat Finnegan, Aman­da end­ed up pour­ing over details of ships, ports, and cities with Vin­cent Comes Home, co-cre­at­ed by Jes­sixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley.

Wherever You GoAnoth­er favorite is Wher­ev­er You Go, writ­ten by Pat Ziet­low Miller and illus­trat­ed by Eliza Wheel­er.

This delight­ful pic­ture book takes read­ers on a bicy­cle jour­ney with a rab­bit and his com­pan­ion owl through tun­nels, across bridges, into forests, and cities, and dis­tant lands. We learn that we can always return home again. By the way, this book makes a delight­ful high school grad­u­a­tion gift ─ I gave it to my old­est grand­daugh­ter, Beth, who’s study­ing lib­er­al arts in Wash­ing­ton State. (She’s not pic­tured because she’s savor­ing a mel­low Wash­ing­ton cli­mate while we’re sur­viv­ing the cold Mid­west­ern win­ter.)

Ann Angel's family

You can’t keep Ann away from books and her read­ing bud­dies!


Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in par­tic­i­pat­ing.


Arnold Lobel at Home

Every win­ter I find myself miss­ing Arnold Lobel, a qui­et­ly bril­liant author-illus­tra­tor who left us far too ear­ly. I pull out my Lobel I Can Read col­lec­tion. Frog and Toad Are Friends was pub­lished in 1970, the year I grad­u­at­ed from high school, bent on my own career in children’s books. Hailed an instant clas­sic by many far-see­ing indi­vid­u­als, Frog and Toad earned a Calde­cott Hon­or. My copy, the first Harp­er Tro­phy edi­tion, is from 1979. That same year I bought a set of Frog and Toad stuffed dolls because they were so ridicu­lous. Lobel remarked in an inter­view, “Their pants kept falling down in the ear­ly mock-ups, but they’ve fixed that.”

Frog and Toad dolls

Not exact­ly. My Toad doll wears what can only be called plumber’s pants. Yet amphib­ians dressed in falling-down trousers is just the sort of thing that would amuse Lobel. He drew inspi­ra­tion from fab­u­list Edward Lear. Like Lear, Arnold Lobel pos­sessed an imag­i­na­tion unfet­tered by the laws of log­ic and prob­a­bil­i­ty. The sto­ries in the Frog and Toad quar­tet are absurd, ten­der, and decep­tive­ly sim­ple. They are also per­fect. When stu­dents ask my advice on writ­ing easy read­ers, I send them to Frog and Toad. “Aim for the pin­na­cle,” I tell them.

Owl at HomeAs much as I love Frog and Toad, I’m equal­ly fond — maybe a lit­tle more so — of Owl at Home. Lobel once described Owl as “a com­plete psy­chot­ic,” but I find his char­ac­ter charm­ing­ly eccen­tric. In each of the five sto­ries, Owl is all alone. No won­der he’s a bit dif­fer­ent. In “The Guest,” Owl feels sor­ry for poor old Win­ter out in the cold and invites Win­ter into his house. Gusts of snow and wind blow wild­ly through the room. Owl learns the hard way that not all guests have man­ners.

In anoth­er sto­ry, Owl is con­cerned that the upstairs of his house is lone­ly when he is down­stairs and vice ver­sa. He races up and down the stairs, try­ing to be in two places at once. Exhaust­ed, he final­ly sits on the mid­dle step. It’s utter non­sense but the child in me loves the fact Owl wor­ries that the floor he isn’t on miss­es him. Owl makes tear-water tea by think­ing of sad things like spoons dropped behind the stove, pen­cils too short to use, and songs that can’t be sung because the words have been for­got­ten. His tears fill the ket­tle for a salty but refresh­ing tea.

Owl goes for a walk in “Owl and the Moon.” When the moon ris­es, he rea­sons that if he sees the moon, then the moon sees him, and they must be friends. On his way home, Owl notices the moon fol­low­ing. He tells the moon to go back. “You real­ly must not come home with me. My house is too small. You would not fit through the door. And I have noth­ing to give you for sup­per.” My heart turns over at Owl’s dis­tress over being unable to feed the moon. In the end, Owl real­izes the moon is shin­ing in his bed­room: “What a good, round friend you are.” This book makes me want to knock on Owl’s door and ask him to lunch.

