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The phrase “nobody’s perfect” is often uttered when referring to a small flaw or weakness, otherwise known as a foible. Everyone has foibles. In this podcast, the host explores the meaning of the word “foible” and invites adults and kids to share some of their small imperfections. Listen to learn about foibles, and hear a fable about a tiny fly whose character flaw leads to his downfall.
The Holocaust is one of the 20th century’s most horrific crimes against humanity. Included in its history are stories of survival and those who became rescuers. Telling a children’s story about the Holocaust is challenging, given the subject matter, but a recently released book focuses on two inspiring stories. The first is of Nicholas Winton, a British banker who led an organization that saved Czech children from the Nazis, and the second is of Vera Gissing, a Czech girl who was among the children he saved. Listen to learn about this powerful story and the lives of two extraordinary people.
An illustrator’s work helps readers experience the story they are reading in new ways. Each illustration contains an illustrator's own personal style and is often created with layers of meaning. Using colors and various techniques, an illustrator brings words to life. Artists like author-illustrator Brian Pinkney think carefully about each piece they create. Listen to hear an interview with Pinkney as he talks about his creative process, the subjects that interest him, and how he decided to write, and not just illustrate, a book.
Mia Kang, a reality TV show host, martial arts fighter, and cover model, has written a book titled Knockout about overcoming her eating disorder. In this interview, Kang discusses how she developed problems with eating at age 13 and how traveling to Thailand and discovering Muay Thai martial arts helped her control them. Listen to hear about Kang’s struggle with food and self-image and how she eventually learned to love and respect her body.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has been a classic American novel for nearly a century. Author Michael Farris Smith loved the book and wondered why there wasn’t more about the book’s narrator, Nick Carraway. He began to formulate a backstory for Nick that became a new novel, a prequel to the classic. Listen to hear how the author pieced together the character of Nick Carraway and why he had to wait several years to publish his book.
Nic Stone has written a sequel to her bestselling book, Dear Martin, titled Dear Justyce. In Dear Justyce, Quan is a young man in juvenile detention who writes letters to his friend Justyce, who is in college at Yale University. Stone’s books cast light on social justice efforts and issues in the criminal justice system. Listen to hear the author explain why she wrote a sequel to Dear Martin, and learn what she did in order to write authentically about the book’s difficult subject matter.
A great fictional character is one that many people can relate to and who is remembered long after the story comes to an end. Author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney seems to have perfected the art of creating relatable characters, including Greg and Rowley from the hugely popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Listen to hear Kinney discuss his hilarious and beloved characters and how he created them.
Jacqueline Woodson’s novel Before the Ever After is about football and the relationship between a father and son. It is written in the voice of a 12-year-old boy whose father was a star professional football player but now suffers from a degenerative brain disease. In this audio story, Woodson discusses how her purpose for the book was to show the whole story of football. Listen to learn more about Woodson’s descriptive writing process and to hear her read excerpts from the book.
It rains on the morning of a big outdoor event, or there's a traffic jam on the way to the airport. Do these sound familiar? Sometimes plans are made, but the unexpected happens and derails them. This timeless tale features industrious penguins, a sneaky thief, and an elaborate plan to keep the thief from stealing again. But it turns out the thief has some skills the penguins didn't account for. Listen to hear how even the best laid plans can go awry.
Like plants, stories often begin with small seeds of ideas and grow into beautiful flowers, full of rich details, exciting plot twists, and lovable characters. In this audio story, an author helps a young writer grow her story seed into a full story that reflects the young writer’s ideas and multi-ethnic identity. Listen to hear parts of their collaboration process and an excerpt from their completed story, one that includes a forgotten middle child, YouTube stars, and a magical mirror.
Friendships can be hard to navigate, especially when what seems funny to one person feels unkind to another. Sometimes looking at an interaction from another’s point of view can help identify and fix the problem. Listen to a timeless tale about a busy little mouse and three hungry birds that shows how understanding another’s perspective can help repair bullying behavior and build new friendships.
The expression “being neighborly” may call to mind giving away a cup of sugar or watching over neighbors’ homes while they are out of town. Actions such as these are bound to produce good relationships between neighbors. But, what if a neighbor isn’t willing to share or help out? In this timeless tale, a woman refuses to share something special with her neighbors, but nature intercedes and changes her view. Listen to hear how nature steps in to change a tricky situation and demonstrate the value of sharing.
This audio story tells the timeless tale of a sad princess giant and her father, the king giant, who wants to make his daughter happy again. The king announces that he is willing to sacrifice some of his wealth to see the princess smile and laugh. A young boy hears of the king’s plea and decides to see what he can do. Listen to hear how this boy, with the help of his violin, his best friend, and some animals they meet along the way, goes beyond his comfort zone to make the princess happy.
