All of us and many of you love children’s books. This sentiment is validated monthly when we look at our online metrics – one of the most popular pages on our site is the page that features children’s book recommendations.
Obviously, there are many beautifully written and illustrated books for children, too many to document here in one blog post. That being said, we choose specific books to share with you that we believe can help create the next generation of global citizens by exploring the following themes:
- Caring for others
- Empowerment and perseverance
Brooke Herter James is a Global Grandmother from South Reading, Vermont and a children’s book author herself. She has agreed to highlight several books by interviewing the authors. Our blog will feature these interviews quarterly.
Brooke’s first interview is with Suzy Becker, author of Kids Make It Better. We’ve featured a transcript of that interview below:
Brooke Herter James: I see all four of Global Grandmothers themes – generosity, caring for others, multi-culturalism, empowerment, and perseverance in ‘Kids Make It Better’, presented with a generous dose of humor. What role does humor play in your writing for kids?
Suzy Becker: Thank you! Humor plays a role in all of my writing, even for babies. When you make someone laugh, you have undeniably succeeded in making a connection. Once you’ve done that, you can talk or write about all kinds of things. In Kids Make It Better, humor lightens some serious subjects, but I really can’t take credit for it. Most of it’s in the kids’ words.
BHJ: Is there a specific event that triggered the writing of this book?
SB: Yes, a teachable moment, which could just as easily been a teaching debacle. I was working with a group of 3rd graders who I saw weekly. We were checking in with each other and one of them mentioned she’d seen a sad picture of a bird in the newspaper. Others had seen the same photo of a pelican with its feathers doused in oil. I jettisoned my lesson plan and passed out blank paper. “You’re in charge,” I told them. “Pretend you’re a world leader, or a scientist, a movie star, athlete, maybe an inventor, what would they do to clean up that oil spill?” There were a few moments when it all could have gone south, then they started to write and draw. “I’d get a big helicopter with a really big sponge and lower it down, soak up all the oil on top of the water…” You could feel the tension dispelling. I thought, “Wow, if they can solve this problem that was really bothering them five minutes ago, they can solve anything! Eighty classrooms/problems later, I had the makings for this book.
BHJ: Who did you write this book for?
SB: It’s dedicated to my daughter, niece and nephew, but the book is for all of us. Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Kids’ solutions give me such hope. And, as the “This Really Works!” sidebars point out, a lot of their so-called imaginary answers have real-life counterparts. When I asked kids how to earthquake-proof a house, one favorite answer was, “Cover it in Jell-O.” Another was put it on springs. Structural engineers have designed foundations with systems of springs. I also included bios of kids under the age of ten who’ve made serious inroads on problems like homelessness or water access with an Action Plan at the back of the book. Setting world problem-solving aside for a second, we all want to raise happy kids. One of the only known markers for happiness in adulthood is the feeling you made a difference, helped others in childhood.
BHJ: How did this book change as it went from idea to published manuscript? Did you ask your daughter for feedback?
SB: The book changed very little. After I chose the answers, I had the kid-authors art-direct the illustrations. My daughter was only five at the time. I ran some of the questions by her to make sure they were clear.
BHJ: What is your favorite children’s book that touches on the themes mentioned above? (besides your own, of course!)
SB: I loved reading Whoever You Are by Mem Fox at bedtime with my daughter.
Suzy Becker Bio: An award-winning author, artist, educator, and activist, Suzy Becker’s first book was the internationally bestselling ‘All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat’. She has since written and illustrated five other books for all ages. Now in 49th grade, Suzy never really left school. She’s been a sub, a teacher, or a visiting artist ever since she graduated from Brown University.