K ~ A GIRL’S LIFE IN FRIENDSHIP, 1905-1906, published by the Adams County Historical Society of Wisconsin in 2014
History has always been fascinating for me. When a friend in the Adams County Historical Society mentioned that the group would like to publish a book to honor a woman who played an important role in the community, I found I’d volunteered to write it. I quickly discovered there were complications. The woman, Katherine McGowan, was a well-known woman from the recent past. Lots of people knew her. Lots of people remembered her and had stories about her. If I was going to try to write a biography, I could easily have interviewed half the residents of the county to collect information. Fortunately, I had another idea. I was writing for the Historical Society. They were open to a series of stories – fictional stories — based on Kathrine and her family and the times they lived in. With the help of the Historical Society and the Adams County Public Library, I was able to present Katherine as a girl of about twelve celebrating Memorial Day with a recitation during a school program, attending the July 4th celebration that included veterans of the Civil War, going to the opening day of the County Fair, preparing for Christmas, and celebrating her birthday. Katherine, the real Katherine McGowan, died at the age of 97 in 1991 on her birthday, February 3. My birthday is February 3, too. Now you know why this project was so important to me.
LUCKY JAKE illustrated by Wade Zahares, published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 2007
My mother’s philosophy, born of living through the Great Depression, was the impetus behind the idea that became LUCKY JAKE. Jake and Pa are in California panning for gold with all the other ’49ers. When Pa finds a nugget, Jake and Pa head to town for supplies. Jake really wants a dog so he has someone to play with, but there are no dogs to be had. Jake, being a realist, settles for the only animal available: a runty pig he names Dog. Jake and Dog make do with what they have, just as my mother learned to do as a child during the depression. One thing, of course, leads to another and the unique perspective of the vividly colored illustrations add an extra element to the adventures that bring Jake, Dog, and Pa to the happy ending at on the last page of the book.
WHEN WISHES WERE HORSES illustrated by Brad Sneed, published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 2002
In the Old West, horses were the way to get around. Just like everybody who didn’t own one, Zeb wanted one. Like me, Zeb was a wisher. He wished for this and he wished for that. But the day Ma sent him to pick up a sack of flour, he wished at just the right time. A man riding by raised his white Stetson in salute and winked — and right there in the dusty main street of Zeb found himself eye-to-eye with a buckskin cow pony. If Zeb had stopped wishing right then and there things would have been just fine. But wishing was a habit and before he could stop himself he’s wished up a herd of all kinds of horses and was in a pack of trouble.