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Raising a Hero by Laura Numeroff

Updated: Feb 18

Laura Numeroff shares If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (HarperCollins) and Raising a Hero, a story of about a puppy with a lot to learn on his adventure of becoming someone’s life-changing friend and helper.


Listen along:




About the book: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff; illustrated by Felicia Bond and published by HarperCollins



If a hungry little traveler shows up at your house, you might want to give him a cookie. If you give him a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk. He'll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn't have a milk mustache, and then he'll ask for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim...



Raising a Hero by Laura Numeroff; illustrated by Lynn Munsinger and published by Cleverkick



Discover the newest story from the #1 New York Times author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie about a puppy with a lot to learn on his adventure of becoming someone’s life-changing friend and helper.


Episode Transcript:


INTRO


Matthew: Welcome to the Children’s Book Podcast. I’m Matthew.


I am a teacher, a librarian, a writer, and a fan of kids. 


There are books that stick so strongly in the consciousness of readers around the world that they achieve ubiquity. We use their turns of phrase in everyday conversations. We parody their structure to examine or express new thoughts and feelings. In short, the book takes on a life of its own. 


And so, if I were to say to you… “If you give a mouse a cookie…” 


Your brain might already begin forming a response.


Today I’m excited to welcome Laura Numeroff to the podcast. Laura is the author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie; illustrated by Felicia Bond and published by HarperCollins. There are an armful of other books Laura has written beginning with “If You Give…” and now there’s an entire animated series on Amazon Prime celebrating these joyous tales of cause and effect. 


Before we dig in, please let me briefly share with you about The 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge! 


Everyone has a story to tell, but finding the voice for that story takes a storyteller. What better way to explore your voice and strengthen your writing skills than in community. And the 12 x 12 community, I think, is one of the best around.


Picture book authors need to be prolific to get published. That's why members of 12 x 12 aim to write one picture book draft a month. With a private Forum, monthly webinars, a thriving Facebook group and more, members enjoy the support of a welcoming community of authors and illustrators while working toward their publishing goals. Registration is only open in January and February. 


I cannot wait to read your stories. I cannot wait to welcome them into our library and our storytimes.


Visit 12x12challenge.com/winner for more information.



Laura Numeroff’s most recent book, Raising a Hero, is about a puppy with a lot to learn on his adventure of becoming someone’s life-changing friend and helper. 


Let’s step into my conversation with Laura Numeroff. Ready? Here we go.


Laura: Hi, I'm Laura Numeroff. and I am the author of a series of books, there are nine of them that begin with the word “If”, the most well known is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, but I have written 36 other books, but I'm not going to sit here and name all the titles.


So that's who I am. 


Matthew: Love it. Your books are, I know, you know, this cause you've, you've watched readers grow up, but your, your books are beloved. I'd love to ask you if, if. I know we as authors, we always sort of have a reader in mind, whether it's our own childhood self or a specific kid in mind when we write.


Did you, Laura, have a kid or a kind of reader in mind when you wrote If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? 


Laura: That's a really good question. Nobody's asked me that before. Um, I don't write particularly for anybody specific. I. I feel like I have a very childlike imagination, um, and so when I come up with an idea, I just put it down on paper and fortunately kids seem to like it.


I am definitely the mouse, um, and I cannot sit still very long and things happen to me like they do in the If books. I get distracted very easily. and end up doing a lot of things that I hadn't originally set out to do.


Matthew:  I purposefully didn't go into this watching or reading a lot of your interviews and I'm now just learning that fact about you for the first time. I love that you're the mouse. 


Do you, Laura, consider yourself a person that enjoys not knowing the outcome of what might happen if you do something?


Laura: I'm a little of both. I usually like to plan things, and when plans sometimes go awry, I'm not always good with that. Um, I do, aside from ADD, also have a little OCD, so I really like things, um, to be the way I want them. But I do like things like getting lost, um, on purpose. I remember when I was in Paris, I didn't go to the, I didn't always go to the typical neighborhoods and I would just walk and walk and walk and get lost in a neighborhood and find, that's when I liked finding unexpected things.


Like, one of those walks led me to Simone de Beauvoir's gravestone in the cemetery. So that was very serendipitous. Um, but I guess I would say I'm a mix of both. So, yeah. 


Matthew: I love that. And I love the act of, of losing yourself. I think that it takes, at least when I've done it before, I have felt a certain amount of bravery in trusting in the unknown, right?