Frog and Toad Are FriendsThe Frog and Toad books were inspired by vaca­tions on Lake Bomoseen, Ver­mont, where Lobel’s chil­dren caught frogs and toads and oth­er small ani­mals. While Frog and Toad received the most praise (Calde­cott Hon­or, New­bery Hon­or, Nation­al Book Award final­ist, Children’s Book Show­case, George G. Stone Award) and are still high­ly regard­ed, I feel Owl at Home is a sleep­er. Owl reminds me of the boy Arnold, who strug­gled to make friends.

In both writ­ing and art, Lobel hit his stride with his I Can Read books. Spot illus­tra­tions and framed vignettes in only two or three col­ors gen­tly guide new read­ers through the texts. Lobel didn’t like bright col­ors in “those lit­tle books,” as he referred to them. “In my ear­ly years I used to do bright col­ors … and I real­ly wasn’t hap­py, so I grad­u­al­ly got muter and muter and became more pleased with the aes­thet­ic result.” It has been said that his begin­ning read­ers pro­mote inti­ma­cy, safe­ty, and a sense of order. To me, they feel like home.

The ani­mal char­ac­ters in those lit­tle books dwell in cozy hous­es, with com­fy fur­ni­ture, books, and flow­ers. They tell sto­ries, read — some­times to each oth­er — take walks, gar­den, and drink tea. Lobel loved cre­at­ing books for chil­dren: “There is a lit­tle world at the end of my pen­cil.” But he wasn’t always a ray of sun­shine. His child­hood was lone­ly. He kept part of his adult life hid­den. “When I am brought low by the vicis­si­tudes of life,” he once remarked, “I stum­ble to my book­shelves. I take a lit­tle dose of Zemach or Shule­vitz. I grab a shot of Goff­stein or Mar­shall … the treat­ment works. I always feel much bet­ter.”

FablesI met Arnold Lobel once. An illus­tra­tor friend and I went to hear him speak in the fall of 1980, the year he won the Calde­cott for his pic­ture book Fables. As a pre­sen­ter, he was mod­est, fun­ny, and gen­er­ous. After the event, my friend and I head­ed for the park­ing lot when we saw Lobel walk­ing alone to his rental car. We couldn’t believe that a Calde­cott win­ner was all by him­self. My friend asked him a few ques­tions about mak­ing pic­ture books, which he answered hon­est­ly. I stayed qui­et. It was enough to stand next to the man who brought Frog and Toad and Owl and oth­er char­ac­ters into my world.

In the win­ter of 1987, Arnold Lobel died at age 54, one of the first in the children’s book com­mu­ni­ty to fall vic­tim to AIDS. He once said in a speech, “To be mak­ing books for chil­dren is to be in a sort of state of grace.” I try to remem­ber those words when I’m feel­ing less than char­i­ta­ble toward the indus­try that’s been my home for near­ly 40 years. When I’m brought low by the vicis­si­tudes of life, I vis­it Frog and Toad, Owl, Grasshop­per, and Uncle Ele­phant. Lobel’s treat­ment works. I always feel wel­come.  





Writing Road Kill

source: Adobe Stock #157415101

source: Adobe Stock #157415101

When­ev­er we get a large snow­fall in Min­neso­ta, I’m remind­ed of the time I was saved by a snow angel. We were being whomped with a mas­sive bliz­zard and I was sched­uled to work at a book­store until 11:00 p.m. By the time the boss said it was okay for me to leave, it was too late: my car got com­plete­ly stuck in the mid­dle of a city street. I was miles from home, it was well after dark, freez­ing­ly cold, and I was cov­ered in snow up to the hem of my skirt. There wasn’t a per­son or a lit house in sight; every­one else was nes­tled snug­ly in their beds.

