One of my relatives was a Rough Rider for Teddy Roosevelt, so I've always been fascinated by him from that point of view. Add to that our National Parks system was his doing, and he's just a fascinating guy. Then came Doreen Rappaport's TO DARE MIGHTY THINGS: THE LIFE OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT beautifully illustrated by C.F. Payne. I'm so hooked! And I'm happy to have Doreen here today to answer some questions about it!
Q. Doreen, Congratulations on this beautiful achievement! What was your initial draw to Teddy Roosevelt?
A. My husband who collected political presidential memorabilia, has been after me to do Teddy as he was such an interesting, astounding man.
Q. You obviously did a ton of research to write TO DARE MIGHTY THINGS. Did you find it especially challenging to gather such in depth information?
A. The research in some sense is the easiest part of doing a book. The hard part is finding the "hook" on which to tell the story. There are many important major biographies on Teddy. I started with them and then went to their "footnotes" to get to primary sources. I also ready Teddy's books and visited his home on Long Island.
Q. Did you learn anything that surprised you?
A. I don't think I realized before I did the research what a fearless person he was. I don't necessarily agree with everything he did, but he stuck to what he believed in was best for the country and pursued it. He's one of the great founders of the conservation movement As much as he loved "the hunt," when he realized that hunting was destroying the Dakota territory, he jumped right in to do something about it.
Q. I love the way you structured the story with facts and quotes throughout. How did you come up with that?
A. My first book which combined quotes and my narrative was Martin's Big Words and that gave me the idea to combine words by the people I decided to write about to give children a close, firsthand look and feel of what these people were really about.
Q. Indeed, MARTIN’S BIG WORDS blew away the children’s kid lit world and won several awards including the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, a Caldecott honor, a Coretta Scott King honor, and an ALA Notable Children’s Book Award - among others. I don’t think there was enough room on the cover for all the stickers it earned! What was it like when all those awards started coming in?
A. It's wonderful to win awards, but the real award is to write a book that YOU think is a good book and contributes to children's literature.
Q. The story itself is written so beautifully - not at all like one might expect from a non-fiction story. How did you keep it sounding so fresh and lyrical?
A. I work very hard on it.
Q. What was your reaction when you saw the luscious illustrations by C.F. Payne?
A. I was bowled over by C. F. Payne's art and still am.
Q. One of the most interesting design decisions on this book is the lack of a title on the front cover - just that big close up of Roosevelt. (The title is on the back cover.) Did you love that straight out or did it have to grow on you?
A. This idea came again from Martin's Big Words. The cover of that book is Dr. King with an enormous smile on his face--an unusual way to see Dr. King, to think about Dr. King, to gain another perspective about him, and so we decided as the books progressed to put only a face on the cover and the title of the book on the other side.
Q. There's a whole series of these now, yes? You must be so proud of these beautiful books!
A. I am.
Q. I hope the books are being used like crazy in schools. How do you choose which ones to focus on when you do a school visit?
A. I focus on all of them.
Q. So many people who dream of creating picture books, never think of non-fiction. Yet, that's your specialty. What are your thoughts about non-fiction?
A. I absolutely adore fiction, but the amazing thing about real life is that it's as exciting and dramatic as ANY fiction writer could dream up.
Q. Doreen, thanks so much for stopping by and I look forward to more lovely books from you!
Disney has kindly agreed to offer a free copy of TO DARE MIGHTY THINGS: THE LIFE OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT to one of my lucky winners. Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below: