Soar today with our guest Alison Green Myers, whose first book for middle grade readers, A Bird Will Soar, received the American Library Association's 2022 Schneider Family Book Award and the Pennsylvania State Library Association's 2022 Carolyn W. Field Award. Alison is the program director for the Highlights Foundation, a national writing fellow, and an active member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. And beyond that, she's got a ton of classroom experience and has written strong STEM-based curriculum.
[04:20]A Bird Will Soar One of the things I noticed is that it creates space in the world for all kinds of families, all kinds of feelings, and all kinds of healings. And I found myself wondering, were there connections from your own childhood that informed the book?
[04:53] Alison: My favorite part of the book is talking to kids about it, and the number one question they ask is, what parts are real? I think the thing about fiction that kids love is that they realize it's this suspension of reality as they're entering a story. But then they're like, but I'm talking to you right now, and I know you created this. So let me in on the secret. Like, what are the parts that are real? And there are parts that are very tangible to my life growing up.
[11:02] Alison: One of the things I love talking to kids about is most of the time when they hear the term bird brain, it's not always seen as a positive thing. But really, if we unpack a bird brain and we think about all of the messages going on in there, all of the information packed inside that side of a brain that's light enough for flight, it's like miraculous, right? Brains just are completely fascinating to me. And there's a heavy theme of that within the book about processing and about our minds, our brains, our instincts being the messages that are just right for us.
[18:25] Connecting STEM/STEAM to A Bird Will Soar -- a Teacher Educator Guide actually written by a teacher (who happens to be the author)
[21:16] What impact did winning the Schneider Award have on your writing?
[32:55} How did the Highlights Foundation shape your journey?
You can visit Alison Green Myers' website or follow her on Instagram or LinkedIn.
Soar today with our very special guest Alison Green Myers, whose first book for middle grade readers, A Bird Will Soar, received the American Library Association's 2022 Schneider Family Book Award and the Pennsylvania State Library Association's 2022 Carolyn W. Field Award. Alison is also the program director for the Highlights Foundation. She's a national writing fellow and she's an active member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. And beyond that, she's got a ton of classroom experience. She's written strong STEM-based curriculum, and I think you're just in for a real treat.
What is your adventure in learning?
[01:08] Dr. Diane: I'm going to start by asking you a question I ask everybody who comes on the show. What is your adventure in learning? How did you get to where you are today? You have so many interesting pieces to your background. How did that all come together for you?
[01:25] Alison: I think I was always a very imaginative kid. I spent a lot of time by myself, and I would really create lots of different worlds in my mind. I grew up in a really small town in central Pennsylvania, and when I was younger, I wanted to be a firefighter or a nurse. I knew I wanted to do something to be a helper. Mr. Rogers was definitely my favorite and look for the helpers.
And then I started to think more about teaching, and that really changed my life. I mean, that got me where I am today. I think I had a lot of really cool experiences growing up. I had some instability at home. I had a family kind of take me in, and they owned a traveling carnival. And so in the summers, I got to travel with them and a bunch of my girlfriends, and that was quite a life. It was quite an opportunity. I got to find a lot of bravery being out on my own, I think, like that.
But as far as seeing myself as a writer or reader, that didn't happen until I was teaching writers and readers. I went and got my undergraduate in elementary education and special education, and I remember being in my first classroom, and the reading time was just the best part. I think the kids could genuinely see my excitement in the clock turning to that time and us being ready to sit down and read together. I wanted to write with them, I wanted to read with them. And then I got involved in the National Writing Project, which really is the teacher as a writer. And it's all about modeling your writing in front of kids and your process and your fears and your vulnerability. And we just became writers. And through that, we had an author visit our classroom who was getting ready to teach at the Highlights Foundation. And she was like, So you're starting to write. Did you know that this is something that you could learn more about and learn how to do for kids? And I love teaching, love being with kiddos. And I thought, Well, I'll try that, and got involved with the Highlights Foundation, and it set me on a completely different learning path. Yeah, experiences, for sure. But I think teaching in general is what shaped this next part of my life.
A Bird Will Soar
[04:20] Dr. Diane: And we'll circle back to teaching in a few minutes, because I noticed some ways that your teacher brain still informs what you're doing. But I do want to talk about A Bird Will Soar. As I was reading about your book, one of the things that I noticed was said about it is that it creates space in the world for all kinds of families, all kinds of feelings, and all kinds of healings. And as you were just talking, I found myself sort of wondering, were there connections from your own childhood that informed the book? And if you can just sort of give us a little bit more about the book.
[04:53] Alison: My favorite part of the book is talking to kids about it, and the number one question they ask is, what parts are real? I think the thing about fiction that kids love is that they realize it's this suspension of reality as they're entering a story. But then they're like, But I know somebody. I'm talking to you right now, and I know you created this. So let me in on the secret. Like, what are the parts that are real? And there are parts that are very tangible to my life growing up.
I mean, I think the ultimate theme in the book has to do with the main character, Axel. He's processing the mystery of a parent going away and coming back, and he's trying to fill in the gaps himself. And for me, that is absolutely, positively what I did as a child. As my mom would come and go, as people would use things like words like sick, but she didn't look sick, or she would act really funny one time, and I couldn't quite figure it out, or she would need me to help get her into bed. I couldn't figure that out. I would fill in these thoughts all on my own. And so when kids say, what are the parts that are real? Those emotions are really real. And that mystery stuck with me for decades. I think when you lose a parent, when you're young, when that parent has substance abuse problems, when you are a child, you will process that the rest of your life. You'll process that again and again when you become a parent, if you become a parent. When you're writing your stories down, you're processing it then as well. So that's a big part. I don't always go really deep into the addiction with Kiddos, but there are enough nods in the book that I think kids see that and they see this sense of recovery in the book, recovery in a lot of ways. Like, there is a bird that gets injured. There's a very outward problem that we see happening, and then there's this inward struggle with the family. And both of those pieces are things that I've experienced and have happened in my life, and then the backdrop of birds being a part of it. My family and I were pretty big bird nerds, and I specifically gravitate towards birds of prey. They're completely fascinating to me. And it just felt like the right catalyst for these two tensions, this tension of family and then this outward piece that we're talking about, kind of the fragility of a bird, but really the strength of a bird in the story.
[07:46] Dr. Diane: Do you have a favorite passage that you’d like to share?
[07:48] Alison: I just am coming off of World Read Aloud Day, which is my favorite day of the year.
[07:57] Dr. Diane: Mine too.
[08:01] Alison: And the interesting thing, I talked to the kiddos this year. I was in a bunch of classrooms and we talked about brains. If you have an opportunity to read the book, it's really all about how our brains are all very different. In my household, I have a seizure condition, we have ADHD, we have autism. We are constantly talking about how we're constantly coming to situations differently. I remember thinking everybody must pass out Uno cards the same way. I count. So if there's three of us playing Uno, I count to 21. I thought everybody did that like a processing thing, right? But what I found was most people are like one, one, but that's just like a really tangible example of it. And so when I went in for World Read Aloud Day this year, we talked so much about brain processing and how our brains are fascinating and really human brains are extraordinary. But I'm also interested, and maybe it's because of the way things fire inside my own mind, but in how all brains operate. And so a passage that I read, I actually read two to the kids, and these are both very short, have to do with this main character, Axel, who I talked a little bit about. He also, like me, is really fascinated with how people's brains work. And he is thinking about how others are thinking, and it's one way that he really connects with people in his life. And so, Axel has a ginormous found family like I did, people who maybe aren't related to him by blood, but they are caring, they are important people in his life. And one such person is George, who's almost like a grandfather character to him, lives near him. And George greets Axel as Axel is coming out of the woods, and always greets him with a poem. So this is just a little passage to kind of highlight those two things.
“George knows the best poems. Like this one about thinking time in the woods, and others, too, like the one about the golden eagle soaring above the mountains in the morning. So I like to imagine peeking underneath George's white hair, underneath the flesh and bone, and into the pulsing brain of George M. Flores. How those words must snap along the synapses. Go, repeat words. We all have brains. The paths they make are as unique as feathers, match any two. Look up close, really closely. No two feathers are the same and neither are two brains.”
But a very short passage, just a little example of something there. But I also talk a lot about this book, is told in prose. So we've got this forward momentum of the narrative where we have the main character, Axel, and he's trying to pull together these mysteries of the things happening in his family. Also, there's this rescue involved with this eaglet. But sprinkled throughout the book, at the beginning of each chapter, there's a poem or something that's poetry engagement. So all of the poems have to do with factual information about birds, but it kind of gives you a preview. That's what I like to talk to the kids about. Like, why would I start the chapter with that poem? And usually they can find the theme then in the chapter itself. So later on in the book, something happens and they're getting ready to do the rescue, like the actual rescue is coming. But the beginning of that chapter, chapter 12, is called Plan. It should be called an Ode to Birds Brains. Because really what I'm saying here is no matter the size of a brain, no matter the size, it is doing the job it needs to do in the body that it inhabits. And so here's an ode to a bird's brain. It's actually called Plan, but…
the compact brain,
tight inside curved skull,
light enough for flight.
Protects motor and senses,
reason, purpose and promise.
One of the things I love talking to kids about is most of the time when they hear the term bird brain, it's not always seen as a positive thing. But really, if we unpack a bird brain and we think about all of the messages going on in there, all of the information packed inside that side of a brain that's light enough for flight, it's like miraculous, right? Brains just are completely fascinating to me. And there's a heavy theme of that within the book about processing and about our minds, our brains, our instincts being the messages that are just right for us.
[13:02] Dr. Diane: Well, and I love the fact that you're dealing both with neurodiversity and diversity of families, because I think that's something that so many of the students we're working with are facing in their own lives. And so it provides that mirror for many kids, as well as a window to be able to see and maybe appreciate other classmates who might be different than they are.
[13:23] Alison: Yeah, I love that. The book is kind of a quiet book. I mean, it's not the kind of book, it didn't make a huge splash, let's say, in the world. But for the people that connected with the book, I think they really connected. And early on, when the book first came out, I was invited to do a talk at a local bookstore in Pennsylvania. And I thought I got there really early. I didn't know who would show up. And when I got there, it was like an hour, maybe an hour and a half early. There was already a kid there. I was like, oh, my goodness. And so at first, I go in. I'm like, Would you like to help me? No, he doesn't want to help me set up. I'm like, okay. So I'm setting up. I had some activities to do with the kids. And he said, finally he said, “If anyone has any questions tonight about the book, I can answer them.” And that was like a stop all forward motion kind of phrase because it all kind of came together. I had spent the time working on this book, writing it mostly about myself and my family and these things that I had been processing. And then you work really hard to get the book out into the world, right? Sell it and whatever. And in my head, I was like, this book isn't selling. I'm failing somehow. Will anyone connect with this book? So it's these ugly things I think of when I think of, like, putting out a book, and that's not me. And so I was having physical reactions to it, definitely emotional and mental reactions to it.
And then this kid says, if anyone has any questions about the book tonight, I can answer them. The book wasn't mine anymore. The book was his. It was theirs. Any kid that picks up this book and sees themselves.
And then there were maybe five kids at this event that they did at this thing. He answered every question. Somebody would ask a question. His name was Malcolm. Somebody would ask a question, and he would answer it. And then at the end so we do this thing. I do this writing activity with the kids. We're talking, and at the end, he says, some of you maybe wanted to ask but didn't, and goes on to say all the questions that he feels people should have asked about the book, including why I use poetry in the book. Wow. And answered all of those questions, talking about representation, talking about those pieces. There's something about you saying people seeing themselves in you, in your story, people learning about other people in the world. But, oh, my gosh, when a kid takes ownership of the book. I had never in my life experienced something like that, and it was a game changer for me. It switched into a completely different headspace going forward. And I credit that kid, that store in Wilkes-Barr, Pennsylvania, for really.
[16:54] Dr. Diane: That's amazing.
