Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mr. Schu interviews author, Shana Corey

March 24 - Today's post contributed by John Schumacher (AKA Mr. Schu) and Shana Corey

I am honored to celebrate Women’s History Month with author Shana Corey. Her name is the first one that pops into my head when someone asks for a top-notch picture-book biography. Thank you, Shana, for answering my questions.

Here Come the Girl Scouts Shana Corey Interview from Expanded Books on Vimeo.

Mr. Schu: Thank you for introducing my students and readers around the world to Annette Kellerman, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, early women’s rights activists, and Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low. What do you hope young readers take away from your picture books?

Shana Corey: Thank you for sharing my books with your students! And for being such a huge advocate for books and for reading. My hope is that kids first enjoy my books on a story level—that they’re fun to read. I also personally love history and get very inspired by the fact that it’s real people that have made and changed our history. We’re so familiar with many of the big names in history, it’s easy to forget they were living breathing, fallible people just like us and to start to see them as stock characters. George Washington crossing the Delaware, Ben Franklin with his kite. I hope that kids come away from my books realizing that the people I’m writing about were real people-things made them happy or sad or angry or scared just the way they do us. And they changed history not because they were marked as extraordinary from birth. Most of them were ordinary people, who believed in something and cared enough to do something about it. I hope kids come away from my books feeling that kind of passion is an admirable thing and something worth aspiring to. I hope they also come away with a sense of empowerment-a sense that if these people were able to make a difference, they can too.

Mr. Schu: Scenario: You’re on the subway headed to work when you overhear two elementary school librarians discussing Women’s History Month. They’re creating a book list to share with their third- and fourth-grade students. You decide to help them out by recommending the following titles…

Shana Corey: Oh fun, I love recommending books! As a rule, I recommend any nonfiction by Penny Colman, Candace Fleming, Kathleen Krull and Sue Macy. More specifically, I’d suggest some (or all!) of the following (some of these may be out of print, but your library might have them). I have more recommendations, and some lesson plans on my website, I love talking about books!

Women’s Rights

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone

You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton? by Jean Fritz (either of these can be paired with my You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer!)

33 Things Every Girl Should Know About Women’s History: From Suffragettes to Skirt Lengths to the E.R.A. by Tonya Bolden

Group biographies

Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (and What the Neighbors Thought) by Kathleen Krull
Outrageous Women series by Vicki Leon

Women and Conservation

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell and/or The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter

She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head! By Katharine Lasky (my Here Come the Girl Scouts! might also fit in this category and be fun to look at it with these books)

Women in Sports

America’s Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle by David A. Adler (this could be interesting to look at along with my Mermaid Queen)

Dirt on Their Skirts by Doreen Rappaport and Lyndall Callan (which would be fun to pair with my Players in Pigtails).

Mighty Jackie: The Strike-Out Queen by Marissa Moss

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull

Women in Music

Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxane Orgill

Women in Flight

Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming (which would be fun to pair with Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Muñoz Ryan as well as the picture books below)

Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger

Ruth Law Thrills a Nation by Don Brown

Nobody Owns the Sky: The Story of “Brave Bessie” Coleman by Reeve Lindbergh

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone

Women Explorers

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter

Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa by Don Brown

Other Women Worth Reading about

Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland (this would be fun to pair with Fannie in the Kitchen by Deborah Hopkinson)

Frida by Jonah Winter

Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth by Anne Rockwell

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson (you could pair this with my historical fiction Milly and the Macy’s Parade)

I’m also a huge fan of historical fiction and think that’s a great way to get kids hooked on history (especially when paired with a nonfiction book). It’s also a great way to get a sense of what women’s and girls daily lives were like at different times in history. For that I’d highly recommend All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor; In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord; Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larsen; and all of Jennifer L. Holm’s wonderful historical fiction novels (disclosure-I have the good fortune to be Jenni’s editor, but I would recommend her books even if I wasn’t-one of my favorites is Penny from Heaven for a seldom seen pov on WWII).

Direct link: 

Mr. Schu: Why is it important for schools and libraries to celebrate Women’s History Month?

Shana Corey: We've made such progress, but the fact is women aren’t automatically part of our historical canon or our cultural knowledge. Kids know about Abe Lincoln and Babe Ruth and Mozart almost by osmosis, and that’s great-they’re certainly worth knowing about. But there are women leaders and sports heroes and musicians too and it’s important for both boys and girls to know that they’re worth celebrating. And because their accomplishments and struggles and the social movements they were part of are part of our shared history, we’re all better for knowing about them. We need to be aware of them in order to really understand how we as a people came to be where we are now, and what historical forces are influencing both current events and the conversation about where we’re going.

Mr. Schu: I read that you used to play olden-days with your sister. How does one play olden-days?

Shana Corey: You've never played olden-days?! I’m sorry to hear it, John. (I will totally play olden-days with you sometime). Ideally you braid your hair. You wear your mother’s skirt that comes down to the floor or if you have a flea market nearby you buy someone's old prom dress. You wear some kind of apron over it (if push comes to shove your dad's "#1 BBQ Chef" apron will do, but if you’re very, very lucky, someone might sew you a one piece pinafore type apron for one Halloween). If you're fortunate enough to have a bonnet, you put it on. Bonus points for anything calico. And then, you play. (If someone is willing to be Nellie you can have dramatic confrontations. But if the weather's nice it's also fun to go outside and forage for acorns or pretend to be lost in the woods).

Please complete these sentence starters: 

*Reading is a way to connect with the world, with others, and with yourself.

*Picture-book biographies bring history and nonfiction subjects to life and ignite kids interest.

*Mr. Schu, you should have asked me if there’s a woman in history I’d most like to write about one day. I’d say Hillary Clinton. (I’m biding my time on that one though because I’m hoping that book will end with an inauguration.)

Shana Corey is an Executive Editor at Random House Kids Books and writes "girl power picture books."  You can find her on Twitter @shanacorey

John Schumacher (AKA Mr. Schu) is a teacher-librarian. He serves on AASL’s Best Websites for teaching and Learning and is a member of the 2014 Newbery Selection Committee. He blogs at Watch. Connect. Read. (