This audio story tells the timeless tale of a wise hare in Africa who exemplifies a triumph of brains over brawn. As the tale begins, the little rabbit struggles to finish a meal before much larger bullies push her away. While she cannot match the physical strength of the elephant or the hippopotamus, she hatches a clever plan to command their respect and thereby secure her place at the grazing table. Listen to hear how the hare tricks her tormentors and demonstrates the power of mental strength in addressing everyday challenges.
Author Ray Jayawardhana grew up in Sri Lanka looking at the night sky with his father. When his dad said people had been to the moon, Ray began wondering about the possibilities of space. He grew up to be an astrophysicist, and wrote a book for children to capture their imagination of space. Listen to hear the book’s author and illustrator discuss the bedtime story that they hope will spark in children a sense of possibility and a greater feeling of connection to the universe.
Lauren Tarshis’s I Survived series features thrilling books about kids who make the right decisions in the midst of chaos to survive historical events. In this audio story, Tarshis talks about creating realistic characters and how her readers influence the topics she chooses to write about. Listen to learn how the I Survived series can be helpful for students dealing with anxiety.
Every story starts as a small idea, or seed, and then—if nurtured and worked on—grows into a complete tale. In this audio story, an author and a 12-year-old girl work together to grow a story seed into a tale about a young athlete overcoming a challenge. Listen to hear about the process two writers used to craft a story about confronting personal challenges and fears and figuring out how to overcome them.
Being Clem is the final book in the Finding Langston young adult trilogy by Lesa Cline-Ransome. The series focuses on life in mid-1940s Chicago for young Black boys and their families who have moved North during the Great Migration. Being Clem begins with the death of 9-year-old Clem's father in a massive explosion at Port Chicago, California, an event that upends Clem’s life and sets his family on a difficult new path. Listen to an interview with an award-winning author as she shares thoughts about her characters and how her books reveal the challenges of being Black in America.
Frank Li, the protagonist of David Yoon’s novel Frankly in Love, lives a double life: one as his first generation immigrant parents’ perfect son who only dates Korean girls, and another where his girlfriend is white. Listen to hear author David Yoon talk about his own experiences growing up as a Korean-American and how his personal life inspired this coming of age story.
Hawaiian is a Polynesian language that has been spoken for centuries in the volcanic islands of Hawaii. The indigenous Pacific Islanders living in Hawaii were prevented from speaking Hawaiian after the U.S. takeover in the late 1800s. By the 1970s, only about 50 people under the age of 18 still knew how to speak the native Hawaiian language. In recent years, Hawaiian people concerned about losing their language and its cultural value have led a movement to revive the language among younger generations. Listen to this story to hear about a Hawaiian language immersion school where parents are learning along with their children in the hope of reconnecting with and preserving an important part of their culture.
When a reader sees him or herself reflected in a character, that character can come to life. Some children, however, never find a character they can relate to. Pakistani and Muslim author Hena Khan had this unfortunate experience growing up, but it did not destroy her passion for reading and writing. Listen to hear how Khan infuses her Pakistani and Muslim roots into her stories and characters to fill the gap she experienced as a young reader.
When an author sent an artist nothing more than a single word and a doodle as inspiration to illustrate a book, the author worried that illustrating the story would be too challenging. However, the artist was able to connect with a universal theme in the story: what it feels like to not have a friend. The result is a story that not only reflects personal elements from both the author’s and illustrator’s lives but also allows all readers to connect in their own way. Listen to learn how this one-word story manages to convey a message to readers.
Who is innocent and who is guilty? While this appears to be a simple question, the history of racism in America makes the answer complex. Author Kim Johnson discusses why she chose to write a novel about race that is focused on America’s flawed criminal justice system. Listen to learn how the author’s own experiences informed the novel and how she hopes her book will inspire readers to work towards a more equitable future.
Gary Paulsen, the award winning author of Hatchet and Tracker, has written a memoir. Gone to the Woods depicts a childhood full of difficult challenges and shows how the author overcame them. Paulsen’s novels for young people focus on survival, and Paulsen drew on his own life experiences to write them. Listen to learn more about Gary Paulsen’s inspirational story, and learn why the author says a librarian may have changed the course of his life.
Mythological creatures have intrigued people for centuries. Stories of strange sightings, and tales of creatures with magical powers, superhuman strength, and massive size, have inspired many to set out in search of these legendary creatures. Where do these stories come from? How did they first arise? Is there a chance these creatures could be real? Listen to hear about five popular mythological creatures and the facts on which these legends may be based.
People with dyslexia face unique challenges. For people with this condition, words may seem scrambled, and letters or numbers may appear backward or upside down. Dyslexia has nothing to do with a person’s intelligence, however, only with how the brain “sees” symbols. Listen to hear a woman with dyslexia describe how the condition has affected her life and how the lessons she’s learned from living with dyslexia have helped her achieve her goals of becoming a teacher and Arctic explorer.
For almost 50 years, millions have enjoyed the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, but where did the author, Judith Viorst, get the inspiration for her unlucky main character? Her very own son! Viorst admires characters that are imperfect, yet redeemable and likeable, and she draws inspiration from the people around her and her favorite books. Listen to find out more about Viorst and learn which character she most identified with as a child.
