What prompted you to write these books?
I was a social studies teacher over forty years ago. While discussing culture and customs with my grandchildren, I realized I couldn't find a book to help them understand about differences around the globe. We were on vacation, and I was inspired by Disney's It's a Small World ride. I wanted to find a common thread that kids from the US could relate to.
What do you hope your readers will get out of them?
I hope that readers will enjoy learning about our friends and neighbors. The first five books were inspired by my own neighborhood. Walking down Main street, I was able to to travel the globe with a variety of restaurants and shop keepers. I write for a wide audience. I want parents to learn something that they never knew, so they are not bored, I want children to learn that we have differences and similarities, and they are all wonderful. I hope the lasting impression of the series is tolerance. Knowledge is the power to understand how and why people do what they do. I think children are learning to appreciate the variety of the world.
Have you ever been to any of these countries?
I have been to Mexico, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, and France. Sadly my travel days are not possible now, so I really enjoy being an armchair traveler. I have visited Africa ( not Kenya), the Middle East, and many countries in Europe. I wanted to chose countries I knew nothing about. It has been a learning experience for me as well.
What was your favorite one to research and write about?
I love all the countries we have explored. I especially enjoy the beautiful illustrations Kelsea Wierenga has paired each part of the book. Each time I think I have a favorite, another book comes out and I end up loving them all. I especially enjoy learning about thee holidays and food. We try to find places that carry the foods we are learning about.
What is your favorite fact that you discovered in your research, or what one thing stands out the most?
I love the history of each of the countries. That is my field. I am a historian. I enjoyed reading about the Highland games (Scotland), the origin about the Olympics (Greece, the beauty of the Aurora Borealis, Norway and my grandson's favorite, and the Luna New Year ( South Korea). But wait, what about Father Time in (Russia) or the facts about the furry hats they wear. The history of the Hagia Sophia (Turkey) was interesting. I think I better stop, because I will find something in each of them to talk about. That is the true [purpose of these books!
How did you choose which countries to write about?
I started with Mexico because it is our nearest neighbor. We also have a huge Mexican population and I realized I really didn't know anything about them. The following night we ate in a French restaurant, so that was next on my menu. I go to a salon owned by people from South Korea, so they came next. I realized I was traveling the world, so I made sure to go to a Turkish restaurant the next night and make sure the middle east was represented. I chose Kenya because the President's father had come from there, and Norway because I needed a country from Northern Europe. A friend asked my to do Australia. My very first fan's family came from India, Portugal was a contest winner. My neighbor is from Hungary, Kelsea the artist asked for Scotland. We frequent a restaurant where they come from Greece. Russia was my hairdresser. I wanted to include South America ( I found out that Mexico is technically North America), so I picked Peru. I am currently working on China ( my grandson is doing a unit in first grade), Italy ( the office pool) and Israel (the most requested by readers.)
Are there more books coming?
I will try to do at least three or four a year.