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An Interview with Raymie Nightingale Author Kate DiCamillo

AN INTERVIEW WITH KATE DICAMILLO

ABOUT RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE

by Hilary Taber

Raymie Nightingale book cover by Kate DiCamillo

 

We’re back again today with more on Kate DiCamillo’s latest middle grade novel, Raymie Nightingale. Hilary Taber’s got some terrific questions lined up for a chance to get the author’s insights about writing this moving story.

INTERVIEW

Hilary Taber: Raymie is a character that is dear to my heart. She’s going through such a hard time, and at the same time she’s looking for what is true about life, what is real, what can be counted on. Is Raymie like you in this way or is that a particular facet of her character?

Kate DiCamillo: Raymie, oh Raymie. Raymie is very much like me. In particular, she is very much like me as a child.

HT: Raymie’s father’s secretary, Mrs. Sylvester, is such a sweetheart. It’s sort of like Raymie gets to have a very practical, straightforward mentor and encourager on the phone whenever she needs someone. Mrs. Borkowski is almost like the opposite of Mrs. Sylvester. She says such mysterious things that make you wonder if they are true somehow. Are these characters based on someone you know or are they both a symbol of the archetypal wise woman?

Novelist Kate DiCamillo, author of Raymie Nightingale

Children’s book author, Kate DiCamillo, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2014–2015 and winner of a Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor.

KDC: I had the great good-fortune of growing up on a dead-end street in a small town. One side of the street was families with young children; and on the other side of the street there were three widows: Mrs. Lucas, Mrs. Lindemann and Mrs. Broadfield. These ladies all kept their doors and hearts open to the kids on the street. I could also go and sit on Mrs. Lindemann’s porch and talk with her. Mrs. Sylvester and Mrs. Borkowski are fictional characters, but they are also a way of thanking those ladies.

HT: Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana each have a problem of their own. Their shared suffering seems to unite them until they are almost a little family. Are these three friends going to make it? I believe that Raymie will make it, but I worry about Beverly and Louisiana. You’ve got me so invested in them!

KDC: I believe—absolutely—that all three of them will make it. I have no doubt about this.

HT: I’m fascinated by Louisiana’s bunny barrettes. They seem like Louisiana herself – present but also little, a tiny bit removed from reality. Did you make those up or did you ever see anyone who wore those?

KDC: Oh boy. And: bless you. I had bunny barrettes. I lost them in Mrs. Lucas’ backyard.

HT: As a child, did you have a book about a larger than life hero like Raymie did? Was there a particular person that you considered your hero when you were a child?

KDC: Librarians were my heroes. Teachers were my heroes. Anybody who put a book in my hand was my hero.

HT: Marsha Jean. Marsha Jean haunts me. Marsha Jean is not real, but yet she is. She’s the, “…ghost of what’s to come.” She’s a person that Louisiana’s grandmother has made up to keep her granddaughter on her toes. What made you think of writing about Louisiana who is pursued by the unknown?

KDC: Hmmm. I don’t know. So much of what happens in a story is not planned out by me, but is rather a surprise to me. So I don’t know how this happened. I do know that I am familiar with that feeling of being pursued by the unknown.

HT: Beverly is initially such a gritty realist, but she can be very sweet. Louisiana is more vague and kind initially, but she can be strongly adamant about how there is room to hope. Where do you see Raymie to be? Is Raymie somewhere between these two?

KDC: Raymie is somewhere in the middle, yes. She is an introvert, a hoper, a watcher. Like me.

HT: The more I read Raymie Nightingale, the more I realized that wisdom and truth are ever present in everyday life. Raymie is someone who listens for it. She listens for people to say something true, something wise. Were you like Raymie when you were a child? Did you listen for a certain phrase or words of truth like Raymie does?

KDC: I did. I still do.

Many thanks to Kate DiCamillo for answering my questions, and to the entire team at Candlewick! As Kate is my writing hero I treasure this chance to interview her. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity I will not soon forget. Summer reading is coming up! Be sure to go to your local indie bookstore and get a copy of Raymie Nightingale today. I can’t imagine anyone else that I would rather spend the summer with than Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana a.k.a. The Three Rancheros!
Click here to read Hilary’s review of Raymie Nightingale from Monday, May 16th.
Click here for Kate DiCamillo’s Facebook page.
Click here for Kate DiCamillo’s website.

  • Interview courtesy of Kate DiCamillo and Hilary Taber

 

Kate DiCamillo Raymie Nightingale Tour

An Interview With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Legendary Sports Figure Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Left to right: Ronna Mandel, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ronna's son Coleman.

“I can do more than stuff a ball through a hoop; My greatest asset is my mind.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

I watched as one of America’s most beloved and celebrated athletes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, ducked his head under an archway and walked into the office where we met. He was coming to talk about his new children’s book What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African American Inventors, co-written with Raymond Obstfeld and illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford. The packed house he spoke to following our interview only served to cement my impression that Abdul-Jabbar, newly named U.S. Cultural Ambassador, is a popular force of good not only here in the states, but internationally as well. In minority communities, Abdul-Jabbar’s aim is to drive the point home about the power of an education. I have no doubt he’ll throw a skyhook on this shot.