Those were pre-cell phone times. Know­ing that if I left my car in the mid­dle of the street it would become snow­plow road kill — some­thing my book­store salary couldn’t afford — I was using the rarely-effec­tive prob­lem-solv­ing method of “wring­ing my hands and moan­ing” when a figure appeared out of nowhere. One moment nobody was there, and the next a guy was set­ting a can of beer down on my snow-cov­ered hood and shov­el­ing out my wheels. He didn’t say a word. Once he had the under­side of the car cleared, he motioned me into the front seat, and with him push­ing, we man­aged to get my vehi­cle out of harm’s way to the side of the road. He waved off my offer of pay­ment and dis­ap­peared into the storm (with his pre­sum­ably now ice-cold beer in hand). I remem­bered that a friend of mine lived only a cou­ple of blocks away, and I showed up unan­nounced on her doorstep at mid­night to be wel­comed with hot cocoa, dry clothes, and a pull-out sofa.

That episode is one of the times, for me, when the idea of a big­ger force at work in my life seems not only pos­si­ble, but prob­a­ble. Both at the time and in my mem­o­ry, my snow angel feels like a figure from far out­side of every­day real­i­ty: pop­ping up between snowflakes just in time to deal with my cri­sis, and then van­ish­ing silent­ly and com­plete­ly. Besides, it’s some­how fit­ting that any angel of mine would be chug­ging beer out of a can rather than a head­ier celes­tial brew.

Some young writ­ers (like some pro­fes­sion­als) real­ly strug­gle with writ­ing at times, and my expe­ri­ence is that it’s impor­tant to tell them that this is a per­fect­ly nor­mal part of the cre­ative act. Wran­gling words onto paper requires us to face down chal­lenges. The trick is to con­tin­ue to push your­self out into the cre­ative storm, into the places where your writ­ing will get stuck — because where you get stuck is also the place you can grow. Or at least, the place where you can learn to accept mir­a­cles.

Writ­ing well is hard. If you’re not chal­leng­ing your­self as a writer, you can turn into writ­ing road kill. Besides: angels need a rea­son to show up.


Modern-Day Treasure Hunting

Why was I crawl­ing through a frozen sew­er pipe on my hands and knees in the mid­dle of win­ter?

I was geo­caching, my lat­est obses­sion.

If you haven’t heard of geo­caching, it’s a world­wide trea­sure hunt using GPS to locate hid­den con­tain­ers called geo­caches. There are lit­er­al­ly mil­lions of geo­caches hid­den around the globe. When I first start­ed play­ing, I was delight­ed to dis­cov­er that there were sev­er­al with­in walk­ing dis­tance of my town­home.

My friend Gary with a geocache

My friend Gary with a geo­cache he dis­cov­ered at the base of a tree in a local park.

What exact­ly is a geo­cache? It can be as sim­ple as a plas­tic Tup­per­ware con­tain­er with a log­book inside to record your name. Part of the fun of geo­caching, how­ev­er, is the cre­ative ways in which these caches can be dis­guised. I’ve been geo­caching for just over a year now and some of the more than 500 con­tain­ers I’ve found include:

  • a ceram­ic gnome hid­den inside a hol­low tree
  • a secret draw­er built into an ornate Lit­tle Free Library
  • an arti­fi­cial rock beneath a busy bus stop bench
  • a bird­house on the porch of an antique store in rur­al Wis­con­sin
  • a hol­lowed-out book on the shelves of the pub­lic library where my writ­ing group meets

I’ve found geo­caches as small as my fin­ger­nail and as large as a garbage can, and every size in-between.

tiny geocache

This tiny mag­net­ic geo­cache was stuck to the back of a city street sign.
It unscrewed to reveal a tiny log­book inside.

Who hides all of these caches? Any­one can, once they’ve learned the basics of the game.

I tend to get stuck in famil­iar ruts, so for me, one of the great­est joys of geo­caching has been all the new places I’ve dis­cov­ered. I’ve been to parks and walk­ing trails in my own home­town that I nev­er knew exist­ed. While I’ve been on vaca­tion, geo­caching has tak­en me to his­toric build­ings, stun­ning scenic over­looks, and unique parts of the city I would have nev­er oth­er­wise dis­cov­ered. When­ev­er I give an author pre­sen­ta­tion out of town, one of the first things I do is check to see what geo­caches are in the area. I always dis­cov­er some­thing new.