[16:55] Alison: They saw the book. It was amazing. Yeah.
Connect STEM/STEAM to A Bird Will Soar (Teacher Resources Written BY a Teacher)
[18:25] Dr. Diane: Now, I was looking online, and I loved the Teacher Educator Guide that goes with the book. And in particular, I noticed two things that really stood out to me. One, there's a whole section where you provide STEM/STEAM connections, which I think is really powerful. And then the other section, you provide these wonderful book connections to picture books, to middle grade novels, and even to adult books that pair beautifully with it. And so I'm assuming that that comes from your background as a teacher, that you created this, but why was it important to you to include those elements in the teaching guide?
[19:04] Alison: So, again, I'll go back a little bit and just say I should credit somebody else for that. My dear friend Bobbie Combs. So the book was getting ready to come out. I was gripped in, just terror about the book coming out. And my friend Bobbie said to me, well, what is it when you think about, okay, the book is out in the world. There's nothing you can do about it. What is it you really want to happen? And I said, I want to talk to kids about it. She said, well, write the teacher guide. Write down all the things that you want to talk to kids about, put something together that excites you and that you can see something in the future really positive happening with the book, having these discussions with Kiddos. And so that's what I did. Even World Read Aloud Day. I talked a little bit about that at the end of World Read Aloud Day. They're really quick sessions. You read. And then I always do a book. Like, I brought all these Schneider Family Book Award books with me, and I talked about all the different books that won the Schneider Family Book Award that were positively representing the disability experience out in the world, contemporary books today. That was really important for me.
And in a Teacher Guide, I want kids to feel successful in the themes of the book, like, if the thing that they think is the coolest about this book is birds, oh my goodness, look at all these nonfiction books about birds. If it's the way that we connect with nature, oh my goodness, look at all the different books that are out there that have humans and nature not just coexisting, but intricately related to one another. So that was the most exciting part. And then what I loved was Penguin. When the book was reprinted in paperback, they said, we loved your teacher guide, too. And so now in the paperback version of the book, the teacher guide is printed right into the back of the book itself.
What impact did winning the Schneider Award have on your writing?
[21:16] Dr. Diane: Oh, wow. That is really cool. I really loved that. And you talked about the Schneider Award. What difference did that make to you, winning that?
[21:27] Alison: That was a big one. It was shocking. For those who don't know, with the American Library Association, the awards that they do, the Youth Media Awards every year, you do find out very shortly before they make the big announcement to everyone that you've won the award. And my editor ended up calling me on Thursday, I think the awards were on Monday. And he said, we have to have an emergency marketing meeting. And when I tell you that this book is quiet and made a quiet entrance into the world, I had never met the marketing team. We had never had any discussions about the book. So I was like, oh, no. What have I done? I had just turned in some videos. I did a video on trying poetry, like using the book. I thought, oh, my goodness, maybe I did something wrong with that. They didn't want me to do that. So I get on this zoom call, and my editor's camera is turned off, but I can see his name. And my agent, Jen Rofe, her camera is turned off, but I can see her name. And then there's all these people on the screen. I don't know, but I don't know anyone on the marketing team, right? Oh, they said, we should probably tell you why we're gathered. And I always go worst case scenario, my brain goes immediately to it and splinters off into 1000 stories of worst case scenario. So I'm sitting there thinking something terrible has happened. And the woman introduced herself and she said she was the chair of the Schneider Family Book Award. Well, as a classroom teacher, as someone working at the Highlights Foundation, as someone in the disability space, to me, those words weren't connecting with being in there. And she was so lovely that I don't know where I went when she first started talking. But she must work with kids who process very similar to the adult that was sitting in front of her on the Zoom screen because she said, I can tell you need me to repeat everything that I just said. And she went again and she read the citation for why Bird won the Schneider Family Book Award. And it was one of those moments where, like, I was present, but then the things that came out of my mouth, I remember talking to her about. So the whole committee then opens up their screens and they're all facing me on Zoom. And my editor comes on and he's crying. And my agent comes on and she's crying and I'm sobbing. And I start talking about Show Me a Sign, which had won a few years earlier, about that book. And then she was like, do you want to talk about a A Bird Will Soar? And then you go and you get the award at the annual conference. And when I showed up, I was still having that conversation. Am I really in the place that I'm supposed to be? It was shocking. It was just so shocking to be recognized by an award committee that I hold in the highest esteem, of course, who saw literary pleasure in the book and also saw authentic representation of a disability experience. So that was really meaningful. I just went on way too long.
