Interview with Laura Watkinson

Laura Watkinson’s translation of Soldier Bear (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers) was recently awarded the Mildred L. Batchelder Award. The award is given by the American Library Association to an American publisher for the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States and translated into English for publication in the United States.

I met Laura years ago at the Bologna Children's Book Fair where she was representing SCBWI’s chapter in The Netherlands, and I really enjoyed learning about her work translating books

I was thrilled when she agreed to an interview for Cynsations.

I died and lived to tell about it (A true tale posted for Halloween)

In kindergarten the Boogey Man became really real for me thanks to a man, a guitar and a fairy tale.

During my childhood it was common for parents (or any adult) to threaten kids with the Boogey Man. “Eat your vegetables or the Boogey Man will get you.” Sit up straight. Be nice to your sister. Wash your hands. Listen to your mother. Don’t talk back. And so on… or the boggy man will get you.

I was skeptical. Who was this Boggy man? What did he look like? Where did he live? Why did he want to hang around with children anyway…especially the bad ones? Didn’t he have a mom too?

My mother couldn’t answer my questions. Then how do you even know he is real?

Everyone knows the Boogey Man is real. (NOTE: This is the same mother who later tried to convince me that I didn’t want to do what everyone did ---stay out late, go to a party without parents present and jump off cliffs.)

I wasn’t sure the Boogey man was real until a guitar playing story teller visited kindergarten and told us Rumpelstiltskin. It
freaked me out. This Rumpelstiltskin freak did want to “get” babies. He even sang and danced about it. Maybe I stopped listening or was just too afraid to pay attention. Or perhaps I heard a twisted version of the story.

I went home and told my mother that I learned all about the Boogey Man at school. His name was Rumpelstiltskin and he got babies and killed them.

She tried to assure me that the princess found out his name and her and the prince kept the baby.

“No, he takes children.” I was so afraid.

I had a nightmare. The Boogey Man (named Rumplestiltskin) followed me home from school. I was all alone on my walk. I saw him. And he killed me by bashing my head in with a rock. I tried to say his name and save myself. But it was no use. He kept right on pounding the rock against my head. I remember looking down at my dead self.

Those who say you don’t die in your dreams or you die in real life didn’t have my Boogey Man / Rumpelstiltskin experience as a child.

I died and lived to tell about it.

And I grew up to become someone who enjoys jumping off cliffs!

Happy Halloween

Why read aloud?

When you’re 9 there’s not much you have control over – meals, bedtime, homework, the long walk to and from school. It actually feels like your life is a big long stretch of doing what you are told, no matter what. And kids of 9 carry a huge burden. They have the hugest imagination of anyone. They wonder about everything.                                                                

When I was 9, I wondered what it would be like to be a boy. I wished I could try it out for a few hours or a day. I wanted to talk to animals, really understand them. And I wanted to fly.                                                                         

All of these dreams were realized when Mrs. Hawkins pulled her tall wooden stool to front of the class room, perched upon it and opened THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN by E.B. White.                                                                   

She read and I became a boy (Sam Beaver). While Mrs. Hawkins words washed over me, I could talk to a swan named Louis. Not only talk with him, join him on his quest. And Louis’ quest is everyone’s quest – he had to find his voice (don’t we all?), discover the best way to show his love and he struggled to stay safe in a world that was often dangerous.                                                                         

I don’t remember much about 4th grade. Did Mrs. Hawkins teach us long division? Did we make maps of the world? I bet we studied the Nile (we seemed to study it every year in elementary school). Honestly, I didn’t remember the name of my 4th grade teacher, so, last night I sent a text to an old friend.                                                                        

She wrote: Mrs. Hawkins. Yeah, Louis the swan with the slate and the trumpet. I cried in class when she read it. (Thank you, C.S.!)                                                                           

That’s something I remember. I cried too.                                                                           

Mrs. Hawkins, I’m sorry for forgetting your name. And I’m sorry if I don’t remember the subjects we studied that year. But I know one thing for certain. Each day when you perched up on that tall stool and opened the book it was like you took the entire class in your arms, brought us to Canada and introduced us to Louis. Reading THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN aloud was the best lesson you could have taught.                                                                          

It helped me to find my voice. And to find my way in the world.

Angela Cerrito decided at the age of 12 that she wanted to be a physical therapist. 12 years later she’d earned her master’s degree in physical therapy. She is a physical therapist working with infants, children and their parents and loves every second of it. She also writes for children. Her debut novel THE END OF THE LINE will be published by Holiday House in March.                                                                      

Author Rick Walton is collecting stories about readign aloud; share yours here




I’m thrilled to have a chance to post on the contemps a blog that spotlights contemporary fiction for teens written by some of my favorite YA authors!

The topic --- embarrassing moments!

I embarrass myself on a regular basis, so I thought it would be a breeze to pick a great story for this post. I was determined to come up with something from my teen years and, even though I was an award-winning dork back then, I couldn’t think of anything BIG enough.

I searched my memories for a dumping-my-lunch-tray-on-my-crush moment or a toilet-paper-trailing-from-my-underwear-on-stage event. No luck…errrr…unluck.

I put in an emergency phone call to my mom who reassured me, “You’ll think of something. We were laughing at you ever day.” (Thanks, Mom!) She easily listed the times I got into trouble and the times I got into REALLY BIG trouble. She informed me that I enjoyed my first birth control pill while still in elementary school (sharing one with my sister, of course.) But the most embarrassing thing I did happened when I was a toddler –a topic for another blog post. “Think of food,” my mom advised “Food is always funny.”

So, if you’d like to read about my most embarrassing Thanksgiving check out my guest blog post on the contemps A photo of me in high school is included free of charge!

What was one of YOUR most embarrassing teen moments?

Unexpected Marketing Op

One Kid who likes to draw and doodle:

Art work (drawn on the back of the first page of your manuscript:


Kid brings doodling to school (to work on during free time –not class time, of course)

Kid’s friends ask ‘Hey, what’s that written on the other side?’

Kid reads your first page to her (or his) friends (and translates as needed)

Kid's friends say “I want to read that book”