Posted in Meet the authors

Rebecca Donnelly

Online presence (website/social media) Rebecca Donnelly

Twitter: @_becca_donnelly
When you were my age (10) what book impacted you?  I was a huge fan of the Babysitters Club series when I was your age! (And I got to meet Ann M. Martin last year, which my ten-year-old self never would have imagined possible.) I had about six of them, I think, and I re-read them over and over. I loved re-reading, because it was so comforting to come across my favorite parts.


How long have you been a librarian?  I got my first library job in 2006, and I became a children’s librarian in 2007. 


What kind of Librarian are you? I’m a children’s librarian in a small public library in a rural college town. I’ve also been a children’s librarian in a larger suburban library and the director of a tiny rural library. 


-How do you match a kid to a book? I always try to find out what other books a kid has read and loved, because that gives me an idea of where they are with reading skills and what grabs their interest. Sometimes it’s as simple as handing a kid the next great fantasy book, but I’ve met plenty of kids who haven’t spent much time around books. In that case, I might start with nonfiction, because usually everyone knows what subjects they’re interested in, or I’ll go to graphic novels, because kids can see what they’re about really easily. 


-Book access is a big topic right now. What does the term mean to you and why is it important? Book access means that a kid has books in their life. Books at home, books at school, books in libraries and bookstores in your community. It also means access to things like magazines, audiobooks, and the internet, because there are many ways to build literacy skills. When kids have access to those things, it shows you what the adults in that community value.

You are also an author. How did you become one? I’ve wanted to be an author since I was six years old. I had a series of books called the Garden Gang by Jayne Fisher–this was in the UK, where I was born–and the author/illustrator bio said that Jayne was nine years old. To a six-year-old, that’s very grown-up! I remember thinking that I had three years to launch my own career (although it took a little longer than that). I started seriously trying to get published when I first began working as a children’s librarian. I wrote a book that got me a wonderful agent, Molly Ker Hawn, and although that book wasn’t published, we’ve been together for six years and six more book deals. (Most of those books haven’t been published yet.)


– Is it hard to come up with book ideas? No! It’s almost too easy to come up with ideas. I have a page-long list just for picture book ideas, and it keeps getting longer! The tricky part is knowing how to turn that idea into a story. What’s the best way to do it? How can you recognize when something’s not working, and should you rewrite, or put it aside and work on something else for a while? Those are the questions I find myself struggling with.


– Have you heard from readers. What do you like about that? It’s lovely to hear from readers. As a librarian, I like hearing from readers of all kinds, even if they haven’t read my books! But I hope that a kid who reads one of my books will find something creative and funny, and maybe they’ll find a part they want to read over and over. I did have one mom tell me that her son kept my first book in his bed to read again and again, along with his other favorites–that’s a real honor! 


– What newer or lesser known author do you think people should be reading? I recently listened to the audiobook of Anna Meriano’s first book in the Love, Sugar, Magic series, A Dash of Trouble. Any reader who likes stories about family, sibling relationships, food, and a little magic will love this series, and the second book, A Sprinkle of Spirits, is out now!


– What is something you have read recently that impacted you? I read a lot of history when I’m not reading middle grade novels or researching other things. I just finished reading A Few Drops of Red, a YA nonfiction book about the Chicago race riots of 1919. There’s a lot of history that never gets taught in school, and it’s important to learn it so we can recognize what’s happening in the world around us.


– If you could portal into any book which would it be? I’m not an incredibly adventurous person, so I can’t see myself portaling into a mystery or a fantasy world. I do love stories that show the real world plus something a little magical, so I’ll choose a classic English picture book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr. It’s about a little girl who opens the door and invites a large, friendly, hungry tiger into her house, where it eats and drinks everything, and then just goes away. That’s as much excitement as I could handle, plus Sophie wears really great tights.