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Book Life

Rachael Walker

In this special series, children's literacy consultant Rachael Walker and many of the authors, parents, and educators she’s met and worked with talk about how books have changed their lives, how to bring books to life for young readers, and how to enrich kids’ lives with good books. You can also visit Rachael at her blog, Belle of the Book.

The Power of Moms

May 8, 2020

Author Madelyn Rosenberg hasn’t been able to visit her mother in person lately and has been thinking about all her mom has done for her — especially nurturing her as a writer. This led to Madelyn reaching out to other author friends who join her in sharing some of the great things their moms have done to support them and their career choice!

Children's author Madelyn Rosenberg as a young girl with her mother reading to her

My mom treated me like an author long before I ever published my first book. She saved my first manuscripts, illustrated in crayon or magic marker, reading them aloud and sharing them with friends and relations. Today, if there is a spike in my book sales in Blacksburg, Va., my mother is behind it. She has been known to march into the library to explain that even though I don’t currently live there, Blacksburg is still my hometown, and have they seen my latest, which she just happens to have with her? She offers the occasional pointed criticism (“could they make the font a little bigger?”) but remains my biggest source of cheer and encouragement. I have so many friends who say the same about their own moms, so for Mother’s Day, I asked a few of them to share how their mothers have helped their publishing careers. Sending love to all of the moms out there!

Madelyn Rosenberg

Children's author Hena Kahn and her mother

When I published Amina's Voice, I gave it to my mother to read. When she finished it, she said, in her usual blunt way, “Well, it was good. But maybe you can put some jokes in your next book.” I took her advice and amped up the humor in my Zayd Saleem Chasing the Dream series, but the funniest character by far is Zayd’s opinionated, gambling-loving, nickname-giving, and Urdu-cursing grandmother, who, of course, is essentially my mother. I didn’t ask her permission before I wrote her as “Naano” but again gave her the books to read when they were done. I was a tiny bit nervous about her reaction. Luckily, she can totally laugh at herself, which is one of the many ways she is awesome! 

Hena Khan

Children's author Wendy Shang as a young girl with her mother

My mom has always had my back, from supporting my decision to be a lawyer in the non-profit sector (though she did ask, just once, didn’t I want to try to make *some* money?) to writing books with three little ones in the house. At times, though, her support has been more precise. Pity the New York Times reviewer who made a passing reference to a so-called “odd choice” in one of my books. That warranted a stern letter from mom, though if you ask her about it now, she’ll say it was about accuracy, not protectionism.

Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Children's author Cece Bell as a young girl with her siblings and her mother

My sweet mama, the amazing Barbara Sue Broome Bell, has done all of the following:

Traveled with me to many book events, claiming that she needs the hotel time, while actually keeping me safe and sane while on the road.

Promoted my books to anyone who would listen (and to plenty who wouldn’t).

Told my editor to get me on NPR. (It worked!)

Listened — without judgment — to all my moaning and groaning about a job that I sometimes take for granted. (I shouldn’t.)

Gifted me with her love of nicknames and wordplay, her work ethic, and above all, her scatalogical humor.

Used the bathroom on a hill at the edge of a cemetery, and while squatting, fell over with her bare behind in the air, couldn’t get up, rolled down the hill, hollered for my sister to help her up, and later told me the story through peals of laughter.

Like I said, she’s amazing. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama!

— Cece Bell

Children's author Kelly Starling Lyons and her mother

When I visit schools, I'm often asked, "Who inspired you to be a writer?" My mom's face pops into my mind every time. She made up bedtime stories for my younger brother and me, took us to Pittsburgh Playhouse Junior to see fairytale favorites come to life, wrote and acted in plays that transported us from our seats to other worlds.

Captivated by the magic and power of storytelling, I began to write. Poems, essays, plays, short stories. Mom cheered each creation and encouraged me to keep going.

Her love, talent and faith gave me the confidence to be an author. Is it any wonder that she's my biggest cheerleader today?

Each time a new book debuts, Mom is ready. She spreads the word through her sister circle, incorporates it into church or community programming, carries it around to show people who could help connect it with kids. For the online promotion of my latest new picture book, Tiara's Hat Parade, Mom asked her FaceBook friends to post pictures wearing hats. I loved the styles they wore and their sweet comments. That book is dedicated in part to her. Mom bought me my first hat and let me know I could do anything. In the story, my character, Tiara, gives some of that can-do spirit back to her milliner mother. I can feel my mom in everything I write and share. Thank you, Mom, for all you do and all you are! Happy Mother's Day!

— Kelly Starling Lyons

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"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." — Kate DiCamillo