Author Sharon Draper believes that life experiences, challenges, and writing about what is familiar are the foundation of an intriguing story. In her books, including Out of My Mind, Stella by Starlight, Blended, and the Sassy series, Draper draws from her own life experiences and the children she knows to develop stories that draw readers in. Listen to hear more about Draper’s books, her writing process, and the inspiration for her stories.
Each year, thousands of children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. People with autism may learn, think, communicate, and behave in ways that are considered unorthodox, or different from what is traditionally expected. Rather than encourage autistic people to conform to non-autistic norms, it can be helpful for neurotypical people to learn about autism and how to best support, encourage, and include their autistic peers. Listen to learn more about the word unorthodox, and hear an autistic boy explain what he and other autistic people most need from others.
Author and teacher Annette Bird Saunooke Clapsaddle is the first published author from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Her mystery novel, Even As We Breathe, is set during World War II in the region of North Carolina where she spent her childhood, and it was written with her students in mind. Listen to hear how Clapsaddle’s experiences growing up and learning from her Cherokee ancestors helped her write a novel that high school students, especially those who are of Native American descent, could relate to.
In a world where there is so much darkness, author and poet Kwame Alexander aims to provide some inspiration, joy, hope, and, of course, light. Through his words in his novels and works of poetry, he hopes to engage his readers and keep them reading. Alexander is the author of Solo, Out of Wonder, The Crossover, and more recently, a book about boxer Muhammad Ali. Listen to hear Alexander describe what it feels like to write about painful topics and why he calls his poetry “a bridge.”
Girls growing up in America often receive conflicting messages about ambition. In her new children’s book, Ambitious Girl, author Meena Harris redefines the meaning of ambition for girls. Her story empowers girls to become leaders and encourages them to pursue their dreams. Listen to hear how the experiences of the author’s aunt, Vice President Kamala Harris, inspired the book, and learn why the author wants Black and brown girls, in particular, to see themselves reflected in its pages.
The importance of home and the healing power of friendship are two universal truths that affect every human being. Many people feel homesick when they must leave familiar places and people behind to move somewhere new. Fear of new places and people can be relieved, however, as one becomes more familiar with their new community. Listen to hear how Kate DiCamillo, the author of Because of Winn-Dixie, used her childhood feelings of homesickness to write her first children’s book.
While the words uncooperative, unruly, and unrestrained typically carry negative connotations, there are times when these qualities can be helpful. For example, most activists will agree that being obstreperous, or difficult to control, is necessary to bring about social change. Many rights and freedoms people have today were not won by quietly accepting and following the rules. Listen to learn more about the vocabulary word obstreperous and how being unruly helped women win the right to vote.
Black boys and men have long been either underrepresented or negatively portrayed in literature, television shows, and movies. This lack of positive representation takes a toll on Black boys’ sense of self and negatively influences how society views them. Many Black artists and writers are taking initiative to change this and create stories, art, and films that feature Black boys as what they are: confident, intelligent, and beautiful. Listen to hear how one author and artist worked together to create the children’s book, I Am Every Good Thing.
Choices and situations are part of everyday life. They can be complex or they can seem very simple. Is it hot or cold? Sunny or rainy? Is it good or bad? Although people tend to look at choices and situations as a dichotomy--either/or--most things are not black and white. There are “gray” areas made up of degrees of choices. Listen to explore and learn more about dichotomies and which choices and situations truly fit the definition.
The Old Truck is the tale of a hard-working truck that, after many years on the farm, comes to sit in the weeds until someone decides to bring it back to life. Two brothers worked together to write and illustrate the picture book. They created over 250 detailed handmade stamps to help bring the story to life. Listen to hear the brothers discuss their creative process, what it was like for them to work together, and how the lessons they learned as children continue to guide them.
When the world feels like it is continuously changing, it can be important to stop and think about all of the things in life that are constant. Rebecca Stead’s book, The List of Things That Will Not Change, finds the main character, Bea, adding items to her own list of things that will not change and working to understand her emotions with the help of a therapist. Her list brings her comfort and support during her parents’ divorce, and it makes the reader stop and think about what things in their own lives will not change.
Scapegoating, or blaming others for things they didn’t do, happens among both children and adults. While many children understand that lying is wrong, they might be hesitant to explore how it feels to be lied to or unfairly blamed for something for fear of feeling embarrassed or exposed. In this audio story, a children’s author discusses her humorous take on how a number of lies affect a little goat on a farm. Listen to hear how humor can help children feel safer exploring such topics.
Every year, thousands of refugees around the world are forced to flee their homes in search of safety in a new land. While the reasons for leaving home and the destinations vary, all of these journeys are filled with a mixture of fear, pain, hope, and courage. Storytelling and art have long been great healers. Both art forms can teach empathy by presenting different human experiences, and both can help people work through the emotions conveyed on the page or canvas. Listen to hear how one author and artist tackled depicting one refugee family’s story.