Clarion Ledger Book Q&A

  1. What made you want to tackle the subject of child bullying and rejection?

    Actually, twelve years ago when the inspiration for Ivan Becomes a Hero was given, bullying was not as prevalent in the media (social media) and in classrooms across our nation, as it is today. The reality is: bullying is not a new thing. In this book, Ivan - the main character - is a gangly, curious, little giraffe who goes on a common journey towards self-acceptance. Ivan Becomes a Hero is relevant to children today as he FINALLY celebrates his unique differences, in spite of his peers’ rejection, which he overcomes and says, “I LIKE BEING ME!”

  2. Where did the character Ivan come from?

    I was at a wildlife reserve in California with my husband on his business trip. We were riding the tram to visit the giraffe yard when the announcer shared her thrill of showing off a mother giraffe and her newborn, Ivan. Honestly, I had never thought too much about giraffes until then. As I observed the newborn, I heard some words clearly in my mind and I realized I was being given the inspiration for the beginnings of a book. I was not looking for a book. I was in the midst of pursuing an M. S. in Reading and had my hands full. I asked my astonished husband, Frank, for some paper (on a tram!). All he had was a napkin. So the first words of the book were written on that napkin. As Ivan was born in my head, he was also born in my heart with joy!

  3.  Is it a children’s book, or is it for all ages?

    It was fun to tell people about Ivan’s story even before it was published. I found that adults were fascinated by Ivan’s adventures and encounters with the other animals. Often, a tear would show up in their eyes as they identified with Ivan as he eventually believed that he was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). So I am elated that Ivan appeals to all ages, but especially to children between 3 and 12 years.

  4.  What's the most difficult challenge when writing about a subject involving children?

    I think the most difficult challenge was to make sure I kept my heart focused on children’s interest, needs, humor, and diversities. I relied on the motivation, passion, and joy I feel for children to help me. I tried to keep in mind that it is essential to connect a child emotionally with age-appropriate text and illustrations.