About Me
KidsBookshelf Spotlight

by Christina Lewis

Q. As someone who has written award-winning books for children for over twenty-five years I can imagine that you probably never run out of topics to write about. Do you choose topics by what you feel are the most important or ones that you are most interested in writing about?

A. It’s true, I have a long, long list of book ideas, and phrases and sentences I have heard children say. I jot down their language whenever I hear something that grabs me, and I also jot down descriptions of interactions between a parent and child, or between one child and another that catch my attention. I also have a list of nonfiction topics that interest me as well. What I do run out of is time to actually write each story or nonfiction book on my list. So I pick the one, for reasons I probably don’t even know, that grabs me at that moment. And I choose the topic not so much because I think it is important to do, but because it is something I think is interesting or a challenge and strikes me that a child will be interested in as well.

Q. Your books address many issues that parents face with their children, how much research do you do to prepare?

A. Yes, I do a lot of research and the amount varies for each book. For my nonfiction books, research – which for me means talking to experts in the field – takes many months and I often go back to these same experts time and time again to ask more questions as the writing for that book progresses. These experts range from parents to educators, librarians, health professionals, and sometimes, depending on the topic, clergy. For my picture books, I also talk with parents, educators, and often to child analysts. At a certain point, I realize that I have enough information and stop talking to others and begin to write my book. Then I’m on my own and that always feels great. And sometimes I write a picture book without talking with anyone or doing any research.

Q. In your research do you find children today deal with their feelings differently than when you were a child?

A. I have not asked anyone this question when doing research. But I do think that the basic range of emotions that most young children have and hopefully express – ranging from love to anger, jealously, fear, joy, and so many others – are the same basic emotions we all had growing up and still have. But what I do think is different is the impact of the media on our children’s emotional life. They are constantly exposed, whether we like it or not, to more violent or explicit images, over the radio, on TV, on computers, even when shopping and they see billboards and all sorts of images that they are bombarded with day-in, day-out. Also there is a war going on and they are not immune from hearing about that. We all still carry these same childhood emotions and maybe that’s what I find so fascinating and why my picture books for young children are all about the emotional life of a young child. My newest books for young children, the JUST BEING ME books, deal with these same kinds of emotions that most every young child has. The four books – I’m SO MAD!, I’M NOT SLEEPY!, I LOVE MESSES!, and I’M ALL DRESSED! – each deals with the emotional ties between a child and parent or parents that mirror the normal ups and downs of daily life together.

Q. “Goodbye Mousie” is a wonderful book on dealing with the loss of a pet and one I wish I’d had when my daughter lost her pet. Was this book inspired by a pet you lost as a child?

A. “Goodbye Mousie” is a book that was in my head for ages. I suspect that this book came from my children’s love of their many rodent pets, and our dog and our cats as well, and my family’s many pet burials in our back yard. Much of this book comes from my children’s experience as young children as seen through my eyes. And of course, and sadly – over my family’s life together as in most families, grandparents and others have died. And I am quite sure it also comes from my own early years and the death of my own mother when I was 21. So this book is also about the loved ones we all lose over time.

Q. What do you like to do just for fun when you’re not working on a book?

A. When I am not working, and I do work fulltime, I love to hang out with my family and friends. And now that I am a grandmother, I love to babysit for my grandchildren and spend time being with them, reading books, playing make-believe games, cooking waffles, and just having so much fun together. I love to bike and hike especially in the mountains, or bike around the river near my house. Movies and going to hear live jazz or blues are other things I love to do. Oh and one other thing, I love to read books!