[25:20] Dr. Diane: No, you know what? It's a beautiful response and it's very honest. And as you were talking, what I was sort of thinking is between Malcolm, who gave you that affirmation that your book was reaching children, and the committee that gave you the affirmation that it was loved and appreciated and hopefully also then gave you, with that stamp and that seal, a little bit more marketing push. I'm hoping that maybe that's inspiring you for your next novel or your next book,
[25:52] Alison: It's funny, I just talked to my agent this week, so I have a big revision that's due to my editor. The second book is under contract. It's not related to Bird. It's a different book. But my editor says they're in the same orbit, aren't they? I could see the main characters being friends. It has to do with this intricate family and found family structure. It's set on an amusement park very similar to the experiences that I had on the carnival. If Bird was 60% me, this book, which is about finding happiness, is 95% me. But I just talked to my agent the other day, and she said, how are the revisions going? And, like I'm doing right now with you, I apologize. I ramble, ramble, ramble, ramble. And then I said, that's all to say. I'm nervous. And she's like, I figured. So I'm I'm still, I still can see the path that I want this book to take. I see the shape that I want this world to be. There's still that piece inside me that says, yeah, but can I pull that off? I know what I want this character to show the world, and I just want to make sure that I'm the person who can do it in the very best way. She's, like, a really important character to me, and I want it to happen for her right now. That's the point in the process that I'm at.
[27:35] Dr. Diane: So in your writing process, do you have a crew of people that you go to, or is it very internal and just you.
[27:44] Alison: Definitely not. I mean, I think it's internal for a long time. I'm like slow drip coffee. Things get really sticky and stay in my brain. I write poetry a lot, too, mostly for adults. And somebody like you and I might be talking today, and there might be a phrase that you end up saying that will just, almost like a post-it note. It gets stuck in my head, and then I keep going back to it, and I keep going back to it until other words start to build around it. And I feel like that's how I do poetry until a novel comes to me, is so similar. There is, like, the core theme or the core character, and there's stuff inside my head and I'm just like, it stays in there for a really long time until it has enough other stuff stick to it, which doesn't sound like right now I'm picturing gum on the underside of a table, which it probably is not pretty, so that's probably accurate. And then when I first start talking about the book in earnest, I have a friend, she and I talk on Saturday mornings, without fail, early every Saturday morning. She's busy full time job and writes. I have a full time job and I write. And so we carve out this time really early on Saturday mornings to just give an update. Did we do anything in our writing lives for our writing selves? So she's, like, my accountability friend, and I go through a lot of things with her, and I have other really trusted people who maybe read pages or might let me read a section to them or something like that. My agent is amazing. She's very editorial. She has a great, when she says something is working, I don't feel like she's just saying it to be nice, which, how do you go through life like that? I feel bad sometimes saying that, but sometimes you just feel like, oh, they must be saying that to be nice. If she says no, this is working. She's so on the nose and honest. It's great. And then my editor and I have a good relationship. Someone used the term, and I love this. I hope he'd be okay with it. But I was at an event and somebody said, oh, Andrew Karre, editor. He edits by metaphor. And I was like, there's this whole scene that I was working on in the next book, and he said something to me about duct tape in that section. He didn't say, like, it reminds me of duct tape. He actually started to talk about fixing his bike. He's a biker, and he was talking about fixing it with duct tape instead of investing in the piece that he knew that he needed. But I knew that there's no duct tape or bikes in the book itself. It has to do with this family, like, bandaging over and just moving forward, even though it's not the proper fix. So editing by metaphor, meaning we just talk about all these things, and then I try and synthesize what he's talking about before I can bring it into the book. And then eventually, he doesn't worry as much about the shape of something until he's sure that the sound of it is right. And I really appreciate that about him. Like with Bird, there was no rhyme or reason to the chapters. There was poetry everywhere. And then really far in, he said, let's put some structure behind this. What do you think about moving poems to the beginning of the chapters? I was like, oh, yeah. So he lets me be messy until he cleans it up and kind of moves it forward.