Yes. And, um, and, and the discovery that, that happens when you allow yourself to be that open can be delightful. It can be remarkable. Not always, but it can be. It's potential. Definitely. You've, um. Given readers so much the, since first publishing, if you give a mouse a cookie, that was 35 years ago, nearly. I wonder if there are endearing stories or moments from first publishing that book that you wanted to share from that journey, whether it be connecting with readers or seeing adaptations of, of any of the books in certain ways, or just, just whatever you'd like to share.


I'd love, I'd love to just hear, uh, any, any moments that are really sticking out to you over this journey. 


Laura: Oh, absolutely. Um, it turns out that children on the autism spectrum really like the cause and effect of the if stories, and I get a lot of mail and email from parents and teachers. with kids, uh, on the spectrum who say that their, their children really, really relate to the story.


But the best one I got was an, a letter from a family in Jackson Heights, Queens. And I used to go to Jackson Heights when I was little because I wear, I've been wearing glasses since kindergarten. And for some reason, my parents friend was an optometrist in Jackson Heights. So I got a letter from this family of twins.


I think they were three or four at the time. Uh, both of them were autistic, one more so than the other. He wouldn't eat anything. He didn't let them cut his hair. And he was also nonverbal. And they read him Mouse and If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and they said after reading those books, he ate a blueberry muffin.


His first word that he ever said was cookie, and he let them cut his hair. And that letter will stick with me forever. That was about 25 years ago or something, and I still have the letter, which means a lot to me. 


Matthew: That's incredible. It is. I mean, it's incredible too, Laura, that like, you, you just don't know, do you?


When you make something and put it out in the world, especially when you're making something for kids, when you're teaching kids, when you're working with kids, you just don't know what the impact will be. I love that for you. 


Laura: No, you don't. Um, that's true. And I have since become involved with a lot of children with autism.


I sponsor a horse for therapeutic riding. And they have a lot of kids with autism riding, riding the very gentle horses. And before COVID, I spent every Saturday afternoon with a young boy About 11 with autism and we would write stories and he loved, loves the Beatles and they're, they're my favorite. I could just listen to them forever.


And so we would sing Beatles songs and it was a really incredible experience for me. 


Matthew: That connection that knowing that you, um, are drawn to working with children with different disabilities and learning needs, um, as well as, uh, I know Raising a Hero is a book about working with and training service dogs. I'd love to hear a little bit more if you, if you don't mind about your experience with service dogs and, and what, what really brought you to write that book?


Laura: Yes. No, I love talking about Raising a Hero is my passion project. Um, I met with a young guy who was supposed to be helping me with my website.


It turned out his brother had a service dog. Um, he was had severe cerebral palsy in a wheelchair. And I was fascinated by what these dogs are capable of doing. It's amazing what they can do. And I decided to write a book about the first phase, which is when they're puppies and they're with a puppy raiser for a year and a half.


And we actually did the book on our own. We have a Kickstarter. We raise money to get the book published, printed, and get an illustrator. And I actually did some research. Canine Companions is one of the largest organizations that train these dogs. They have six major campuses in the United States.


There's a two year waiting list for the dogs, but they are given free and The facility that I went to, to do research is in San Diego, Ocean View, and we observed classes and training, and that's where we shot the video for our Kickstarter campaign. And we raised a fair amount of money, not a lot, not as much as we had hoped, but we were looking for an illustrator who wouldn't charge too much, and I had a lot of trouble finding somebody.


And my favorite illustrator that I've worked with, I've done 11 books with, Lynn Munsinger, was somebody that I would have loved to have worked with, but I didn't know if we could afford her. And Shawn, my partner, just encouraged me to call her and see, just see what she said. And I did, and she actually did the illustrations for this book kind of as a gift.


She didn't charge us anything. Um, And so when I illustrated the book, uh, Sean, a very young, bright, business minded, entrepreneur kind of guy, set up some, um, book signings and a small book tour up north and local, and the book got 95 five star reviews on Amazon. Barnes and Noble called Sean and said they would like to carry the book in the store, which is very unusual for an independently published book.


And I've since met so many incredible people. I've met the puppy raisers, I've met people who have the dogs in their life to help give them more independence. And, um, anywhere I go, I just tell people I'm going to be like in Princeton and people with their puppies will show up and take me to dinner. I get to meet them.


So it's been an incredible experience, really, really satisfying and very special for me. 


