DETROIT – I do not talk about it a lot on the air. I guess I try to keep a little separation between church and state. But for many years, I have been writing children’s books.
“It’s something I’ve longed to do since I was in high school, and now my 20th book has just been released by Sleeping Bear Press. It’s called Memoirs of a Tortoise.”
It’s the most recent addition to the series of memoirs that have been the result of a collaboration between me and the amazing illustrator Tim Bowers.
The first of the series was a book called Memoirs of a Goldfish, which was published in 2010. (I can’t believe it’s been ten years.)
But while I knew Tim and I were on to something, I had no idea the kind of impact and reach our little fish would have.
For starters, it was named the “Michigan Reads” book, which meant it would be shared with kids in every elementary school in the state.
That was an amazing honor. But it was just the beginning. Soon, our books were winning the kids’ choice awards in quite a few states.
It won the Ladybug Award in New Hampshire, the Charlotte Award in New York, the Black-Eyed Susan Award in Maryland and on and on.
Then it won the Wanda Gag Award which is given to the nation’s best read-aloud book. It’s been quite a thrill for me and Tim. And it’s led to a continuing partnership on several other memoirs – Memoirs of a Hamster, Memoirs of a Parrot and Memoirs of an Elf followed, and now they’re joined by Tortoise (which I should note is quite different from the comedies of the previous books).
But I’ve been amazed at the response by teachers who’ve told me that the books have inspired them to use the memoirs format in their classrooms.
Writing in a memoir style allows young readers to explore what it’s like to see the world through someone else’s eyes, offering a real learning opportunity around empathy, something I certainly wasn’t thinking about when I sat down to write that first tale, inspired by the daughter, Christian, who came up with the title. (The whole family then kicked in a ton of ideas that ultimately led to the story that sits on these pages.)
I’ve always enjoyed narrating the story. But here, with the amazing editing work of Hans Ihlenfeldt bringing Tim’s pictures to animated life, I hope the story can find and engage even more young readers. Anyone who’s ever looked at a fish in a bowl has wondered the same thing: What do you do all day in there?
Well, here’s one possibility…