Q&A About Books
Q: Why did you write IF YOU GREW UP WITH ABRAHAM LINCOLN?
A: Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president. My favorite question is ‘‘Would you go to school? Abe Lincoln began going to school when he was six. He went to school whenever he had the chance. But all his days of schooling didn’t add up to one whole year.’’
Q: What is your favorite question from IF YOU SAILED ON THE MAYFLOWER?
A: ‘’Were people on the ship friends?” The sailors hated the pilgrims. They made fun of the pilgrims who got seasick. They called them “glib-gabbety puke stockings”. One sailor said he wanted to throw half the pilgrims into the sea.
Q: What is your favorite question from IF YOU LIVED IN COLONIAL TIMES?
A: “What were the favorite Sunday laws?” You could not laugh or play games. No one could do any work. You could not even make your bed. And it was against the law for you to kiss your mother or father on Sunday.
Q: Where did you get the idea for the IF YOU LIVED… history books?
A: When I was in elementary school, P.S. 9, I was bored by the way history was taught. It seemed all about dates and places. The first travel I ever did was to Mexico. When I came home, I started to read its history. Then I realized how little I knew of American history and so I began the IF YOU… series, learning by research and reading. I used the question and answer format, in case children didn’t want to read the entire book but could go to the question and answers they liked best. The first book I wrote was IF YOU LIVED IN COLONIAL TIMES. I’m so proud that all of the books in the series are so popular today.
Q: Where did you get the idea for CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS?
A: The editor of Scholastic’s Lucky Book Club for 2nd and 3rd graders read my book WHY IT’S A HOLIDAY. She liked the chapter about Columbus Day and she asked me to write a biography of Christopher Columbus. I did a lot of research to find little-known facts about him. Columbus kept a diary in Spanish, which I had translated into English. The book was Lucky Book Club’s first original paperback book. I was honored to write it.
Q: Why did you write WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE: THE TRUE STORY OF HARRIET TUBMAN?
A: I knew about the Underground Railroad and I had heard about Harriet Tubman and admired her for her extraordinary courage. She risked her life over and over to free hundreds of slaves. In New York City, there is a special library with many books about black history. I went to Harlem every day to research Harriet Tubman’s life and found a book written about her by someone she knew! That made the book so special. She was a true heroine.
Q: What gave you the idea for THE DEFENDERS?
A: I have always been interested in Native Americans and their challenges. I wrote two books about them: LITTLE WOLF and IF YOU LIVED WITH THE SIOUX INDIANS. I had always wanted to write a biography about Native American heroes. This book tells about Osceola, Cochise, and Tecumseh who tried to keep land and freedom for their people.
Q: Why did you write SHARK LADY: TRUE STORY OF EUGENIE CLARK?
A: Dr. Eugenie Clark agreed to read my book on sharks to make sure everything was true. I met with her and asked her about her life. When I heard her gripping stories, I knew children would love her adventures — meeting a king in the South Seas when she was wearing only a bathing suit, how to test if sharks are intelligent, teaching the Crown Prince of Japan to scuba dive, the mystery of the sleeping sharks, learning if a small fish could keep away a dangerous shark – and much more.
Eugenie Clark and I often scuba dive together.
Q: Why did you write THE ADVENTURES OF THE SHARK LADY: Eugenie Clark Around the World?
A: Dr. Eugenie Clark kept on having adventures after I wrote my first book about her, SHARK LADY. Here are exciting chapters about her recent adventures — diving with the Great White sharks, riding a giant Whale shark, gripped by a huge crab, danger in an underwater submersible deep down in the sea and more!
Q: Where did you get the idea for THE SECRET SOLDIER: THE STORY OF DEBORAH SAMPSON?
A: Another brave heroine. Deborah was born a poor girl during during the American Revolutionary War. She wanted adventure but poor girls were expected only to learn to take care of a house and family. So she disguised herself as a boy and joined the Continental Army. When she was shot in the leg, she took the bullet out herself with only a penknife! If she went to a hospital, the doctors would learn she was a girl! She had more adventures than she ever dreamed. I wrote this book in time for the bi-centennial and Deborah Sampson fulfilled my wish to write about a truly brave woman. Researching this book took me to many places. I went to Sharon, Massachusetts where I found the house she lived in when she was married and had children. The owners let me in and I walked on the same floors she walked on. There was a street named for her and I visited her grave. In Providence, Rhode Island, I saw a portrait of her, so I knew what she looked like. Then, when one of my sons was at Yale, he found an old article about her, written by someone who had known Deborah!
I visited Deborah's grave.