Matthew: I love what a connector you were into the community and then the book was in bringing the community to you. That really sounds like a wonderful gift you gave them. And my friend, Michelle, uh, who was at the first school where I worked, um, was also a trainer for Canine Companions. That's how I became aware of. Yeah. Yeah. 


So when you, when I saw that book, I was like, I'm the book came out 2016. The book came out after I would have worked with Michelle. I would have worked with her almost 20 years ago, but I have no doubt that she's aware. She has to be aware of it just because of that connection.


And she, when we were looking to get our first puppy, um, she, she talked a lot with us and supported us and we have kids with allergies and so there were certain choices we had to make, but it was, uh, yeah, she not only was wonderful with that, but also was instrumental in our. What was the program called at our school?


Maybe it was called it's a another bigger program I think it might be called reading buddies where they bring dogs in to sit and read with kids to be companions to help them with Just being calm being comforted lots of I think some trauma response type situations often with Reading Buddies, but but she yeah, she she is not a person Michelle Kaufman.


She is not a person I'll soon forget because she because of her work with Canine Companions and, and the like. Yeah. What a coincidence. Yeah, I just loved it. I thought, oh, there's a connection.


Laura: Oh! What a coincidence!


Matthew: Laura, before we go, is there, is there anything else you wanted to share with your readers that I didn't ask about?


Laura: So, um, I've done a lot of school Zoom visits because of, you know, pandemic, and I got an email asking if I would like to Zoom with a class in Malawi, Africa. Um, I had Zoomed with American schools in Germany, Italy. Japan and Colombia, but I'd never spoken to kids who are actually from the country and I fell in love with them.


They were so sweet and so charming and so excited. And one of the little girls asked me, how, um, how do you become an author? And I usually tell people that you should be reading a lot of books. But before I said that, I realized that they didn't have any books. And so I ended up. Getting involved with Village Book Builders.


I donated money and within six months, I was traveling to Malawi in October to cut the ribbon on the library that they built for these kids at their school. And they are the warmest, most loving, happy children I've ever met, even though they have nothing. And everywhere you go, we went. You pull up and everybody's singing and dancing and inviting you to dance with them.


And, uh, I just miss them terribly. I wish it wasn't such a pain in the neck to get to Malawi. But I'm going to be, um, doing a GoFundMe to raise money to do another, open up another library. And I'm going to be hosting a gala at my home to raise money for village book builders. 


Matthew: Well, I love that, Laura. And I wish you a lot of luck with that.

And please share the link with me when, uh, you have it so that we can help drive as much traffic as we can to it.  


Laura: I will. Thank you for that. 


Matthew: Yeah. Yay readers all over the world. Look at that. That one little mouse has really connected you with all the children, hasn't it? 


Laura: Yeah, that's wonderful. I'm very, very, very lucky.


Matthew: Laura, where can readers find you if they wanna learn more about you or raising a hero or if you give a, the series? Um, 


Laura: Lauranumeroff.com. Wonderful. And online. Facebook as well, Laura Numeroff. 


Matthew: I'll, I'll, I'll make sure I link to all of that by my standard closer. Um, and I know you've had, again, a career of giving messages to children, but I'd love to ask you, I'll see a library full of children tomorrow morning.


Laura, is there a message that I can bring to them from you? 


Laura: I think that, um, children in the United States should really feel so lucky to have access to Just so many books, um, knowing that there are kids in the world who don't have a single book to their name and have no libraries either.


So really, really take advantage of the library and just read as much as you can. And if you want to become an author, being a good reader is the first step.


OUTRO


Matthew: Thank you to Laura Numeroff for joining me on The Children’s Book Podcast. 


You can pick up your own copy of Raising a Hero at LauraNumeroff.com and purchase  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and other titles wherever books are found. Consider supporting independent bookstores by shopping through Bookshop.org. You can also use my affiliate link by clicking on the book’s name in our show notes.


Our podcast logo was created by Duke Stebbins (https://stebs.design/). 


Our music is by Podington Bear. 


Podcast hosting by Libsyn. 


You can support the show and buy me a coffee at www.matthewcwinner.com.


Don’t forget to check out the Reading Culture Podcast with Jordan Bookey, from Beanstack, if you are a fellow teacher or librarian. It’s the perfect podcast to explore building a stronger culture of reading in our communities. It’s available wherever podcasts are found.


And on that note…


Be well. And read on.



End Of Episode

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