Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Munro Leaf

Skinny Dip with Sarah Aronson

Sarah AronsonSarah Aron­son’s most recent books, The Worst Fairy God­moth­er Ever (The Wish List #1, Beach Lane Books) and Keep Calm and Sparkle On! (The Wish List #2) are at once light­heart­ed and serious—stories that are fun to read and encour­age work­ing for caus­es that mat­ter to the world. Sarah is wide­ly known in the chil­dren’s book writ­ing com­mu­ni­ty as an enthu­si­as­tic and effec­tive writ­ing instruc­tor. Thanks, Sarah, for tak­ing a Skin­ny Dip with us in Decem­ber!

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

This is an easy one! My favorite and most influ­en­tial teacher dur­ing those first years of school was my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Dan Sigley.  

It was a year that began with mixed emo­tions. At that time, I didn’t real­ly feel pas­sion­ate about books. Oh, I liked books, but the­ater was my favorite sto­ry medi­um. I had also just returned from 8 months in York, Eng­land. I went to school there and was intro­duced to new set­tings (that you could vis­it) as well as writ­ers like Charles Dick­ens. I read Enid Bly­ton. More impor­tant, I watched my friends take the 11 plus exam, effec­tive­ly track­ing and divid­ing them for dif­fer­ent kinds of futures.

The PearlMr. Sigley awak­ened my cre­ative spir­it in many ways. He got me hooked on books in three dis­tinct ways. First, our class read and per­formed Romeo and Juli­et—unabridged! He showed me that even if I didn’t under­stand the indi­vid­ual words, I could infer mean­ing in a text! Sec­ond, he tire­less­ly hand­ed me books—he was deter­mined to make me a read­er. The book that did it was John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. That end­ing blew me away! It made me think! This was what I want­ed from books! A chance to think about injus­tice and rela­tion­ships and fam­i­ly … and how I could make it bet­ter. Last, he taught us how to make books—from writ­ing to illus­trat­ing to bind­ing. This first home-made book, The Adven­tures of Prince Charm­ing, con­nect­ed the dots. Books were like the­ater. Books were unique for each read­er. I loved get­ting into the heads of my char­ac­ters. I loved hold­ing a book, too.

About the time Head Case was released, Mr. Sigley moved to the house next to my par­ents, so I got to see him many times and thank him for every­thing he taught me. He was a gen­tle, cre­ative man. He was the first per­son who held me account­able and awak­ened my imag­i­na­tion.

All-time favorite book?

The word, favorite, is my least favorite word ever! Here are the books I keep on my desk—they are the books I love. They are the books I reach for when I’m stuck. These are the books that have taught me how to write.

  • The Story of Ferdinand, The Rag and Bone Shop, Sandy's Circus, What Jamie SawOliv­er Twist (Charles Dick­ens)
  • The Rag and Bone Shop (Robert Cormi­er)
  • Mon­ster (Wal­ter Dean Myers)
  • Clemen­tine (Sara Pen­ny­pack­er)
  • Bun­nic­u­la (James Howe, Deb­o­rah Howe)
  • What Jamie Saw (Car­olyn Coman)
  • The Car­rot Seed (Ruth Krauss, Crock­ett John­son)
  • The Sto­ry of Fer­di­nand (Munro Leaf, Robert Law­son)
  • Har­ri­et the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh)
  • Blub­ber (Judy Blume)
  • Offi­cer Buck­le and Glo­ria (Peg­gy Rath­mann)
  • Charles and Emma (Deb­o­rah Heilig­man)
  • Sandy’s Cir­cus (Tanya Lee Stone, Boris Kulikov)

What’s your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

When I am in pre-writ­ing mode, noth­ing counts! (I am one of those weird writ­ers that deletes her first dis­cov­ery draft!!!) I love writ­ing with­out expec­ta­tions! It doesn’t feel like work. It is all dis­pos­able!

ShoesBare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

You have to ask? I write books about fairy god­moth­ers! I like shoes. Always shoes. I love shoes and boots and would even wear glass slip­pers if I didn’t think I’d trip and break them.

When are you your most cre­ative?

First thing in the morn­ing. Best advice I can offer: hide your phone. Be a word producer—not just a con­sumer. Get out of bed and cre­ate. Get some­one to make you a cof­fee. Jour­nal every morn­ing. Or doo­dle. Get the pen to the paper. Find a way to tran­si­tion from the real world to your imag­i­na­tive state. The world and social media can wait!

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

In the win­ter: choco­late

In the sum­mer: peach

But the gela­to place around the cor­ner makes Greek Yoghurt gela­to. It’s sweet and sour and tangy! Yum.

(File under: this author has prob­lems with favorites.)

Book on your bed­side table right now?

