Tag Archives: reading

Author Interview: Celebrating Reading with Lisa Papp




I had the pleasure of chatting with author/illustrator Lisa Papp, whose newest book is titled, “Madeline Finn and the Library Dog,” published by Peachtree Publishers. Lisa has illustrated numerous picture books, but I was captivated by this one that celebrates the idea of using therapy dogs in libraries to help struggling readers. Lisa and I are both pet owners of rescue cats and my lovely rescue cat, Lucy, is by my side as I am writing this blog post!

 LI: What inspired your idea for Madeline Finn and the Library Dog?

Lisa Papp: This story comes straight from the heart. When you meet these beautiful therapy dogs and their owners, you can’t help but fall in love. They are such a tremendous gift to our communities. I discovered the Reading-to-Dogs program at my local library. My husband, Rob, and I were returning books when we saw a long line of dogs waltzing in the side door. We couldn’t help but follow them in. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I remember these gorgeous dogs sitting in a large, bright room with lots of windows. There were about twelve dogs that day along with their owners. A couple of minutes later, the kids came in. That’s when the smiles started. For an hour and a half, we watched kids read to the dogs. The children chose a book, then chose a dog. Some of the parents told us they couldn’t get their child to pick up a book at home, but they would come to the library for this.

It was so inspiring to watch. Many of the children were self-conscious at first, but that all changed when they got next to a dog. Dogs have that wonderful gift of unconditional love. That wonderful gift of accepting you just as you are. The children responded to that immediately. They read them story after story, petting the dogs and stroking their ears while they worked out the tough words. And they stayed at it – the entire hour and a half! The bond between the children and the dogs was pure magic. These wonderful therapy dogs and their owners let me tag along for the better part of a year. I count them as dear friends now. They, and the children they help, are the inspiration for the book.

LI: Do you have any pets/rescue pets?

Lisa Papp:As a matter of fact, we have three rescued cats. All siblings. My husband and I had gone to a flea market in search of a sprinkler. We came home with three kitties instead. Who could resist? We told ourselves things like…oh, so and so loves cats, maybe she’ll want one.….and this one looks like our real estate agent’s cat, she’ll probably want another one just like him, etc. That was eight years ago and we couldn’t be happier to have kept all three. They are wonderful little beings, even if a bit naughty at times. Can’t imagine life without them. I guess you could call them therapy cats because they definitely keep me and my husband sane. There’s nothing better than a kitty snuggle after a hard day. And when we take life too seriously, they are the first to remind us to lighten up – a “who can catch the ball in the air” game does wonders for the soul.

LI: What future projects are you working on?

Lisa Papp: I have the unfortunate habit of working on multiple projects at once. With that in mind, I can tell you I do have a few Madeline Finn adventures up my sleeve, as well as a couple of novels midstream. All illustrated. It seems, no matter if I’m dreaming up picture books or novels, they always center around animals.

LI: What advice would you give to today’s kids who love to draw?

Lisa Papp:I would say, “Keep doing it!” All the time. Anywhere you can. All those characters, all those stories you’re dreaming up will stay with you somewhere. It’s like an invisible basket you’re filling up. All that imagination, the practice of making something from nothing, the pure joy of creating – all of that will serve you well. Because that’s what will sustain you – even if you don’t become an artist. You will know how to reach inside yourself, into that basket of freedom where your imagination has no limits. When you learn to tap into that creativity, it’s something you’ll enjoy the rest of your life.

  • Age Range: 4 – 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3
  • Lexile Measure: 370
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (October 1, 2016)

A World Without Octobers- STEM and roots of growing lifelong readers

Writers’ block has haunted me for a few weeks after the death of my dad. Finally, my creative juices are flowing again and I have to thank my kindergarteners I teach library skills to for that.  It’s true- everything you need to know about life you learn in kindergarten. Because of my love of nature I feel inspired to teach my PreK and K all about its beauty, especially since they live in a very urban environment, an inner city. Every year we read favorite picture books, like “The Leaf Man,” ” How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?” and “The Runaway Pumpkin.”   Every year I bring in mini pumpkins in October and teach them about the parts of a plant and the life cycle of a plant from seed to sprout.  At the end of October, I always give the pumpkins to the kids to keep, after they have graced the library desks. There are actual arguments about who gets to take the pumpkins home. I have to raffle them off and still some kids are upset. I cannot possibly buy 200 or 300 pumpkins for all the Prek to 2 graders I teach, but I do know that I have instilled in them a love for reading and learning about nature. We count pumpkins, look at the fall leaves and read so many books about them, fiction and non-fiction. The fall is probably my favorite season. October’s glorious colors and the crisper weather inspire me.  I discover migratory birds returning back south or west in my garden during October and November.  My lovely garden plants start to hibernate for winter, turning brown and dry. And I wait for the spring when I will again teach my students about the life cycle of nature, but this time of the miraculous monarch butterfly.

Women’s History Month- Girl Power

91lWZ3NrxoL__SL1500_There are so many strong female characters in kid lit fiction.  When I think of book series for young readers, there seem to be so many titles with spunky girl characters.   Junie B. Jones, Cam Jansen, Marisol Macdonald.  For older girl readers, the Hunger Game’s Katniss Everdeen and Divergent’s Beatrice (Tris) show the world girl power.

Authors Judy Blume, Rita Williams Garcia and Laurie Andersen all have female role models for young girl readers. The website http://www.amightygirl/books.com features great recommendations for that girl reader in your household.

In contrast, there are not too many male kid lit counterparts.   The Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series have good male characters but are they heroic without the help of other minor characters?

If you can think of a strong male character in a kid lit series, let me know.

The Vintage Vantage

il_fullxfull_260358382                                                                                                Are you curling up with a good book on these cold wintry days? As a children’s librarian I try to make individualized recommendations to my students based on their interests. I was an avid reader as a child, curling up with a good book before I went to bed at night  that was often part of a series like the Little House on the Prairie books or a good author for girls like Judy Blume. Who knew I would become a writer and librarian later on in life?  (Actually my parents were very encouraging as they nurtured that interest,; my first paying job was actually working for one of  the NYPL branches in Queens, NY.)

My younger students love nonfiction titles about animals and dinosaurs, pets, even cookbooks!   By third grade, students only want to read graphic novels with illustrations such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Dork Diaries series.  I encourage the reading of graphic books as a starting point,  but kids are not really reading full novels anymore. There is a big gap between those grades and the middle school world of dystopia found in bestsellers Divergent and The Hunger Games. We need to prepare students for college by them being able to read lengthier texts.

As I often find myself in a quandary of what to recommend for readers from 8 to 12, I have turned to some of the vintage books of my youth.  Kids still love reading mysteries, whether male or female.  The modern A to Z Mysteries series are good for this age, but why not recommend some good old Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys too?  Kids today still love reading Classic authors with a sense of humor such as Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume and Shel Silverstein.  Read the introduction to a vintage classic, Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren out loud and see if the kids don’t want to find out more about the main character who lives by herself with a pet monkey  and a pirate for a father.