What is the Highlights Foundation?
[32:55] Dr. Diane: Now, back at the beginning, you had mentioned you had been in the classroom, you were doing the writing project, all of that, and you ran into the Highlights Foundation and assistance and help as you were writing, you now work for them. How did that come about? And can you tell us a little bit about the Highlights Foundation and what it does?
[33:16] Alison: Sure, yeah. So if you're familiar with Highlights magazine, the Highlights Foundation is a nonprofit arm that is loosely tied to the Highlights family of corporations. And it started as a retreat center, and we still have the retreat center, but we also have online classes. And it is a place for people who really care about children's books to come and work on or learn about the craft of writing or illustrating for kids. I don't know. We have tons of free sessions. We have paid online classes. We have paid retreats. We have personal retreats where you can do writing. We have fellowships where we're really trying to amplify the voices right now. We have a Muslim Storytellers Fellowship where we have 16 Muslim writers in a cohort. We've been working together for over a year and working on their stories with people in their communities, uplifting their voices in children's books.
And it came through my life pretty much like anything else. I wasn't looking for it. It came to my school. I was teaching, and Linda Oatman High was author in residence. Linda lives in Lancaster. I was teaching in Lancaster. She came into my classroom. I was telling her how much I like to write with my students, and she was like, have you ever heard of the Highlights Foundation? She was getting ready to teach a class there. And I had applied for a scholarship, and my school district, as long as I was receiving continuing education credits, matched the scholarship that I had. So I got graduate credits, and I got to take a class in writing books for children. It was called Hip to Historical. It was like an overview of children's books. It was so life changing. And it was at the Retreat Center, which is in northeastern Pennsylvania, and when I was there, everyone there was much farther on their journey than me. And one of the women there said they do this large conference where you can meet editors and agents, and it's at the Chautauqua Institute in New York. You should see if you can get a scholarship there. And I did. I ended up getting a scholarship there. And really, it was a week long, intensive talk about professional development, and I was equal parts, like, losing my bananas because of the people who were speaking at this thing. I couldn't believe it. Like, Linda Sue Park was there, and I was, like, at a table next to Linda Sue Park, and I couldn't get over it. And I told her a story about how A Single Shard kept getting stolen from my classroom, but I was so excited because it meant that the kids just wanted to take it home with them. And then she gave me a copy of the book, and I don't know it was beyond. And I ended up meeting my spouse, who is a part of the Highlights family, which I didn't know when we met there. And then we stayed in Lancaster for three years, and when my son was born, we moved closer to the family homestead.
And just then, the Highlights Foundation was kind of going through an overhaul, and they were building a conference center. And the executive director, Kent Brown, said to me, you have a background in curriculum design. I think we might need, like, a curriculum. I'm not so sure that we need you to design a class, but we need, like, we have representation and illustration. Is there something here for people just starting their picture book journey, or could you do it? And at that time, I was moving to a new area. I had a brand new baby. The answer was yes, because I didn't know what is my next step. And I said yes, and worked there pretty solidly for about three years. And then I went back to teaching, and then a new executive director came in and said, think we could use an infusion again? And when I came back the second time, there was more of an ability to try other things. So we built the Essential Conversation series, and we built a diversity fellowship and things like that, that I just not only stayed, but I stayed and just kept leaning in and leaning in and leaning in. But I was part of the Highlights Foundation for a very long time.