Panoramic view in Norway

Search­ing for geo­caches in Nor­way brought me to this panoram­ic view.

Geocaching in Madison Minnesota

While vis­it­ing schools in west­ern Min­neso­ta, I found a geo­cache hang­ing on the back of this sign.
Who knew I was in the lute­fisk cap­i­tal of the coun­try?

Posts covered with padlocks on Lake Superior

One of these locks near Lake Supe­ri­or in Duluth con­tains a geo­cache…
but which one?

Are you feel­ing adven­tur­ous?

It’s easy to get start­ed. All you need is a device with a GPS app, such as a smart­phone. Go to geocaching.com and set up a free account. Then type in a loca­tion and you’ll be shown a map of all the geo­caches in the area. Each geo­cache is rat­ed with a dif­fi­cul­ty lev­el from 1 (eas­i­est) to 5 (most dif­fi­cult) so you can choose the degree of chal­lenge you want.

Fol­low­ing the map should bring you with­in ten feet of the geo­cache. That’s when the hunt­ing begins. Is the cache inside that hol­low stump? On the back of that stop sign? Hang­ing from a tree branch? Clues in the online descrip­tion will help you nar­row your search. And then suddenly…you spot it! I still haven’t grown tired of the burst of adren­a­line I feel each time I dis­cov­er a new cache, hid­den to every­one else in the world except for me and my fel­low cachers.

Retrieving a geocache from a tree

My broth­er-in-law retriev­ing a geo­cache hang­ing from a branch.
To reach it, he used a 24-foot pole we con­struct­ed from emp­ty card­board tubes.

Once you find a geo­cache, sign the log, replace it exact­ly as you found it, and then search for anoth­er. Every­thing I need­ed to know in order to find my first cache I learned by watch­ing this short YouTube video. Be warned, how­ev­er. Geo­caching can be addic­tive. I know folks who have found more than 20,000 caches and are still going strong!

Geo­caching is a hob­by for all ages and abil­i­ties. My eight- and eleven-year-old great nieces love the lure of find­ing the inex­pen­sive trin­kets locat­ed inside some of the larg­er geo­caches, while retirees have told me it’s a fun way to get exer­cise.

Ready to dis­cov­er a new park, a new trail, or just a new sec­tion of your neigh­bor­hood? Then try geo­caching! And don’t wor­ry. You won’t have to crawl through a sew­er pipe…unless you want to.


Magination Press

Look­ing for a book for a child who is expe­ri­enc­ing a hard time — maybe being bul­lied, maybe par­ents are divorc­ing or some­one is seri­ous­ly ill, or some­thing scary hap­pened at school or in the com­mu­ni­ty. Or maybe a teen feels “dif­fer­ent”?

Mag­i­na­tion Press is a book imprint of the Amer­i­can Psy­chol­o­gy Asso­ci­a­tion that — through books — helps fam­i­lies, par­ents, and chil­dren cope with emo­tion­al, learn­ing, or behav­ioral chal­lenges.

Magination Press logo

I asked Kris­tine Ender­le, edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, to describe the unique focus of Mag­i­na­tion Press.

What is most reward­ing — and chal­leng­ing — about being an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor?

It’s chal­leng­ing — nd reward­ing at the same time — being a small inde­pen­dent press. With near­ly every major pub­lish­er now pub­lish­ing books on social-emo­tion­al learn­ing, men­tal health, and well­ness, our mar­ket just got a lit­tle crowd­ed. But, read­ers should know that they can count on us for strong, evi­dence-based, informed infor­ma­tion. Being part of the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion allows us to work with psy­chol­o­gists — experts in their fields. Our books are rock-sol­id, based on sci­en­tif­ic and trust­ed sources. We are sup­port­ive of and sen­si­tive to our lit­tle read­ers and young adults. Our books are writ­ten with kind­ness and respect. Our books are designed to lead read­ers through an intro­spec­tive and heal­ing process. Our books approach this process from a kid-cen­tered, prob­lem-solv­ing place. We want to empow­er kids by giv­ing them the tools they need to make a dif­fer­ence in their lives.

