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Ronna Mandel discusses the love of words and language with San Francisco Bay Area debut author Sandra V. Feder.
Whoever said there are no new ideas has not spent time blogging about kids’ books!
One of my favorite things about writing on Good Reads With Ronna is getting to meet first time authors and I did just that in Larchmont Village one Saturday earlier this month, when I sat down to speak with Sandra V. Feder, author of Daisy’s Perfect Word from Kids Can Press. After spending a delightful time discussing our mutual love of language, I can honestly say I would read anything Sandra wrote because her enthusiasm was not only contagious, but refreshing and totally genuine! Find out more about Sandra on her website, www.sandravfeder.com. There’s also some information about how parents can continue the discussion about words with their children after they read Daisy’s Perfect Word. Sandra’s also included useful information for teachers and librarians about how to use the book in a school setting.
Daisy is a girl who loves words. She compiles lists of words, and using the right words for the right situations makes all the difference in the world to her. Her best friend Emma appreciates Daisy’s love of language and they both adore Miss Goldner, their teacher. What happens when Daisy and Emma learn that Miss Goldner is going to get married? Will Daisy be able to find just the perfect present that will have meaning for Miss Goldner long after her wedding day? Daisy is determined to give a gift that will bring smiles to her teacher while being both unique and something money cannot buy. Share the delight that Feder’s wonderful words can bring by reading a copy of Daisy’s Perfect Word today!
When did the seed of this story begin growing?
The seed began growing from watching my own children and other people’s children have fun with language. I think a lot of kids go through a phase of experimenting with words. They like the way some of the words feel in their mouth. One of my daughters went through a phase of using the word actually a lot. For example she would say, “actually, mother, I’d like some orange juice,” because it made her sound more grown up than the usual kid language. And I noticed a lot of other children having fun learning new words and putting words together, so the idea of a character that enjoyed words and language was born.
Is this an early reader/chapter book or an MG (middle grade) novel? I ask because the different categories can be confusing for parents. So what is it exactly and what age group do you see it for?
I see it for ages 7-10 and it’s called, by me
and the publisher, an early chapter book.
It is not an MG novel, which tends to
be a bit older and to deal with more
mature themes. The early chapter book
is not a first reader. It does have some
bigger words than kids might find in
a first reader. Mine has 11 short chapters.
It’s meant for kids ages 7-10 but also is a fun
book for parents to read with their kids when
they are 5 or 6 years-old.
There’s nothing in it that is not age-appropriate.
It’s a nice read. Kids will feel good about themselves after they complete it. It’s nothing too daunting at first glance.
Yes, and the type is a little bigger, and there are a lot of illustrations, more illustrations than typical MG chapter books. There are fun, big illustrations in almost every chapter and then lots of smaller ones as you go along.
And the illustrations were good, too. I really like them. You were lucky.
I am so grateful that the publisher paired me with a wonderful Canadian illustrator, Susan Mitchell. She really created the world that I imagined, and she did it so beautifully. I am very grateful.
The cover, with the purple polka dots, is simply perfect. It’s appealing.
That’s the art director from Kids Can Press, who did the cover design. They are a terrific Canadian publishing group. They are one of the top places to go for early chapter books. They are really interested in this market right now. They put so much care and love into Daisy’s Perfect Word. You can tell by the way it looks and how it was put together. They really did a beautiful job.
So were you a lot like Daisy growing up?
That’s a good question. I definitely have curly hair! I have always enjoyed words and language. I was interested in becoming a children’s book author from about age 9. And the reason is that I had a wonderful elementary school librarian who not only loved introducing us to books but also would bring authors to the school to talk to us. I think when you are a kid and you meet somebody who has created this world that you love and enjoy so much, it’s a magical thing. And I thought, wouldn’t that be about the most wonderful thing in the world to create a world and characters that children would love? And so it was always a part of me, that seed, and I ended up going into journalism as a career and was a newspaper reporter for many years. I had the opportunity to work as a news assistant for the New York Times in Washington, D.C. when I got out of college. And when you write for The New York Times you really do see the power words have. This was something that always resonated with me, and I finally have the opportunity to bring that passion of mine to a new generation.
Is this your first book?
