Skinny Dip with Kelly Starling Lyons

Kelly Starling Lyons
Kel­ly Star­ling Lyons (pho­to: Lundies Photography)

You may know Kel­ly Star­ling Lyons for One Mil­lion Men and Me or Tea Cakes for Tosh or Ellen’s Broom, mem­o­rable pic­ture books, but we’re cel­e­brat­ing her new chap­ter books star­ring Jada Jones! Thanks, Kel­ly, for tak­ing a Skin­ny Dip with us in December.

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

That’s a tough question. I loved all of my teachers. But two that stand out are Dr. Kupec at Beechwood Elementary and Mr. Powell at Milliones Middle School.

Dr. Kupec was my sec­ond grade teacher and lat­er prin­ci­pal of the school. I looked for­ward to going to her class to see what won­ders were in store. Would we sing? Act? Read books that took us to oth­er worlds? She knew how to cap­ti­vate kids and make learn­ing fun.

Anoth­er favorite was band direc­tor and teacher Mr. Pow­ell. Bril­liant, cre­ative and exact­ing, he taught me the pow­er of prac­tice and feel­ing what you’re play­ing. Under his direc­tion, I couldn’t just blend into the back­ground. I had syn­the­siz­er solos that put me in the spot­light. He even wrote a song that show­cased my play­ing called “Kelly’s Blues.” I’ll always remem­ber how amaz­ing that made me feel.

Something BeautifulAll-time favorite book?

A children’s book that made a big impact on me was Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. In the story, an African-American girl learns that the power to create beauty lives in her. I looked at her face full of wonder and saw girls I know and little me. That was the first time I saw a black character on the cover of a picture book.  It called me to write for kids and will always have special meaning.

Favorite breakfast or lunch as a kid?

Breakfast is my favorite meal. On weekends, we would sit around the table and marvel at the spread made by my grandma and mom. The table was filled with favorites—fried apples, scrambled eggs with cheese, homefries, link sausage, homemade muffins, banana pancakes with warm maple syrup. It was a feast of food and love.

Your best memory of your library?

My local Carnegie Library was magical. All around, stories waited to be read and explored. It was a place where adventures and dreams came to life. Reading was like being on another plane, outside of time and space. Those storytelling journeys meant everything to me. I feel blessed to be creating them for children today.

Your favorite toy as a child?

I treasured my homemade Raggedy Ann doll. In stores, I just saw white ones. But a relative made one with skin the color of mine. It was more than a toy. It was an affirmation, a love letter. It’s one of the few keepsakes I’ve held onto from childhood. Today, it’s my daughter’s.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David LaRochelle
5 years ago

Hav­ing a band teacher write a song for you while you were in mid­dle school…what a pow­er­ful expe­ri­ence! And I loved your sto­ry about the impact your books made on that par­tic­u­lar class of sec­ond graders. Think of all the oth­er chil­dren you’ll nev­er hear about who have also been influ­enced by your books!

Reply to  David LaRochelle
5 years ago

Thanks so much, David. Mr. Pow­ell was the best. Appre­ci­ate your kind words. Hap­py Holidays!