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RT: Your Snickerdoodle!® Storytelling series is built around the genre of American folklore. Given that tall-tales and such were stories described to you by your grandfather, did you find it difficult to transition the material to a book format?

Clare : My grandfather had a great sense of the fun of rhythmic language, alliteration, repetition, onomatopoeia, and he used it to improvise stories using ideas suggested by his young listeners. As a child, I always envisioned Snickerdoodle as a wonderful children’s book series someday, and I knew I would write the stories. I came from a family of writers, and I was blessed with many wonderful books all around my home and at my grandparents’ house. I began drawing, writing (and typing) stories when I was about seven. I thought all stories were BOOKS; and I guess I assumed that since my grandfather’s stories were in prose, that I would tell them that way. Over many years both as a kindergarten teacher and a parent, I did tell the stories to children. But when I began the (long!) quest to publish the books, I was surprised when the (new!) stories began coming to me in rhyming verse!

RT: Your grandfather created Snickerdoodle as a character back in 1915 as a way to entertain your then 2-year-old uncle. Times have changed so much since then, what is it about the character that makes these stories timeless?

Clare : I suppose it is the timeless theme “Even a little guy can be a big hero." That is, we can overcome adversity with the power of love, imagination, and humor--and can make a difference!” As one of my college professors of Early Childhood Education noted about “Snickerdoodle”:“The magic, the tiny size, the uniqueness, the heroism have something for children, no matter the times.”

RT: Have you had the opportunity to read the books with children? Is there anything special you’ve learned from them that you want to build into a new story … or resurrect one of your grandfather’s tales?

Clare : The books were published in 2005, so I have had the opportunity to share the books with children and their parents at various state and local book festivals, as well as during author appearances, storytime readings, and book signings at local (Virginia) children’s bookstores, and national chains that carry children's literature. I expect to learn quite a bit from today’s young kids about what they envision a tiny hero to do. I am just now beginning to be invited by schools and preschools to share Snickerdoodle stories. My hope is to get kids involved in writing their own stories (based on Snickerdoodle or their own superheroes).

RT: Last year, Snickerdoodle® made the trip to China as part of a traveling exhibit of American children’s books. Were you able to visit China during the exhibit? Could you tell us a little about how the books were received?

Clare : I don’t have anything to report on that yet. As I understand it, the books will not be on tour in China until 2007. I am not going, but I am delighted that Snickerdoodle will be shared with young Chinese students. Frankly, the biggest surprise for me has been the number of requests for Snickerdoodle books and materials from teachers and parents in other countries: the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, India, Japan, and Egypt, among others! Who would have dreamed that an American folklore character would be of interest overseas?

RT: Are you planning more stories for Snickerdoodle®? If so, what themes are you considering for future titles?

Clare : For now I am quite content to share the “Think Big!” message of the (current) Snickerdoodle stories with kids and actively invite kids’ own creative submissions to the Web site. It would be wonderful to see kids carry on the legacy of Snickerdoodle storytelling, creating new adventures for the little guy.

RT: Do you have suggestions for parents and teachers who might want to introduce storytelling and tall-tales to their kids? Are there resources to help them learn the rules-of-the-road, so to speak, and let kids try their own hand at storytelling?

Clare : Yes! Go to the website of the National Storytelling Network. This is the premier resource for anyone interested in storytelling and provides opportunities to learn and participate at many levels. There is a special interest group especially for those interested in Youth Storytelling (stories BY and FOR kids). Every November many states have an annual “Tellabration!” event showcasing the talents of young storytellers. The NSN site also can provide information on training, workshops, and books for storytellers.

RT: Are there ways/places where families can go to experience American folk tales?

Clare : The best ever is the National Storytelling Festival held every October in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Check for local storytelling festivals as well. NSN can help, and your local library probably has a children’s storytime and family events. You can research online folklore sites, as well. The Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center is another helpful resource.

RT: As a teacher and a Mom, you fully understand the push-pull of electronic vs. traditional media in garnering our kids’ attention. What can you offer to parents and teachers who are trying to help get kids interested in or re-energized about reading?

Clare : Wow! Well, I’d encourage parents and teachers to check out the free resources on www.snickerdoodleforkids.com. Look at the Links page for lots of great help in fostering kids’ creativity and reading. And obviously, just READ to your kids and enjoy stories together!

RT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Clare : After doing a storytelling presentation today at a preschool with a class of three- and four-year-olds, I am energized and excited by all their questions about Snickerdoodle. We talked about their favorite superheroes and what makes a hero, etc. One of my biggest hopes continues to be that today's youngest kids (especially boys) will see that Snickerdoodle presents an appealing alternative to the larger-than-life macho (violent) superheroes; that he is not only funny, but is a good role model and shows that "real strength has nothing to do with your size!" Most of all, I want kids to see they can use their imaginations to THINK BIG and solve problems creatively: with humor, with kindness and without violence. Today's kids need to know they are never too little to do something that will help someone-- even "small" acts can make a difference! I thank you for this opportunity to let your readers know more about Snickerdoodle! Here’s to the power of the “little guy”—the spirit of the superhero that lives within us all!

Website: http://www.snickerdoodleforkids.com


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