It’s my first book, and it’s a series so there will be at least four Daisy books and they all have to do with how we use words and language. In Book 2, Daisy discovers alliteration and has fun putting words together in new ways and in Book 3 she’s going to discover poetry. And Book 4, I haven’t decided on yet, but it will be something fun having to do with words.
Everybody has a Samantha in their life as a classmate, a snooty know-it-all kind of girl or boy in many cases. Do you recommend ignoring girls like that as Daisy did quite successfully?
Sometimes Daisy doesn’t like to be around Samantha because of the way Samantha talks and the words Samantha chooses. Samantha uses words such as “Stop!” “Follow me” and “Mine.” I think it’s an interesting lesson for kids to think about the language they use and how other kids hear them. So I wanted to include this character, Samantha, who uses words in a way that isn’t the way that Daisy likes using words. Daisy doesn’t want to have Samantha’s words stuck in her head. She wants to have happier, more pleasant words in her head.
Daisy is a good role model for girls and is empowering. I like the story because it’s not about purchasing anything. It had nothing to do with electronics. It just had to do with what came inside from Daisy as a person.
Thank you for recognizing that!
Daisy spends a good portion of the book searching for the right gift for her favorite teacher Miss Goldner. And then she decides it’s got to be the perfect word, something Miss Goldner will always remember. What is your perfect word?
One of my favorite words is sunshine because I think sunshine is both something we need in our lives, and I think there are people who spread sunshine, like Daisy. And I really appreciate those people in my own life. I’ve also always loved the word delicious because I have a sweet tooth like Daisy, and I also like the word delicious because I think when you apply it to children it’s cute: “What a delicious little baby!”
Daisy and her best friend Emma are really sweet girls, what do you think are the qualities that make them so appealing?
I think that they are girls who value each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I think Emma appreciates Daisy’s fondness for words and Daisy appreciates Emma’s kindness and her sense of fun. They share a lot together. To me what I like about the friendship is that I don’t see them as having the same personality, I see them as having complementary personalities. And as the series goes along, we’ll see different things in their relationship that come up where they diverge a little bit on at least one thing. Daisy wants to do it one way and Emma, who is equally strong, says, “this is what I want.” I think they complement and balance one another.
Talking about Daisy’s love of words – as a writer you had to come up with this story that grew out of your love of words, yet I wonder, who has the better imagination, you or Daisy?
I like to think we both have good imaginations!
I thought Daisy coming up with the idea of a gift in the form of a word and Samantha even approving was huge!
I think it does happen that writers have a concept for a story, which for me was this idea of playing with words and language, but then you need a real storyline to go with it. So I came up with idea of Daisy wanting to give her teacher a gift and then making that gift a word. That’s what moves the story forward. And I also, as you mentioned, wanted something that wasn’t about going out and buying but was something that a child, any child, could come up with. It’s been so wonderful to see the reactions of children to the book; one little girl in Canada wrote a review in the National Post and she said that she loves that Daisy likes making up words because she likes making up words, too. And she included one of her favorite made up words. We made a little book trailer for Daisy’s Perfect Word and went out and asked children, “What’s your favorite word?” and basically, without missing a beat, every child came up with a word. Some had a particular reason they liked the word, and some just said, “I like the way it sounds.” The video trailer is on my website. I think the idea of having fun with words really does touch a chord with children.
You mentioned earlier that you had written right out of college for The NYT. Do you have a full time job, Sandra?
I am committed now to writing children’s books. I am very excited about this new phase for me and feel very fortunate that Kids Can has put their faith in me for four books. As a new children’s book author, to have a series is really exciting and fun. Once I started expanding the Daisy story and really getting to know Daisy in her world, I felt there were so many great places that I could continue to go with her. And the fact that Kids Can saw that as well and believed in me and Daisy is really wonderful. I am also working on some other children’s book projects that I hope will come to fruition.
Will you go on tour?
Right now it’s meeting interviewers like you when I am in a particular city or over the phone, and I’m doing a lot of speaking around the Bay Area where I live, as well as school visits.
Thank you so much Sandra for sharing your time, experience and love of the English language. I cannot wait to read more of your wonderful words! It’s been belotzi (my son’s made up word for fantastic) spending time with you and learning about Daisy’s Perfect Word.