Mar­ket­ing our books out­side of a schol­ar­ly world has also been chal­leng­ing. We’re thrilled that Jason Wells (for­mer­ly of Rodale and Abrams) joined us in 2018 to help us reach a wider audi­ence and move more con­fi­dent­ly in the trade world through the efforts of his great team. Our front list sales are up over 70% year to date over last year! Our newest titles with new mar­ket­ing are work­ing well togeth­er.

What is the pas­sion that gives you the courage to con­tin­ue pub­lish­ing books?

Mag­i­na­tion Press is the children’s book imprint of the Amer­i­can Psycho­logical Asso­ci­a­tion. Through our work, we aim to make an impact and fur­ther the APA mis­sion — to pro­mote the advance­ment, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and appli­ca­tion of psy­cho­log­i­cal sci­ence and knowl­edge to bene­fit soci­ety and improve lives. So what that means for Mag­i­na­tion Press is through our books we reach young­sters and teens (and their par­ents and care­givers) mak­ing nav­i­gat­ing life’s chal­lenges a lit­tle eas­i­er. Mag­i­na­tion Press works dili­gent­ly to help chil­dren and teens learn to deal with the big and small chal­lenges they may face and be a go-to source of youth-focused books on men­tal health and well­ness, social-emo­tion­al learn­ing. We share with the world men­tal health ex­pertise and psy­cho­log­i­cal knowl­edge to help kids flour­ish and grow. Addi­tion­al­ly, Mag­i­na­tion Press is com­mit­ted to being a pro­gres­sive, proac­tive force for social change and to teach kids about psy­chol­o­gy and how it can inform and empow­er them as they apply psy­cho­log­i­cal sci­ence to their every­day life. This advo­ca­cy-effort, mis­sion-informed approach is what dri­ves Mag­i­na­tion Press.

What keeps you going when dis­ap­point­ments or frus­tra­tions hap­pen?

A tal­ent­ed team of edi­tors and their ener­gy feeds my days. We added a new senior edi­tor role this year and also brought on our first pro­duc­tion edi­tor and in-house graph­ic design­er, so keep an eye on us as we evolve. We are also sign­ing-on famil­iar, beloved authors such as Pat Mora, Lesléa New­man, and oth­ers.

Tell us about a few of your recent pub­li­ca­tions and why they are unique.

Trans + book coverWe love books that lead teens to­ward a place of self-dis­cov­ery and pro­vide hon­est, un­censored, fac­tu­al infor­ma­tion that may answer ques­tions they have relat­ing to men­tal health con­cerns (anx­i­ety, stress, depres­sion, anger, sui­cide), psy­cho­log­i­cal devel­op­ment (self-expres­sion or iden­ti­ty), and social-emo­tion­al psy­chol­o­gy (life skills). An excel­lent exam­ple of such a book is TRANS+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Kathryn Gon­za­les and Karen Rayne. We are super excit­ed about this book! Trans+ is an uncen­sored guide for teens who are trans­gen­der, non­bi­na­ry, gen­der-non­con­form­ing, or gen­der-flu­id. The authors are amaz­ing. The infor­ma­tion is essen­tial and frank. The sto­ries are real, mak­ing the whole book gen­uine, hon­est, author­i­ta­tive, and inclu­sive. It’s real­ly spe­cial.

We work hard to reflect the expe­ri­ences of all kids and cre­ate books where chil­dren and teens can see them­selves and can con­nect with the char­ac­ters. We now make room on our list for books that speak to and help kids under­stand crit­i­cal soci­etal issues and open a con­ver­sa­tion to impact our com­mu­ni­ties. For instance, Some­thing Hap­pened in Our Town is a sto­ry about a police shoot­ing of an unarmed African-Amer­i­can man. It is an amaz­ing book that starts a con­ver­sa­tion about racial injus­tice, inter­nal­ized bias­es, and our coun­try’s his­to­ry of oppres­sion and preju­dices. Also Mar­velous Mar­avil­loso cel­e­brates col­or­ful­ly diverse fam­i­lies and at its core it is about mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, inclu­sion, and bira­cial iden­ti­ty. Jacob’s Room to Choose intro­duces the need for open-access bath­rooms for chil­dren every­where and dis­cuss­es gen­der expres­sion and gen­der non­con­form­ing iden­ti­ty.

