The Children’s Book Review
Published: September 10, 2013
Kim T. Griswell is a developmental editor for Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers and the former coordinating editor of Highlights for Kids. She continues to help develop and teach writers’ workshops with the Highlights Foundation; has taught with the Institute for Children’s Literature; and has published more than 200 short stories, articles, and columns. Her children’s book, Carnivorous Plants, was published by Kidhaven Press. Today, she discusses the inspiration behind new picture book Rufus Goes to School.
My mom taught me to read years before I went to school. I read every book in the children’s section of the East Point, Georgia, public library. I’m not kidding…every book. So my mom marched me up to the librarian’s desk and asked that I be allowed to check out books from the adult section. I had to have a special library card to do so—and the librarian gave me one. That was one of the most thrilling moments of my young life. I was so lucky to have a mom who loved books. She infected me with that love (the best “disease” I ever caught!). My own preschool love of books is behind Rufus’s desire to learn to read the words on the pages of his favorite book. But Rufus wasn’t as lucky as I was. I imagine that his mom—being a pig—didn’t know how to read. So he needed to go to school to learn.
I have a vivid memory of myself as a little kid staring out the picture window of the living room of the house I lived in until I was eight years old. I think I was five at the time. I was watching my sister and our good friend from across the street as they headed off to school. They were older than me and they were leaving me behind, journeying to this place filled with mystery and excitement (and books!). They had pencil boxes filled with unsharpened pencils. They had lined tablets and boxes of crayons with 32 sharp bright colors. And they carried lunch boxes, probably with the Flintstones or the Jetsons blazoned across them. They wore dresses crisp as fall leaves and loafers with shiny new pennies tucked into them. The memory of the intense yearning I felt watching these girls chatting and laughing as they walked down Hillcrest Drive toward the schoolhouse inspired me to write about Rufus, the little pig who wants to go to school so badly that he keeps trying and trying, even when the principal says, “No pigs in school!”
I’m ecstatic that my first published picture book is about a little pig gathering all the things he thinks he needs to go to school: a backpack, a lunchbox, and a blanket, when all along he has the one thing he truly needs—a desire to learn. The first day of school can be so scary for little kids. But even though I was painfully shy—not at all like the brave and certain Rufus Leroy Williams III—going to school for the first time wasn’t scary for me. It was incredibly exciting. Finally, I would be the one walking through those double doors into that special world I’d been excluded from for years. I still get all tingly when I walk into a schoolhouse. I guess, for me, Rufus Goes to School is my chance to infect kids with the love of books my mom gave me. Thanks, Mom!
Add this books to your collection: Rufus Goes to School
Learn more about Kim at her website, kimgriswell.com.