Interview with Children’s Author Trudy Ludwig
The Children’s Book Review | January 9, 2018
Trudy Ludwig is a nationally renowned speaker and bestselling author of children’s books that help kids connect and engage with their peers in kind, caring ways. Her new book, Quiet Please, Owen McPhee!(Knopf/Penguin Random House) helps young readers to understand the power of listening—not only with their ears, but also their heart.
Can you share a little bit about your childhood?
I’m the youngest of five children born in New Bedford, MA. My family moved to Baltimore, MD, when I was about 6 years old. I was a quiet, sensitive child with an active imagination. I spent a lot of time reading novels and writing my own short stories.
Why do you write children’s stories that focus on bullying and friendship issues?
I want to help young readers connect with my characters on an empathetic level, so that they can better understand, in a safe social setting, how a person’s actions and inaction impact others in positive and negative ways.
What do you think is the best way to help children understand bullying, bias, culture, gender non-conformity, racism, discrimination, etc.?
Just as each person is unique, so is their path towards processing and understanding the perspective of others. That’s why I think it’s best to take a multi-tiered approach: inviting people who have experienced firsthand discrimination to share their experiences in an age-appropriate way with kids; giving children opportunities to have positive and thoughtful dialogue with people of different backgrounds; using literature, movies, and visual arts to help them be better aware of themselves and those around them. I also think media outlets play a vital role. Their coverage can feed into the hate and fear mongering frenzy or they can challenge it by sharing more stories with the public of acts of kindness and courage as displayed in every group of people. As Fred Rogers shared, there are more helpers in the world than there are hurters. And when there’s a lot of hurt going on, we need to remind our kids to focus on the helpers who will help them get through the hurt.
Tell us about your new book, Quiet Please, Owen McPhee.
It’s a story about a flawed and lovable character named Owen who loves to talk. Unfortunately, all his talking gets in the way of listening. When Owen gets a bad case of laryngitis, he learns that while talking can prove a point, listening can open your heart. Listening is the foundation for understanding and building empathetic, collaborative relationships. By quieting down, tuning in, and really listening to what others have to say, Owen is better able to make positive change happen for himself and others.
Were there any personal experiences that motivated you to write it?
After wrapping up a series of author visits in a New Jersey school district, I hung out in the school library, watching the librarian read aloud a picture book to some students. There was one student named Charlie who constantly interrupted the librarian with questions and comments. The librarian was oh so patient and gentle in her admonishments to be quiet, and his classmates were less so. When the bell rang, Charlie immediately headed my way: “You’re the Author Lady who presented at our school, right?”
“Yes, I am,” I responded.
“Well, I have an idea for a book you need to write,” he said as he leaned in until his face was a few inches from mine. “It’s about a kid who talks too much…and you need to call it ‘Shhh!’ ” While I didn’t use his recommended title, I thought it most appropriate to dedicate Quiet Please, Owen McPhee!to my chatty muse Charlie J.
For more information about Trudy and her work, visit www.trudyludwig.com.
Written by Trudy Ludwig
Illustrated by Patrice Barton
Publisher’s Synopsis: From the author-illustrator team who brought you The Invisible Boy comes the story of a boy who won’t stop talking–until he gets laryngitis. You don’t have to be a chatterbox to appreciate this tale of listening and learning.
Owen McPhee doesn’t just like to talk, he LOVES to talk. He spends every waking minute chattering away at his teachers, his classmates, his parents, his dog, and even himself. But all that talking can get in the way of listening. And when Owen wakes up with a bad case of laryngitis, it gives him a much-needed opportunity to hear what others have to say.
From the author-illustrator team behind The Invisible Boy comes a bright and lively picture book that captures the social dynamics of a busy classroom while delivering a gentle message about the importance of listening.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | July 3, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0399557132