Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen never thought that she would grow up to become a writer. As a child she had any number of professions that bounced around in her head–model, president of the United States, carpenter, lawyer, and doctor. As a graduate of the California Institute of Technology with a degree in biology and having returned to Cal Tech as a Ph.D. candidate, a career as a writer still seemed an unheard of idea. That is, until Sudipta had her two children, Isabella and Brooklyn, and took time off from the pursuit of her degree to be a stay-at-home mom. It was during this time that she realized that she had stories to tell, and, after a half-dozen rejections, had her first story published in 2003 in the magazine Highlights for Children. From there, Sudipta branched out into nonfiction, including books on science and biographies. Her first love, however, was still picture books, and in 2006 her debut picture book, Tightrope Poppy, the High-Wire Pig, was published. Since then she has gone on to publish a growing number of picture books.
Sudipta visits schools to share her stories and experience, and teaches writing to children and adults. She lives in New Jersey with her family (now comprised of three children, with the addition of son Sawyer in 2006) and an imaginary pony named Penny.
Half-Pint Pete the Pirate
Illustrated by Geraldo Valério
Half-Pint Pete “sailed the seven seas/and plundered with ease” but with only one half of a treasure map he never found the booty he coveted. He and his rowdy crew boarded the ship of Half-Baked Belle intent on pillage and found not only a feisty female with a pink eye patch but the other half of the treasure map. Rather than fight the two joined forces to find the booty. When the hole they dug failed to reveal any loot it was clever Belle who noticed that Pete had the map upside down. Soon they were awash in coins and jewels and decided since they made a perfect pair to sail the seas together. The lively bright acrylics on watercolor paper are filled with humor and will keep the reader engaged. 2012, Putnam/Penguin, $16.99. Ages 4 to 6.
Chicks Run Wild
Illustrated by Ward Jenkins
Sometimes there’s no way to get chicks to sleep except to wear them out. Mama Hen, gorgeous in her red-brown feathers and patterned purple robe, tries being sweet, firm, and finally threatening, but every time she closes their bedroom door, “those chicks run wild!” Five little chicks in pajamas somersault, leap, do cartwheels, throw pillows, feathers flying. What’s a hen to do? Clever Mama joins the fun, teaching her chicks “how to prance / and how to do the chicken dance,” till the exhausted little balls of fluff beg for bedtime. As they settle in their five identical beds with tan-checked covers, Mama tiptoes out. Surprise! Mama’s ready for some fun herself–painting her toenails red, with chocolates and a mug of hot tea nearby, she’s watching a DVD of Gone with the Wing. (Parents will relate!) Jenkins’s horizontal double-page spreads extend the action in pencil drawings richly colored by computer. Inventive Mama, more than a match for her frantic offspring, is a remarkably expressive actress, too, especially when she glowers. Kids and adults can have fun checking out details like chicken art and book titles like “The Egg and I” and “On the Wings of Love.” Bardhan-Quallen’s rhyming text rolls smoothly along through the action to its satisfying climax and witty ending. This lively picture book will make a great read-aloud. 2011, Simon & Schuster, $15.99. Ages 2 to 6. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft (Children’s Literature).
Ballots for Belva
Illustrated by Courtney A. Martin
Belva Lockwood believed in “will-power and mental effort, combined with indefatigable labor” to combat 19th century sexism. Wanting to attend law school, she remained undaunted despite rejections from universities fearing she would “distract the attention of the young men.” Denied her diploma, she complained directly to National University Law School President Ulysses S. Grant (who at the time also happened to be the President of the United States). And she ran legally for U.S. president at a time when women were still denied the vote. Though she had her detractors, others supported her, and the Washington Evening Star wrote that “Mrs. Lockwood, if elected, will have a policy [which] will commend itself to all people of common sense.” Young readers will cheer Belva’s can-do spirit while being astounded (and probably outraged) by the obstacles in her path, including men who dressed as women to mock her and vote counters who threw away her votes. Courtney Martin’s artwork depicts intriguing period details (Belva commuting on a large tricycle, for example) and portrays Belva as a strong-bodied woman with determined eyes. 2008, Abrams, $16.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children’s Literature).
Smooch, Roar, Plop, and More
This presentation centers on the main characters of Sudipta’s pictures books, The Hog Prince, The Mine-o-Saur, and Tightrope Poppy. Sudipta reads the books and the children are encouraged to join in the storytelling experience by acting out the stories–all the smooching, roaring, and plopping! The presentation includes an overview of what Sudipta does as a writer and how the publishing process works. PreK-3.
From Inspiration to Printed Page: How a Writer Takes an Idea and Crafts it into a Publication
Sudipta talks about the writing process, from finding and refining an idea to the final published piece. She will read excerpts from her current projects, discuss how she structures a book, and share funny stories aobut her career as a writer. The session concludes with a short writing activity that everyone participates in. All ages.
Sudipta guides the audience through the process of creating a story. She discusses with the group how strong characters, interesting settings, and challenging conflicts are the heart of good stories. The group then begins a guided writing assignment to let each child’s creativity take center stage. Grades 3-5.
A full day includes four 45-minute sessions (or three 45-minute sessions for older students and two 25-minute sessions for younger students). The price is $800 for a full day, plus lodging, meals, and travel expenses.
To learn more about Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and her publications please visit www.sudipta.com.