Talk about, I think a book takes as long as it takes to write. I was connected to and surrounded by people who were living and breathing children's books, but I needed to work on stories on my own pace. I needed to come to this story at my own time. So I started my first class at the Highlights Foundation was in 2006. I sold A Bird Will Soar to Dutton Penguin in March of 2020. And in between that time, I had finished seven other novels that never found a home anywhere, maybe five other picture books. Those were all part of my journey. I guess what I'm saying is, it takes as long as it takes. You could take every class at the Highlights Foundation. You could design every class foundation, and it takes as long as it takes.
Let's talk about favorite children's books
[39:32] Dr. Diane: All right, and I'm going to ask you one or two final questions. When you were a kid, what were your favorite picture books? What were your favorite books?
[39:42] Alison: That's a great question. I remember my mom sometimes would drop my older sister and I off at the library. We had a really cool library in our town, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. And the children's book area was this really thick red carpet. I remember that. But I think I was a daydreamer. I was thinking of my own stories or thinking about what was happening. My older sister. She was so beloved at the library, they would let her take out as many books as she ever wanted to. And she didn't just have to say in the children's section that's what kind of reader she was. So when I think about a reader when we were little, my sister was.
I do remember my elementary school librarian reading one of the Ramona books. And in it, Ramona talks to her dad about not smoking, and she makes signs, and to me was like I remember thinking, oh, my goodness. These are conversations I want to have with adults. I want to be brave like Ramona. But I don't remember picking up a book and loving a book until I started teaching. And then it was like A Single Shard And Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo and Hollis Woods by Patricia O'Reilly Giff. What Is Goodbye? by Nikki Grimes. A book about grief and about relationships between siblings. When I was a teacher, that's when I really became a children's book reader. So maybe I was in my 20s when a children's book really got solidified in my head, but they did and they've stayed.
[41:30] Dr. Diane: That's wonderful. And I noticed you are surrounded by amazing books behind you as a grown up. Now, you had your favorites when you were teaching. What are some of your favorite books today?
[41:45] Alison: It's such a hard thing. So I just finished Wildoak by C.C. Harrington, which is historical fiction. It's told between two points of view. The main character is processing the world differently. Stutters has this incredible relationship that's built with nature and with her grandfather. That book really stood out to me. I love The Bridge Home. It’s set contemporary India, Padma Venkatraman. That to me, is like such a beautiful snapshot of found family. It's this trio of kids. Well, and a sibling, but that would be a giveaway if I talk too much about that. But it's about them learning to be brave individually, but also coming together as a family in order to survive. It's an emotionally gorgeous book. I feel like I could talk about books just forever. And I know I would leave every other book out.
[43:13] Dr. Diane: Oh, no, I totally get that. That's one of the things I love about getting to do this podcast, is I get to talk about books on a weekly basis, which is really nice for me. Last question for today. What brings you hope?
[43:27] Alison: Yeah, I think spending time with kids for sure gives me hope. I wrote a note to my readers in the back of the book, and one of the things that I wanted to tell them because there might be bird nerds like me who read the book, I wanted to tell them what was fact and what was fiction when it came to the birds in the book. And I had an expert reader. I had a falconer who read the book and he wrote me a really nice note, not super familiar with children's books. So he was like, this seems a little long for a book for kids, but I think he was picturing a picture book. But at the very end of the note, he said, the only problem that I have is that you keep putting the concept of hope onto the eagles, specifically the parents, that they have hope that their child will survive. And I sat with that and I thought, oh, my goodness, if I unpack that, I unpack so much. But in this note to Kiddos and they brought this back to me. They've said it to me, the words.
I hope that hope permeates the species. I hope that it's found wherever we look, in whatever we look. And so I want kids to look for where they see hope. And then how lucky are we that they bring that back to us? How lucky are we that they're caring about things that they really want to see change, and, man, they are bound and determined to make it. Then I feel really lucky to even though I'm not in the classroom day to day anymore, to be able to be with kids and have that hope kind of sprinkle out on me when I get to see kids.
[45:45] Dr. Diane: You've been listening to the Adventures In Learning podcast with your host, Dr. Diane. If you like what you're hearing, please subscribe, download and let us know what you think, and please tell a friend. If you want the full show notes and the pictures, please go to drdianeadventures.com. We look forward to you joining us on our next adventure.