Being Teddy Roosevelt
Publication Date: February 20, 2007
List Price: $16.99*
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Riley O'Rourke is writing his report on President Teddy Roosevelt in preparation for the fourth-grade biography tea, but he has a far more important goal: to get a saxophone so he can take instrumental music. His mother can't afford to rent him a sax, and he's sure he'll never save up enough money to buy one. But as Riley learns more about Roosevelt's "bully" spirit, he realizes that there just might be a way to solve his problem after all.
Claudia Mills' sparkling story about the influence of important historical figures is enhanced by tender, insightful illustrations.
"Being Teddy Roosevelt" is a 2008 Bank Street--Best Children's Book of the Year.
Some writers say that they hate to write. I love to write. I write my books early in the morning, while the rest of my family is still asleep. I get up at 5 a.m., fix myself a mug of hot chocolate or Earl Grey tea, and then curl up on the couch with my pad and pen. I still write the first draft of every book by hand, always on a white, narrow-ruled pad, and always with a black, felt-tipped, fine-point pen. Sometimes I lie there half dreaming, making notes on my pad that say things like "Help! Where is the humor !!" or "I need more action!" Sometimes I scribble away as fast as my hand can move across the page, lost in the world of my story. I write until breakfast, or until my two boys wake up, whichever comes first. Usually I don't get much more than one page written in a day. But page by page, day by day, on the couch at dawn, I've written many books now.
I didn't always write on the couch, and I didn't always write with the same kind of pad and pen. When I was growing up in New Jersey, I wrote anywhere and everywhere often during math class, which is why I never learned much algebra. When I finally collected all my childhood writings from my parents' house, I had a drawer full of hundreds of poems I had written before I was sixteen. There were poems scrawled on napkins, on the backs of church bulletins, and, of course, on math tests, where the answers should have been. But I have always loved the early morning best.
Now I live in Boulder, Colorado, with my husband, Richard Wahl, and my two sons, Christopher and Gregory. All my first books were about girls show-off girls, shy girls, selfish girls, unselfish girls but all somehow me, reflections of the girl I once was, and still am deep inside. Now I find myself writing about boys, too, inspired by the two real-life boys who share my days. When I was expecting the birth of my first child, I was stunned when the doctor told me it would be a boy: "But all my books are about girls!" "Well, now you'll have to start writing books about boys,"he told me, and his prediction came true.
I've also started writing stories about younger children, though most of my stories are set in the middle grades. I remember a poem I wrote the day before I turned ten, which began: "There is much magic in the
age / Of ten, that year as rich as gold " Ten and eleven and twelve have certainly been magical and rich ages for me as a writer. When I go to schools, I tell the children that they could spend the rest of their lives just writing books about the things that happened to them in fifth grade.
So between 5 and 7 a.m. every day, I return to fifth grade, or sixth grade, sometimes even seventh, and, between sips of cocoa or tea, I bring that world to life again.
And I love doing it.
My parents saved everything, so I know that I began drawing sometime around age two. I haven't paused since. In fact, my drawings now and my drawings then bear a rather strong resemblance. I have gotten slightly better at hands, but horses remain a problem. For an only child, growing up in New York, Texas, South Carolina and finally for most of the time in Annapolis, Maryland, drawing was fine self-entertainment. Then, as now, I have always enjoyed most making pictures that illustrate a story rather than hang on a wall. Today I live in Barrington, Rhode Island with the lovely Zoe B. Alley, author, wife and mother of our two clever children, Cassandra and Max.
I make my pictures in a studio that has a rolling ladder, more books than I can count and many tubes of half-used, rock-hard paint. For the last ten years one of my big projects has been to illustrate new and old stories of Paddington Bear. I have also made pictures for over one hundred other books since I started doing all this right out of college in 1979. I didn't go to art school, but received a BA in Art History from Haverford College and then spent four years as a staff artist at several greeting card companies. Since then, I have spent my working time in my slippers trying to avoid illustrating stories with horses.