Years ago, when my children were small, I worked for the local School District. I was designated as the baby-sitter for a small Dutch Boy while his parents performed an assembly program for the high school. I took him to the library to pick a book to read aloud. I gave him several choices of my favorite fairy tales, but he was adamant, "Read a true book." We read a natural science book about tigers.
I never forgot that small boy, and his preference has colored my choices in children's books ever since. Children do choose nonfiction books. They are curious about their world, and good nonfiction in children's literature addresses this curiosity.
For the teen e-book fans there is a new book in the Dear America series, A Time for Courage. This book is about Kathleen Brown's fight for women's right to vote, and contains interactive features.
Penny Pollock writes children's picture books, and this month's selection is about Indian legends and the full moon.
Bev: Penny, I certainly appreciate your taking the time to talk to us about your new book, "When the Moon is Full." Your online biography states that you are descended from the Wyandotte Indians. Tell us about yourself.
Penny: I was born in Cleveland, Ohio on May 24, 1935. My folks had a small summer farm in nearby Hiram. This is the setting for my horse story, Stall Buddies.
My father, a descendent of the Wyandotte tribe, was a candy maker. His restlessness led our family of six children all over the east coast. Some summers we lived behind his candy store in Ocean City, New Jersey. In the winter we lived in various parts of Florida. My most settled home was in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, where we lived in an odd stone house in one hundred acres of woods. Mother kept life as calm as possible. This must have been a challenge. My father liked nothing better than to pick up stray dogs and people. The dogs slept in our beds, a cozy memory. The people stayed for dinner.
When I was very young, my father took off to explore the Amazon River. He discovered several species of fish. Based on his discoveries, he was made an honorary member of the Explorer's Club. This exclusive club gave a dinner in his honor. He forgot to go.
My father's non-conformist life style led to many adventures. Most of all, I treasured his gift as a storyteller. He spun yarns of falling into rattlesnake pits, living as a hobo, and wrestling alligators. To this day, I do not know how much was fiction. Nor does it matter. He left a legacy of loving language, living outside the lines, and squeezing the most from each day.
I attended George School, a Quaker boarding school, then went to Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke challenged me in every way. An active member of the Philosophy Club, I enjoyed arguing about such things as the possibility of a square circle.
In the summer of 1952, I went to Mexico, where I met the love of my life, Stewart. We were both working with the American Friend's Service Committee, a Quaker organization. At the end of my third year in College, Stewart and I married. Our four children arrived in quick succession, filling our lives with joy and happy confusion. All this time I wrote, but did not sell a word. After earning a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education, I taught nursery school for ten years.
While teaching, writing, and raising our children, I also painted. Eventually I earned another Master's Degree, this time in illustrating children's books. In the midst of all this, my books began to sell. The first one, Ants Don't Get Sunday Off, expresses my thirst for adventure mixed with my commitment to friends and family.
Now, many books later, I have returned to one of my first loves, poetry. Nature images fill my poems. Both of my parents lived in tune with the world of nature, my father through his inheritance of Native American values, my mother with her love of gardening and birds. Every spring Mother led us into the woods to find the first skunk cabbage pointing its purple tip from the mud.
My hobbies are gardening, golf, canoeing, and the tango.
Bev: Your new book, "When the Moon is Full" is a wonderful book. My grandchildren love it. I have read it several times out loud, and they keep asking me where the "Moon Book" is. Is this book based on the legends and stories of one Indian tribe, or a combination?
Penny: Many woodland tribes used names of the full moons to establish an annual calendar. This tradition became a folklore custom. For my book, When the Moon is Full, I collected full moon names from many sources, including the Farmer's Almanac and the U.S. Naval Observatory. I gathered material about Native Americans and the moon. I then chose the names that appealed to me.
Bev: Who is your favorite author, and what do you read for recreational reading"
Penny: My favorite author is Willa Cather. Ellen Glasgow is a close second. I especially like her book "Barren Ground." Both of these women wrote with graphic detail and controlled passion. My favorite, all time love of children's books is Kenneth Graham's "Wind in the Willows." The Characters pull you into their lives so completely that you never want to leave. Oh how I'd love to live on that river bank!
Bev: You are also an artist...have you illustrated any of the books that you have published?
Penny: No, I have not yet illustrated any of my books, but painting helps me to write in a visual way.
Bev: What are the chances of an unknown writer being published by a major publishing house today? Do you have any advice for novice writers?
Penny: Anyone can be published, but it takes hard work and perseverance. A writer need not start with a a major publishing house. Try for magazine sales and independent, small houses. Wherever you submit your work, make certain that it is well crafted. Today's market has no room for an amateur. All writers, novices and established authors, find success when they write books that no one else could have written. Each of us is unique, fascinating, and wonderful. When we write from this inner core, our "voice" comes to life. Editors are hungry to hear that voice.
Bev: Are any of your books available in e-book format? What kind of impact do you think e-books are going to have on the publishing industry?
Penny: None of my books are in electronic form. I'd be delighted to have electronic books. Stories connect people, so if books can be shared electronically, I say wonderful!
Bev: Penny, thank you for talking to us about your books and about publishing. We really appreciate the opportunity to share your thoughts.
Next Month will be: Dianne Ochiltree
The full moon has always fascinated man, and has been used by many cultures to mark the passage of the months. Native Americans gave each full moon a unique name to reflect the special conditions that occur during that month.
Mary Azarian's exquisite hand painted woodcuts of night life set the stage for Penny Pollock's wonderfully simplistic, lyrical poems. Each of the twelve months is given a double page spread with the name of the month at the top and the Indian name for that full moon directly under it, followed by a unique, lyrical poem telling us what is special about that month. The poems vary in mood and length and have nature as their theme. Each page has a short explanation of how the moon was named; January is the Wolf Moon because "Native Americans believed that wolves became restless in January."
At the end of the book, Pollock answers questions about the moon, giving children new knowledge of the night skies and the facts and legends that have been passed down. This is a marvelous book to be read aloud to young children and treasured to read again and again by early elementary aged children; a great addition to any child's library.