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SUMMER 2007 FEATURED AUTHOR: LISA DUNN-DERN

RT: Congratulations on your new book, Dr. Duncan Dog on Duty. Did you find the experience of writing the second book easier than the first one, Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Lisa: Thank you and no, the experience of writing this book was not easier. My first book, Hair, wrote itself because it was based on my family’s ritual. Dr. Duncan Dog on Duty was based on my friend’s family ritual of taking their dog to visit children in the hospital every week, so lots and lots of research was involved.

RT: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow and Dr. Duncan Dog on Duty draw on experiences in your own life and family. Are you continuing to collect vignettes for additional books? Will we meet any new characters in the future?

Lisa: Yes, I will continue to collect vignettes in future books. The next book takes place in New York and we meet new friends.

RT: When you were looking for books to share with your daughter Chelsea, you were looking to find "parallels" that reflected your own family's composition as a multi-racial family. Now Chelsea is a teenager. Do you think it would be easier today to find what you are looking for?

Lisa: Yes, today, fifteen years later, there are so many more multicultural families and it is much easier to find books that represent all family compositions. I think, like every other barrier in the world, when we look back in retrospect we see how pointless they all really are.

RT: If you could point to a void in children's literature, what would it be? Is there an area where we need to have more (or better) books for kids?

Lisa: I think any book that keeps children aware of current events told in a manner they can understand is wonderful. Anything about global warming, pollution, or other parts of the world where children have different customs and experiences can only enrich all children's lives.

RT: Both of your books feature a multi-racial family. In a recent media clip, you talk about how kids today show an interest in celebrating the facets of their heritage, rather than focusing in on one particular feature. The way you describe it suggests that this is a change you've observed over time. Do you think that this is because "we" (adults) have done a better job at demonstrating acceptance for our kids? Or is it something else?

Lisa: Yes, I think we as adults have done a better job demonstrating acceptance of diversity ... or at least the people we choose to be around have. Our circle of family and friends turns any non-birthday celebration into a cultural event. We have celebrated Chinese New Year; Juneteenth, when the slaves found out they were free; and I'm Proud to be a White British Guy Day."

RT: In addition to promoting your books, you are also producing and hosting The Lisa and Winston Show, a children's television show for Ethiopian TV. First, can you tell us a little bit about the goal for the program? Second, there is a significant contrast in how our countries view the media (in Ethiopia, media is state-run). Do you think this has an affect on children's programming?

Lisa: The goal for the show is to help Ethiopian children learn English. We all know young children learn by having fun, so my puppet sidekick and I teach everything from the planets in the solar system to learning your numbers, in a fun, educational way. As far as how the media is viewed, all I can say is the government takes an extremely active role in deciding who or what gets on the air and they passed on many hosts before they picked me. When I was chosen they said it was because I didn't talk down to the children and I looked sweet ... but did not act too sweet. I know the first part of that was a compliment.

RT: In addition to being an author and television host, you are also a children's lifestyle expert. Regardless of the medium, helping children is very clearly important to you. If there were three "simple steps" that adults could adopt to help their child grow into successful, self-assured adults, what would they be?

Lisa: Step one would be to nurture your children. Challenge your children and make sure you help them figure out their purpose in life. Help them figure out why they are here and what productive contributions they want to make in the world.

RT: In a media clip on your Website, you offer some very startling statistics about kids today. Your vignette is worth quoting here: "In the US, every 9 seconds a student drops out of high school; every 35 seconds a baby is born into poverty; every 51 seconds a baby is born without health insurance; and every nano-second of the day there is a loving parent who wants the best quality of life for their child." Focusing now on literacy and reading, how do you suggest we get kids interested in reading in a way that helps them understand why it is so important to their success?

Lisa: Kids mirror what they see. If the parents read, most likely so will their children. Maybe not when they are four or five, but eventually your family ritual will become frequent jaunts to the library or bookstore.

RT: What were the books you cherished as a child? What was it about them that make them your personal classics?

Lisa: My favorite book still sits on the shelf in my office and it's called Tammy and Pepper (by Kathryn Hitte, Golden Books Publishing, 1964). It is about two sisters who have a "Nancy Drew"-sort of summer on Cape Cod. I had to hear the story every night, usually twice. The sisters were clever, cute, brave and they wore great Capri pants. They solved wonderful nocturnal mysteries. I think the reason we have a home on Martha's Vineyard today was because of the effect that book had on me.

RT: Thank you for taking the time to share your passion and insights with us.

Website: http://www.derngoodbooks.com




                 

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