I’m cry­ing over Matyl­da, Bright and Ten­der, by Hol­ly McGhee, rec­om­mend­ed by Olivia Van Ledt­je, also known as @thelivbits

Sarah Aronson's elephantWhat’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I can turn any­thing into a writ­ing les­son.

Also: I can draw an ele­phant from behind.

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

Young peo­ple give me hope. They val­ue kind­ness. And the envi­ron­ment. They stick up for one anoth­er. They exhib­it a strong sense of good­ness and a will­ing­ness to speak out against injus­tices.

That is what I have seen and learned from readers—to kids and teens—even the shy ones who wait until they can email me to ask a ques­tion. Our young peo­ple are grow­ing up in a time where there are no bar­ri­ers to infor­ma­tion. Yes, there is a lot of mis­lead­ing stuff, but the good stuff is at our fin­ger­tips, too. I could com­plain a lot about phones and the inter­net, but tech­nol­o­gy is also equal­iz­ing. We live in a time when we can inter­act with just about any­one. There are so many ways to learn.

In young peo­ple, I see moti­vat­ed kids like Nora (from The Wish List). They want to make the world bet­ter. They believe in good­ness. They are not afraid to speak out. They sup­port each oth­er. That gives me hope.


Is It a Classic?

by Vic­ki Palmquist

Loretta Mason PottsWhen I was in my twen­ties, I worked at an archi­tec­ture firm. Sev­er­al of the archi­tects were fas­ci­nat­ed by my deep con­nec­tion to children’s books. One day, one of them asked me, “Which books, being pub­lished now, will become clas­sics?” That ques­tion has stuck with me, hold­ing up a sign­post every now and then. How does one pre­dict a clas­sic?

When­ev­er some­one asks which books were favorites from my own child­hood (#book­sthathooked), sev­er­al books push them­selves to the fore­front—A Wrin­kle in Time, Lord of the Rings, and Loret­ta Mason Potts. That last title always caus­es a “huh?” Peo­ple, gen­er­al­ly, are unfa­mil­iar with this book.

The next ques­tion is always, “what’s it about?” Here’s the thing: I couldn’t answer that ques­tion. I didn’t remem­ber a thing about the book except its title. What I remem­bered was the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the read­ing of that book, the way it made me feel.

In sixth grade, I had a teacher, Gor­don Rausch, who changed my life. He showed me pos­si­bil­i­ties. He believed in me. He made learn­ing and research fun. I was often bored in school, but nev­er in his class. Every day was a new adven­ture. What I remem­ber most is that he read books out loud to the whole class. I remem­ber Pip­pi Long­stock­ing. I remem­ber A Wrin­kle in Time. But he also read Loret­ta Mason Potts to us.

As far as I can recall, he was the only teacher I had who ever read books out loud. Our class had its share of bul­lies and atten­tion-get­ters. No one inter­rupt­ed his read­ing of a book. His choic­es were good, his read­ing skills were exem­plary, and he always knew where to end, leav­ing us crav­ing more.

Loret­ta Mason Potts was writ­ten by Mary Chase and pub­lished in 1958. Thanks to The New York Review Children’s Col­lec­tion, you can read this fine book, too. They reprint­ed it in 2014. I’ve just re-read it and once again I under­stand why it springs to mind as my favorite.

Mary Chase lived in Den­ver. She died in 1981. You may know her because of anoth­er one of her books, Har­vey, which won a Pulitzer Prize and became a movie star­ring Jim­my Stew­art. If you know Har­vey, you will under­stand that the writer has a fan­tas­ti­cal imag­i­na­tion and a good wit. Both of those are evi­dent in Loret­ta Mason Potts.

It’s a charm­ing mix­ture of a Tam Lin sto­ry and a Snow Queen sto­ry, cen­ter­ing on a fam­i­ly of chil­dren, their moth­er, and their long-lost eldest sis­ter, told in a way that will reach into the heart and mind of a child. It has naughty chil­dren, ensor­celled chil­dren, a car­ing but some­what clue­less moth­er, a mys­te­ri­ous bridge, and a cas­tle occu­pied by the bored Count­ess and Gen­er­al, who hov­er on the precipice of dan­ger.

I am so glad that this book is illus­trat­ed. It was the first book pub­lished with Harold Berson’s black-and-white line draw­ings. He would go on to illus­trate anoth­er 90 books.

There are a grow­ing num­ber of titles in the New York Review Children’s Col­lec­tion. I have sev­er­al of them and would put every one of them on my book­shelves if I could. The selec­tion of these books is enchant­i­ng. Do you remem­ber read­ing Esther Averill’s Jen­ny and the Cat Club? How about Dino Buzzati’s The Bears’ Famous Inva­sion of Sici­ly? Or Lucre­tia P. Hale’s The Peterkin Papers? (I had for­got­ten all about this book until I saw it on their booklist—I loved that book.) Or Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf and Robert Law­son?