Something Happened in Our Town, Marvelous Maravilloso, Jacob's Room to Choose

Goodbye, SchoolI love find­ing books that have a smidgen of psy­chology or sto­ries that sneak impor­tant psychologi­cal con­cepts into the sto­ry. We recent­ly pub­lished a book called, Good­bye, School. There are sev­er­al books about start­ing school, but I haven’t see one about leav­ing school to go to a new school or at the end of the school year. This book tells a sto­ry that guides chil­dren through an impor­tant peri­od of their life and helps them under­stand tran­si­tion or change and acknowl­edge their feel­ings through­out the expe­ri­ence. It’s beau­ti­ful­ly illustrat­ed with charm­ing details and super help­ful with the under­ly­ing psy­chol­o­gy of accept­ing and deal­ing with dif­fi­cult tran­si­tions.

What books of yours would you espe­cial­ly rec­om­mend to teach­ers and librar­i­ans?

Neon Words—a neat writ­ing guide and guid­ed jour­ney of self-expres­sion

Camil­la Car­tog­ra­ph­er—super cute sto­ry about a boar, snowy for­est, maps, and spa­tial aware­ness

Red Yel­low Blue—great lit­tle sto­ry about social and emo­tion­al learn­ing

Giraffe Asks for Help—a per­fect tool to encour­age kids to ask for help with themes of prob­lem-solv­ing and team­work

Giraffe Asks for Help, Neon Words, Red Yellow Blue

What top­ics are you cur­rent­ly look­ing for? (for our author read­ers)

Camilla CartographerWe always are look­ing for pic­ture books cov­er­ing social-emo­tion learn­ing and friendship/family rela­tion­ships. Books for teens that address crit­i­cal soci­etal issues (com­mu­ni­ty vio­lence, addic­tion, racism, cli­mate change) and help teens under­stand and deal with anx­i­ety, stress, and fears those issues cause are at the top of our wish list. We are also inter­est­ed in books that will pro­vide a safe way for mid­dle graders and teens to explore their own voice, val­ues, roles, iden­ti­ties, and ideas. We are also explor­ing non­fic­tion resource books on psy­chology sub­dis­ci­plines and research meth­ods and ways to pro­mote psy­cho­log­i­cal sci­ence as a STEM dis­ci­pline. Sub­mis­sions guide­lines on the web­site are spe­cif­ic and help­ful.

No social-emo­tion­al or behav­ior issue is too big or too small to be con­sid­ered an appro­pri­ate top­ic. Not only is the vari­ety of top­ics amaz­ing — from every­day sit­u­a­tions, such as start­ing school or adapt­ing to a chang­ing, grow­ing fam­i­ly to more seri­ous prob­lems, such as divorce, depres­sion, anx­i­ety, asth­ma, atten­tion dis­or­ders, bul­ly­ing, and death.  Oth­er top­ics are the uni­ver­sal devel­op­men­tal chal­lenges chil­dren face — phys­i­cal changes, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, han­dling awk­ward social sit­u­a­tions, mak­ing friends.  

Mag­i­na­tion Press books are not didac­tic. Children’s emo­tions are shown through behav­ioral inter­ac­tions with peers, pets, or par­ents. The read­er is not told what to do to han­dle a chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tion, learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ty or neg­a­tive feel­ings, but giv­en sug­ges­tions and options. In the fic­tion nar­ra­tives, read­ers see how feel­ings and thoughts can evolve and change.

All of our pic­ture books include a com­pre­hen­sive Note to Par­ents. What­ev­er age of the read­er, Mag­i­na­tion Press has books to offer:

  • Pic­ture books for young chil­dren (ages 4 to 8)
  • Mid­dle school read­ers for chil­dren (ages 9 to 13)
  • Non­fic­tion books and work­books for old­er chil­dren (ages 9 to 13 and teens)

Thank you, Kris­tine Ender­le, Edi­to­r­i­al Direc­tor, Mag­i­na­tion Press, and Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion for cre­at­ing impor­tant books for chil­dren, teens, par­ents, teach­ers, and all ages of care­givers.