 

It’s unusual for such a prominent sports figure to celebrate the prowess of a great mind versus that of a top athlete. Did you know any inventors as a kid?

No, I didn’t. For too many minority communities, their kids grow up thinking that the only way they can be successful is in the realm of sports or entertainment. Everything else is not even presented to them as a possibility. I wanted to have an effect on that situation. By doing this book and pointing out heroes and people who had to overcome a lot to get things done with their minds, I think that’s clearly opening up some windows for these kids to look out of and to see what’s possible.

What Color is My World teams 13-year-old twins Herbie and Ella with a very knowledgeable yet mysterious handyman to introduce kids to unsung black inventors. Did you want this to be a story about overcoming obstacles?

Yes. Because minority kids are not expected to reach certain heights. Talk to a young black kid that lives on the south side of Chicago, or Bedford Stuyvesant, and ask them who their heroes are. They’ll say, LeBron James or Jay-Z. I feel the need to affect that situation and give kids in minority communities an idea that they can achieve in areas they are not thinking about right now. The people I emphasize in this book are scientists and engineers.

You use Sir Isaac Newton’s quote “standing on the shoulders of giants” to inspire kids about building upon old ideas. How did you come up with this? 

Well, I read all the time. I came across it once and it just stayed with me, and I definitely got it. [Kids should] take other ideas that they can understand and apply them to new situations or find new uses for them.

What other factors prompted you to write this book?

The person I most admire is Lewis Latimer who I devoted an entire chapter to in my black history book. Doing that research I found out about other 19th century black inventors. Like Dr. Charles Drew. He came up with the idea of  blood banks, and spawned new discoveries that have saved millions of lives and made it possible for doctors to build on … people don’t really get how important those discoveries were.

When they were growing up, did you challenge your children?

I challenged my children to do whatever their education and their hearts told them to do. So I’ve only had one of my kids that played basketball, my older son. My middle son is just a couple months away from becoming a doctor. He’s going to be an orthopedic surgeon. Both my daughters, the fields they got into were literature. I did not try to coax them in any direction.

If you did not play basketball for a living what else would you have done? 

I probably would have ended up as a history teacher or if I hadn’t gone into teaching, maybe law or something like that.

What would you say to a child, your own children even, to encourage their individual potential in this ever-changing world?

I would just tell them that they have to do well in school They acquire things there they cannot get anywhere else. The only thing I made my kids do was learn the martial arts.

I think this book will resonate with many kids, especially those who perhaps have more brains than brawn.

There’s so much pressure on children in schools and in schoolyards. We can’t all be great athletes. In black communities kids that get good grades get beaten up. They get singled out. The kids who are not good academically resent them, resent the teachers’ pets. I was just lucky that I had size and that my dad taught me how to box. I got good grades and I was a good athlete, which was kind of unusual, so I got left alone.

Visit Abdul-Jabbar’s official website at http://kareemabduljabbar.com for up-to-date information.

WHAT COLOR IS MY WORLD? THE LOST HISTORY OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN INVENTORS. Text copyright © 2011 by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Interview by Ronna Mandel

 

Read Across America Day With Mariette Hartley & Jerry Sroka

Actors Mariette Hartley and Jerry Sroka also happen to be husband and wife. Find out below why this happy couple is turning a new page and teaming up with SAG on Read Across America Day, March 2, 2012.

Photo Credit: Forrest Rogers

Through the SAG Foundation’s literacy program BookPALS, Mariette Hartley and Jerry Sroka will be reading a book to children’s classrooms at Sunny Brae Elementary School in Los Angeles on the afternoon of March 2nd – Read Across America Day.

About the SAG Foundation: In 2011, 2,000 actors served more than 100,000 children through their award winning literacy programs. For nearly two decades, the SAG Foundation has championed children’s literacy through its core program, BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) to learn more visit www.sagfoundation.org.  In honor of Read Across America, the SAG Foundation has twenty literacy events taking place across the country. For over 10 years, the SAG Foundation has hosted literacy events to celebrate RAAD.

Through the SAG Foundation’s literacy program BookPALS, Mariette Hartley and Jerry Sroka will be reading a book to children’s classrooms at Sunny Brae Elementary School on the afternoon of March 2nd – Read Across America Day.

As a children’s book reviewer and avid reader, I love everything about books, from the crisp sound of a turning page to the detailed artwork on a bookjacket. Whether we read them in a book, on a Kindle, iPad or smart phone app, a great story moves us so we celebrate them on Read Across America Day. That’s why Mariette Hartley and her husband Jerry Sroka got involved in RAAD through the Sceen Actors Guild. They both believe “in the power of reading and the extraordinary lives that open up when you read.”

