April 19, 2012
We recently hosted children’s book author Roni Schotter at our store with her wonderful new book, All About Grandmas. My conversations with Roni seem to go right to the heart level, some kind of lovely chemistry bewteen us. It was no different this time, as we talked about what led her to write this newest of her many books. I’d commented that so many Grandma books, with the exception of a few favorites, are little more than 32 page greeting cards. This one, I said, has so much content, is so much richer than most and then she shared the story of how the book evolved for her. That was when I proposed that she be our very first guest blogger and share the sweet story of her path to this ” clever, buoyant look at many children’s favorite relative” (Kirkus). If you’re lucky enough to have your Grandma (or your child’s Grandma) around, a personalized copy would make a great Mother’s Day gift!
I’ve written 29 books for children. All of them come from deep feeling. My newest book, All About Grandmas, is no exception. But, I’m not yet a grandmother, so why was I motivated to write a picture book about grandchildren and the grandmas who love them?
Simply stated, the answer is/was loss. Many years ago my mother died–long before my son was born–so he and she never got to meet or know one another. My mother-in-law, though “a cooking grandmother,” was not a particularly involved one. Fortunately, however, for the first year of my son’s life, Jean, a former dear friend of my mother’s and a woman with vast spirit, came to the hospital to hold my baby son in her grandmotherly arms, and visited during his first year of life. Though she died soon after, it was so moving to me to have had her with us, however briefly, as an honorary grandmother.
When I speak to child writers, I call myself a writer/detective—because, so often, I am spying on others—listening in on conversations, ever on the track of possible stories. While my son was growing up, I often found myself watching grandchildren with their grandmothers. Since my son didn’t have the advantage of a grandmother of his own, I defensively imagined the grandchildren I saw as “burdened” with their aging grandmothers.
One day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this protective subterfuge abruptly ended. There I saw a 12-year-old boy wheeling his grandmother in her wheelchair. Poor thing, I thought of the boy–what a bore! What a chore! But then I watched as he parked his grandmother’s wheelchair in front of a painting. Coming around to the front, he leaned his head up against hers as, tete-a-tete, the two of them discussed the painting. Their intimacy and connection moved me to tears. My protective armor crashed to the floor and now I ached to find a way to write about this truly special relationship.
The final inspiration for ALL ABOUT GRANDMAS came a few years later when I re-met “Tuz”– an old friend of my long-deceased mother. Born with a congenital defect in her hip, she needed a walker or cane to get about, so she could only rarely visit her adult daughter. Despite all this, she had a mischievous soul and an activist nature—she and her husband worked to help people less fortunate than they.
Wanting my now nine-year-old son to know this former friend of my mom’s (and also of Jean’s!) I brought him to meet her. On her walker, we watched her smilingly inch her way though the house. “There are cooking grandmothers,” she proudly announced to my son, “and dancing grandmothers. I’m a dancing grandmother!” It was true—despite her body, her spirit soared and danced. Her message to my son was an enduring one–about the mobility and power of a great soul. Inspired, I realized I’d found the way to write ALL ABOUT GRANDMAS!
“They come in different shapes and sizes.
Silly ones wear disguises.
Some stride about in stylish heels.
Others glide through life on magic wheels.”
Short and simple as it is, it took me a long while to write the book. Along the way, I reconnected to my college roommate—a grandmother who, when she wasn’t teaching college-level Spanish was taking Flamenco lessons! (Another dancing grandmother.) Looking around me I realized how different and varied today’s grandmas are from those of the past. Many modern grandmas continue working outside the home, others lead lives of energy, skill and accomplishment at home or elsewhere. All of them are loved by lucky grandchildren. ALL ABOUT GRANDMAS is my love song to grandmas and the children who adore them.
Biography: Roni Schotter is the author of 29 award-winning books for children—from picture books to young-adult novels. A number of her books are used in schools to inspire writing; NOTHING EVER HAPPENS ON 90TH STREET was an NCTE Notable Trade Book in the Language Arts and THE BOY WHO LOVED WORDS won the Parents’ Choice Gold Award. MAMA, I’LL GIVE YOU THE WORLD won the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Best Book Award, and, like 90TH STREET will soon be included in a nationally-offered textbook. Her Jewish holiday books—PASSOVER MAGIC and PURIM PLAY have recently been reissued. HANUKKAH! won the National Jewish Book Award. ALL ABOUT GRANDMAS, beautifully illustrated by Janice Nadeau, is published by Dial Books for Young Readers. Personalized copies are available through our store.