Over the next month, I'll be sharing books by several of my good friends, authors you've met on my blog, but THIS time the books are about school life in different genres--picture books with Kay Winters; early readers with Jamie Michalak; historical fiction with Joye Moyer Hostetter; and first up is my dear friend and poetry buddy, Author Claudia Mills, who shares wonderful memories of her own school days and writing her own school series: "Franklin School Friends"
Each author is generously donating a book for the comment contest and since school is the theme, we'd love to have you share a school memory with us. Of course, we're delighted just to have you drop by to say hello! Please do! The welcome mat is out and the light is on!
Back to School By Claudia Mills
Nerdy confession: I have always loved school.
I loved school before I ever went to school, as I sat watching “Romper Room” on my family’s black-and-white TV. Once I finally had the chance to go there, I adored real school even more. I still remember my favorite chapter of Dick-and-Jane, the one where Sally gets closed up in the big umbrella: “Oh! Oh! Funny Sally!”
I literally crossed off the days of summer vacation till school would begin again on the Tuesday after Labor Day. My fanatically frugal mother allowed only one splurge throughout our entire childhood: she was willing to spend lavishly on school supplies. What joy to heap the shopping cart with binders, notebook paper, “reinforcements” for the notebook paper holes, a special pencil box that had a map of the world on the lid. An elementary school teacher herself, she knew how to make school – and schoolwork – fun for us. Major projects called for the ceremonial setting up of the card table in a corner of the living room. How happily my sister sat there assembling her elaborate report on Uruguay, as I wrote a three-act play about Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Paine.
So now – surprise, surprise – I specialize in writing school stories. What I love most about school as a setting for fiction – besides my undying passion for school itself – is that school is an environment that puts kids in contact with people who are different from them in various, intriguing ways. Boys who would choose only to associate with fellow boys are seated next to girls, and vice versa. Kids whose lives revolve around reading find out how much they have in common with kids who are wild about sports. Teachers provide an adult presence contrasting with that of parents. A wider world opens.
As I write my books, I do have to remember – well, try to remember – that many of my young readers are not as smitten with school as I am and don’t faint with joy at the thought of the next school project. And yet . . . and yet . . . oh, school projects are such fun to write about! I’ve borrowed shamelessly from my sons’ elementary school experiences to build stories around the “biography tea” (Being Teddy Roosevelt), the third-grade space sleepover (How Oliver Olson Changed the World), a Civil War diary assignment (The Totally Made-Up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish), an Oregon Trail journal assignment (The Trouble with Babies), and too many science fairs to mention.
My most recent series, “Franklin School Friends,” has let me luxuriate in the world of school over a series of five titles: Kelsey Green, Reading Queen; Annika Riz, Math Whiz; Izzy Barr, Running Star; Simon Ellis, Spelling Bee Champ; and Cody Harmon, King of Pets. (The break in the pattern of rhyming titles occurred when the series grew beyond the original three titles, in which Simon and Cody had already been given names that lacked rhyming potential.) I had the chance to write about a reading contest, PTA fundraising carnival, track-and-field day, spelling bee, and third grade pet show. Bliss!
I know it’s a bit weird to love school as much as I do. My own favorite character in the series is the Franklin School principal, Mr. Boone, whose chief character trait is his boundless enthusiasm for every single school activity. He promises to shave his big, bushy beard at the end of the reading contest, cheerfully enters the dunking tank a few dozen times at the school carnival, sprains his ankle bouncing on hoppy balls on field day, hosts a pie buffet for the spelling bee winners (featuring his famous honey pie – recipe included), and wears an elephant costume to school on pet show day. Finally, I have a character who unabashedly joins me in loving school deeply, fully, with all his whole heart. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, his enthusiasm for school, and mine, will prove contagious to young readers as well.
Honors and Awards for Franklin School Friends
Cody Harmon, King of Pets, illustrated by Rob Shepperson (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG 2016). Junior Library Guild Selection; starred review in Kirkus, Amazon Pick of the Month June 2016.
Simon Ellis, Spelling Bee Champ, illustrated by Rob Shepperson (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG 2015). Junior Library Guild Selection.
Izzy Barr, Running, Star, illustrated by Rob Shepperson (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG 2015). Junior Library Guild selection.
Annika Riz, Math Whiz, illustrated by Rob Shepperson (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG, 2014). Junior Library Guild selection; Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year
Kelsey Green, Reading Queen, illustrated by Rob Shepperson (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG 2013). Junior Library Guild selection, Cybil Award finalist for early chapter books, (Washington D.C. ) Capitol Choice book, nominated for the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award, the Rhode Island Children’s Book Award, the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award, and the Land of Enchantment (New Mexico) Book Award; translated into Korean and Chinese.
Claudia Mills Author | Home
Mills. Welcome to my website! I'm always glad to have a chance to let my
readers get to know me a little bit better. I hope you'll introduce
yourselves to me ...
Claudia Mills holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and
an M.L.S. degree (with a concentration in children’s literature) from
the University of Maryland and is Associate Professor Emerita of
Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The author of
almost 60 books for young readers, most recently Write This Down
(Farrar) and The Trouble with Babies (Knopf), she has also published
scholarly articles on Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Maud Hart
Lovelace, Betty MacDonald, Rosamond du Jardin, and Eleanor Estes. Her
recent edited collection, Ethics and Children’s Literature (2014,
Ashgate), won the Best Edited Book Award from the Children’s Literature
Association. Her children’s books have been named Notable Books of the
Year by the American Library Association and Best Books of the Year by
the Bank Street College of Education, translated into half a dozen
languages, and nominated for scores of state readers’ choice awards. A
mother of two grown sons, and now “Mimsie” to two young granddaughters,
she has written all her books between 5 and 7 in the morning, while
drinking Swiss Miss hot chocolate.
Didn't Claudia's "Back to School" memories warm your heart and call to mind a few good memories of your own? We hope you had some happy times!
Claudia is donating a copy of one of her titles in the "Franklin School Friends" series. All you have to do for a chance to win a personalized book is to leave a comment! The winner gets to pick which title in the series he or she would like. I'll be back next week to announce the lucky winner!