If I go back a few decades, but not as far back as illuminated manuscripts, my earliest memory of a favorite picture book is Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. Somehow the monkeys and the beret-like caps appealed to me. So naturally I wondered if Hartley or her husband could recall any of the books that were read to them or any that they loved as children. Hartley recalled being read The Rose Red Book of Fairy Tales illustrated by Arthur Rackham while Sroka had no recollection of any one particular book being read to him. He did however remember reading The Lou Gehrig Story and The Babe Ruth Story, over and over again. Hartley also said that The Red Shoes, Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale, prompted her to pursue an acting career. For Sroka it was the Thor Heyerdahl adventure, Kon-Tiki.

It’s also no coincidence that Read Across America Day falls on beloved author Theodor Geisel’s (aka Dr. Seuss) birthday. Both Hartley and Sroka have named Dr. Seuss as one of their all-time favorite authors. Frankly, it’s hard to find anyone over the age of three who cannot name one of Seuss’s books. Another top pick of Hartley and Sroka would have to be the prolific and talented Jane Yolen (of How Do Dinosaurs… ? series, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and Owl Moon fame).

By participating in a reading at a local elementary school on March 2, this couple is showing their commitment to literacy. In order to get more kids interested in reading, especially boys, beyond elementary school they think that kids must be read to, not only in grade school but before as babies. “Then, hopefully they’ll catch the [reading] bug. But, don’t force it, make it fun and full of humor and imagination,” say Hartley and Sroka. That’s the main reason why as parents and now as grandparents, these two actors continue to read the ever popular tales:The Cat in the Hat, Eloise, Goodnight Moon, and Amelia Bedelia.

Let today be your day to take some time away from electronics and snuggle up with your child to share a good book.

About Mariette: Emmy® Award-winning actress Mariette Hartley is recognized as one of the most versatile actresses in the industry through her impressive career in television, film and theatre.  Currently recurring on “Law & Order: SVU.” A three-time Clio Award winner for her Polaroid commercials with James Garner, she also hosted the “CBS Morning Program” and is currently hosting her tenth season of “Wild About Animals. “Mariette also just finished doing a play in Cleveland called Ten Chimneys.

About Jerry: Jerry Sroka’s credits include: the Boston and New York stage versions of “Godspell” and the Columbia Pictures film version, “As You Like It,” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Charles Grodin’s “One of the All Time Greats,” at the Vineyard and “Dreyfus In Rehearsal” directed by Garson Kanin. He wrote and appeared in the long running “Dying for Laughs” at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Published by Samuel French it has recently seen productions in Atlanta, N.Y. and Connecticut. Jerry just finished writing a screen play about Senior Softball and did a Disney TV show called Shake It Up.”


About Mariette: Emmy® Award-winning actress Mariette Hartley is recognized as one of the most versatile actresses in the industry through her impressive career in television, film and theatre.  Currently recurring on “Law & Order: SVU,” Hartley has also recurred on the FX series, “Dirt” and has appeared in many television shows including recent appearances on “Big Love,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Cleaner” and “Saving Grace”.  She has starred in such movies for television as “Silence of the Heart” and “MADD: The Candy Lightner Story.”  A three-time Clio Award winner for her Polaroid commercials with James Garner, she also hosted the “CBS Morning Program” and is currently hosting her tenth season of “Wild About Animals.”  Hartley’s recent stage appearances include “Ten Chimneys” at the Cleveland Playhouse and the Broadway production of “Cabaret.”

One of the last young performers chosen by MGM Studios to be groomed for motion picture stardom, Hartley conquered Hollywood in Sam Peckinpah’s classic “Ride the High Country” and her other film roles include Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie,”  “Encino Man,” “1969” and “Improper Channels.”

About Jerry: Jerry Sroka’s credits include: the Boston and New York stage versions of “Godspell” and the Columbia Pictures film version, “As You Like It,” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Charles Grodin’s “One of the All Time Greats,” at the Vineyard and “Dreyfus In Rehearsal” directed by Garson Kanin. He wrote and appeared in the long running “Dying for Laughs” at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Published by Samuel French it has recently seen productions in Atlanta, N.Y. and Connecticut. Other appearances include, “Rumors” in Las Vegas, “Chapter Two” the Woodstock Playhouse, “Wings” the Eastside Playhouse, in NY. TV credits include… “Shameless,” “Shake It Up” “West Wing,” “The Division,” “Seinfeld,” “Providence,” “Party of Five,” and “Philly”.  His voice can be heard on “The Life and Times of Tim,” “Antz,” “Rugrats,” Family Guy”, “The Wild Thornberrys”, and the video game Mafia II.  Jerry and his wife, Mariette Hartley appeared together in “The 60’s” at the Pacific Resident Theatre Company  and in Mr. Sroka’s second play, “In the Wings” in L.A. He appeared in the short film “The Physics of Fathers” playing opposite his son, Warren who wrote and produced. His daughter Ash is an actress and choreographer.

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