Today, I have something a little bit different for Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday. I am celebrating weeds. Yes, those things that grow when you don't even try, and more often you spend time pulling them up and tossing them away rather than enjoying them. Here is Cindy Jenson-Elliott to tell us about her new book, Weeds Find a Way.
by Cindy Jenson-Elliott; Illustrated by Carolyn Fisher
Beach Lane Books (February 4, 2014)
Thank you Cindy Jenson-Elliott for stopping by Kid Lit Frenzy and sharing about your new book and some other fun stuff.
Thank you so much for reading my book and being interested in weeds! The natural world needs a voice. The Lorax spoke for the trees, and I am speaking for the weeds!
I love that you created a book about weeds and that you actually celebrate weeds in the book. Do you have a “green thumb” or instead, like me, the only thing I can successfully grow is weeds?
I don’t think anyone really has a green thumb. Actually, that term kind of bothers me, because it assumes that either you can or can’t grow plants. Given the right support, anyone can grow plants. For me, the support I need is automatic watering, since it doesn’t rain much here. My system isn’t fancy—just a timer on a hose bib. But it gives people the impression that I do have a green thumb. But don’t knock it if you can grow weeds! It means you have soil that they like, water they like, and are letting things go a bit wild. Not a bad thing.
What inspired you to write about weeds?
As a school garden teacher, I am often faced with weeds. The first year our garden was up and running, I felt despair over the weeds, and began the hard work of pulling them out—until I realized what a valuable resource I was wasting! I could be teaching about the weeds, not just composting them! I began to appreciate their tenacity and ingenuity—the very qualities we like to inspire in our students! I went to the library to get a book and prepare a lesson, and discovered there were no books for kids about weeds. So, after contemplating just what I wanted people to appreciate about weeds, I wrote the book.
It seems that every author or book lover has a book story, the one book that turned you into a true reader. What is your story?
I fell in love with reading when I read a little book called Annie Oakley, Little Sure Shot. It had an orange cover and was one of the books in the Childhoods of Famous Americans series. I remember where I was standing when I realized that something had changed for me. I was in the basement of my family’s house in suburban Philadelphia, and was struck by—love! It was one of those heart-opening moments when you realize you LOVE something. I loved the story so much. I was IN the story, heart, soul and mind. After that, I could not stop reading. When we moved the next year to the desert of California, I would trek through the 120 degree sun to the library and get stacks of the orange books. I could not believe they had them all the way across the country—a shelf of orange books about kids I could relate to who had lived long ago.
When you think about your journey from writer to published author, who are some of the people that your credit for influencing your work?
I was very influenced by Mrs. Barnhouse, my 2nd grade teacher at Gladwyne Elementary School in Gladwyne, PA. She introduced me to poetry, and I decided I wanted to be a poet. Of course, no one was a poet that I knew of, so I didn’t believe it was possible. In fact, I didn’t believe it until I saw this book on the shelf of a bookstore for the first time last week. What a miracle! I was also very influenced by my mother, who would take my hand-written stories and poems, from age eight onward, and type them up on a portable manual typewriter, so that I would feel like a real author, with my words in print. She was amazing. In college—Bowdoin College, in Maine—I was on a wonderful literary magazine, The Quill, and my fellow writers and editors would sit around a dinner table and hash over the week’s submissions. It was a rich, funny community of writers and learners, and allowed me to try out writing different things in a safe space. Emotional safety is so important to writers! Poet Steve Kowitt, with whom I took a poetry class many years ago, made writing poetry an exploration of the world. Diane D’Andrade, a former editor at Harcourt who used to teach writing courses at UCSD extension, really kicked my butt and made me write and write and write again each time I took her class. And now, my students influence me. Their enthusiasm for books of all kinds inspires me every day!
If you can spend the day with a character or characters from any book (that you did not write), who would it be and what would you do?
I know this sounds totally nerdy, but I would love to go to Narnia and hang out with Lucy and her siblings and learn to do archery and sword fighting, to run and leap and explore the world. Or, I would love to meet and travel with Lafcadio Hearn. The book about him, Wandering Ghost, is one of my favorite biographies I’ve ever read. It’s an amazing book about an amazing person.
Any new projects that you are working on that you can share with us?
I am writing about a couple of subjects that I have encountered in my own neighborhood—natural history subjects—one about the ocean, as I am a distance ocean swimmer—and one closer to home.
What has been the funniest or most special question that a student has asked you whether in a letter or at a school visit?
The thing I like best as both a teacher—I teach every day—and as a writer is when kids share what they have written as colleagues. We are all on this journey of learning to write together, and kids really understand that they are learning and I am also learning. One thing I’m sure every writer has been asked is if we have to color in and type up each book. A good question!
What is currently in your to-read pile?
On my to read pile is an adult book: Quiet—about introverts. My father gave it to me, as we are both in that special club. I am also reading, at the recommendation of several students last year (and like everyone else on the planet) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I also have a stack of books about Chinese dynasties, as I have a contract to write a book about them for an educational publisher. Also, Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward—which is out soon, and I can’t wait to see it! And I am re-reading my favorite book for working with kids, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk.
Check out the official book trailer for Weeds Find a Way:
She is the author of fourteen books of nonfiction and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and educational publishers. She is a teacher and environmental educator with an MA in education and a passion for connecting children with nature. In her free time, she enjoys swimming in the ocean and spending time outdoors in San Diego, where she lives and gardens with her family of four humans and three Buff Orpington chickens. Visit her at CindyJensonElliott.com.
To check out all of the stops on her Weeds Find a Way blog tour:
Mon, Feb 24
Growing with Science
Tues, Feb 25
As They Grow Up
Wed, Feb 26
Kid Lit Frenzy
Thurs, Feb 27
Fri, Feb 28
Children's Book Review
Mon, Mar 3
Let's Go Chipper!
Tues, Mar 4
Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Mar 5
Thurs, Mar 6
5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Mar 7
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews: