Claudia Mills was born in New York City on August 21, 1954. She received her B.A. degree from Wellesley College in 1976, her M.A. degree from Princeton University in 1979, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1991. Claudia also received an M.L.S. degree from the University of Maryland in 1988, with a concentration in children’s literature. From 1979-1980, she worked as an editorial assistant at Four Winds Press (Scholastic) and from 1980 to 1989, as an editor at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland. Since 1991 Claudia has taught philosophy, first as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, and now as an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She was married to Richard W. Wahl, a natural resources economist, in 1985. They have two children, Christopher Wahl (born in September 1988) and Gregory Wahl (born in October 1991). The family now resides in Boulder, Colorado.
Kelsey Green, Reading Queen
Illustrated by Rob Shepperson
Kelsey Green is the first main character in a new series entitled “Franklin School Friends” and she introduces us to joys of reading. Franklin School’s Principal announces a reading contest for the whole school with the winning class getting a pizza party. Kelsey is sure she can lead her third-grade class to victory, if only she can get her friends and classmates to read as much as she does. Know-it-all Simon keeps reading more than Kelsey does, so she’s sure he’s cheating. Plus, Kelsey keeps getting in trouble for not knowing answers to math questions because she’d rather read than listen to her teacher. It’s delightful to read a book about a child who learns from her mistakes and learns to help others and share top honors. And it’s grand to read of books that are considered classics, such as The Secret Garden. There are lots of teaching points for third-grade teachers in this book and many books to recommend to their students. 2013, Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers/Macmillan, Ages 6 to 8, $15.99. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan (Children’s Literature).
Sierra Shepherd always does the right thing, no matter what. So when she realizes that she has inadvertently taken her mother’s lunch and that there is small paring knife inside, Sierra immediately turns herself and the knife into one of the lunch ladies and then to the principal. But Sierra’s school has a zero tolerance policy concerning weapons, so even though the whole situation is just a huge mistake, Sierra lands herself in in-school suspension until her case can be reviewed by the school board. Her lawyer father is furious with the school; her artistic mother just wants to move her to another school. Sierra is confused, as are most of her classmates. During the situations, Sierra is faced with a number of decisions that test her ethical view of her world. This is an excellent book for young people to read as a way to consider the whole issue of zero tolerance versus human error. This book should also draw in both boys and girls as it has a solid cast of characters. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
Mason Dixon: Fourth-Grade Disasters
Illustrated by Guy Francis
Imagine beginning the Fourth Grade with dread. Mason’s mother, his best friend Brody, even his dog assured pessimistic Mason that Fourth Grade would be his best year. The worst fact about the year was that everyone was required to sing in the school choir, The Plainfield Platters. His mother and Brody couldn’t seem to remember that Mason Dixon did not sing. But his choir teacher was so impressed with his lovely voice that she wanted him to take voice lessons. His homeroom teacher called the class his “Team,” and gave all instructions as if it were a ballgame. Mason hated sports. Oh misery! His friend, Nora, suggested that he offer to be the stage manager for the upcoming concert instead of singing. Fourth Graders will love this story about their everyday life at school. Dealing with parents, teachers, best friends, and non-friends, the reader will worry along with Mason when his mother accepts the job of repairing Puff, the dragon mascot of the school. Guy Francis scatters funny, tender pencil drawings throughout so the reader can visualize the children. Reminiscent of Judy Bloom’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Mason Dixon’s wry humor is rampant the whole time. The last few pages give us an excerpt of Mason Dixon’s next big adventure, Basketball Disasters. 2011, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, $12.99. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: JoAn Watson Martin (Children’s Literature).
Claudia presents a humorous, interactive program that shares her journey from childhood scribblings to 40 published children’s books. She shows kids how she took the real events that happen in her own life and shaped them into stories that may take a very different form. During her program the kids and Claudia brainstorm together about how to develop a story problem and solution. She does focus on the process of writing, tracing a book from the initial idea through successive critiques and revisions. Students should leave with three messages: 1) stories are everywhere in your own life; 2) writing requires hard work; and, most of all, 3) writing is joyous and fun.
Kindergarten through second:
Claudia give a simpler and usually shorter presentation, focusing on the books that she has written for that age group, and giving special attention to how an author works with an illustrator to create a book that is a true collaboration.
In her standard presentation (45 minutes), Claudia begins by sharing some of her own childhood writing (all embarrassingly autobiographical) and then showing how she now takes the real events that happen in her life and shapes them into stories that may take a very different form. She also spends a lot of time on the process of writing, tracing a book from idea, through successive drafts, two stages of critique from her local writers’ group, and finally, the devastating final critique from her editor. It is important for the students to see that all authors revise in response to criticism, that most all find criticism excruciatingly painful, but that we all end up being grateful that we were lucky enough to be given suggestions that could make our work better. Claudia likes to share some of the joy of writing, too.
Middle-school and high-school students:
Claudia works with students who are in the process of shaping their own stories. In these sessions, she presents workshops that focus on plotting, developing character, and revision.
Fees: day trip from Boulder: $500/day (Denver Metro area no overnight stay required) with travel: $1000/day (up to 4 presentations), plus expenses
To visit Claudia’s website please visit http://claudiamillsauthor.com/.