New York Review of Books Children's Collection

Are these books clas­sics? This, I think, is the inter­est­ing ques­tion. What is a clas­sic? These books are being pub­lished once again … so they’ve with­stood the test of time. Although the writ­ing is some­what quaint, they still hold up as sto­ries that will inter­est a mod­ern read­er. Loret­ta Mason Potts is a book that has lived on in my mind for decades. I won­der if the oth­er stu­dents in my sixth grade class remem­ber it in the same way.

Which books pub­lished today will become clas­sics? It’s a ques­tion worth dis­cussing, isn’t it?


Books Starring Dachshunds

by Vic­ki Palmquist

The Hallo Weiner  

The Hal­lo-Wiener

Dav Pilkey
Scholas­tic, 1999

Oscar, the dachs­hund, wants to wear a scary cos­tume for Hal­loween but his moth­er has oth­er ideas. She sews him a hot-dog bun with mus­tard and he must wear it so he doesn’t hurt her feel­ings. It’s hard to nav­i­gate and his friends get to the treats before he does, but when the pack is threat­ened by some mon­ster cats, it’s Oscar to the res­cue! Preschool through Grade 2.

Hot Dog Cold Dog  

Hot Dog, Cold Dog (board book)

Frann Pre­ston-Gan­non
POW! 2014

Dachsunds go every­where, in every style of fash­ion, in every weath­er, engag­ing in every activ­i­ty. Fun­ny, col­or­ful, and endear­ing to engage baby. A large-for­mat board book for a good read-aloud. Young babies.

Lumpito and the Painter from Spain  

Lumpi­to and the Painter from Spain

Mon­i­ca Kulling, illus­trat­ed by Dean Grif­fiths
Paja­ma Press, 2013

Do you know the true sto­ry of Pablo Picas­so’s enchant­ment with a dachs­hund named Lump, who was the pet of pho­tog­ra­ph­er David Dun­can? When pho­tog­ra­ph­er and dog vis­it­ed Picas­so, it was the begin­ning of a beau­ti­ful rela­tion­ship. When Dun­can real­izes how much the artist and the dog care for each oth­er, he leaves Lump in his new home. A charm­ing sto­ry about friend­ship and art.


Mox­ie, the Dachs­hund of Falling­wa­ter

Cara Arm­strong
Bright Sky Press, 2010

An intro­duc­to­ry look at the archi­tec­ture of Frank Lloyd Wright, and what is now a pub­lic muse­um at Falling­wa­ter in south­west Pennsylvania’s Lau­rel High­lands, from the view­point of Mox­ie, one of the dachs­hund gang that gam­boled about the house when the Kauf­mann fam­i­ly lived there. Writ­ten by the cura­tor of edu­ca­tion at Falling­wa­ter. Kinder­garten through Grade 3.



by Munro Leaf, illus­trat­ed by Lud­wig Bemel­mans
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2006 (orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 1937)

Noo­dle, the dachs­hund, feels he’s too long and his legs are too short to suc­cess­ful­ly dig for bones. Grant­ed one wish by the dog fairy, he asks all the ani­mals in the zoo what shape he should wish to be. They teach him a good deal about being proud and con­tent with the body we have. Preschool.



by Mar­gret Ray, illus­trat­ed by H.A. Rey
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 1997

Gre­ta, a petite dachs­hund, doesn’t care for long-in-body dachs­hunds, which is exact­ly what Pret­zel wins a blue rib­bon for being. This is a tale of pup­py love. A clas­sic from the team who cre­at­ed Curi­ous George. PreK through Grade 2.

10 Little Hot Dogs  

10 Lit­tle Hot Dogs

John Him­mel­man
Two Lions, 2014

A pro­gres­sive count­ing book, one then two and final­ly ten dachs­hunds join their friends in a com­fy chair, set­tle down for a nap, then wake up and leave the chair. They’re full of antics and play. A good read-aloud for a small group or one child. Preschool to K.

Wiener Wolf  

Wiener Wolf

Jeff Cros­by
Dis­ney-Hype­r­i­on, 2011

A good choice for ear­ly read­ers, the min­i­mal text and emo­tion­al art­work will be sat­is­fy­ing to read. Wiener dog sees a nature doc­u­men­tary and real­izes he’s bored with his pam­pered life, so he runs off to join a pack of wolves! Wein­er Wolf soon real­izes the dif­fer­ence between wild and domes­ti­cat­ed, return­ing home to Granny and his new pack in the dog park. PreK through Grade 2.