How do you explain July 4 to kids? Is it all about fireworks, cookouts and band music?
There’s something about Linda Skeers’ The Impossible Patriotism Project that reminds me of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. No, Linda’s book doesn’t rhyme and I’m not thinking about Christmas in July. But there’s something about the challenge Caleb faces in Linda’s book that reminds me of the question the Grinch ponders in Dr. Seuss’ classic.
Caleb’s school assignment is “Make something showing patriotism" — which makes him struggle to understand what patriotism is. What he ultimately decides to share proves a moving revelation for his teacher, his classmates and the reader.
The Grinch struggles, too, to understand what Christmas is — especially after the Whos sing and celebrate even after he’s taken all their presents and food for the feast away.
“And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Linda’s inspiration came from personal experience.
“I began writing The Impossible Patriotism Project after my husband left the Air Force and we settled back in Iowa,” she wrote me.
“Suddenly we didn’t have that incredible support system and the proud and patriotic feeling that we had as part of the close-knit military family. I wanted to write about patriotism from a child’s point of view. I knew Caleb would be struggling with a school project that would show what patriotism is – but I wasn’t sure what his final project would be. The story stalled. And then my nephew returned home from the military, moved into an apartment which was having a balcony decorating contest for the 4th of July. Not able to afford fancy decorations, he hung his uniform from his balcony with a sign that said, “I served my country.” He won. I knew right then that Caleb would realize that patriotism means honoring all those that serve in the military – especially his dad who won’t be home to see his class project.”
I met Linda in 2016 at a WOW writing retreat in Georgia where she was one of the instructors. A longtime popular teacher and speaker, she impressed me immediately with her humor and spirit and her dedication to writing books that make a positive difference for kids. I’m proud to share that we have not only remained friends, but reconnected at the wonderful Writing Barn in Austin where we and fellow authors, 11 in all, joined forces to become the Nonfiction Ninjas, dedicated to sharing great books and mentoring aspiring writers.
Our tagline: Count on us for instruction, mentor texts, author visits, and more. Between us we have more than 415 titles and 230 years of writing experience!
Linda has been writing terrific fiction and non-fiction books for a long time. The Impossible Patriotism Project, illustrated by Ard Hoyt, came out in 2007 from Dial Press. In 2017, her mammoth undertaking, Women Who Dared: 52 Stories of Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers, and Rebels, illustrated by Livi Gosling, was published by Sourcebooks. Now she’s hard at work on Dinosaur Lady — The True Story of How Mary Anning Became the First Paleontologist, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens. It will be released from Sourcebooks in 2020.
I asked Linda what inspires her to write.
“I’ve thought about that a lot,” she wrote. “The simple answer is I can’t NOT write. I’ve “quit” many times but then a fresh new idea pops into my head and I’m back at it. I write to learn more about the world around me and how I fit into the world. I love figuring out how to share what I’ve learned with children. I stumble on a fascinating fact or event or get an idea that makes me laugh every day.”
Linda digs deep for each book.
“Each book has a special place in my heart – for different reasons. I wrote Toymakers because I wanted to know IF I could write a book. I profiled people that I admired and who were incredibly creative and determined! The Impossible Patriotism Project is personal since we were a military family and having a family member away from home is something we knew about firsthand.
“Tutus Aren’t My Style is very much autobiographical! Yes, I am clumsy, awkward and never once in my life wanted to be a ballerina. Women Who Dared was a chance to introduce readers to women who I admire and that inspired me and gave me the courage to pursue my dreams. And Mary Anning is an incredible example of someone with an insatiable curiosity who refused to let anyone, or anything stand in her way. How she went from an uneducated young girl to being one of the world’s first paleontologists and foremost experts on fossils is simply remarkable!”
It’s a tribute to Linda that a dozen years after The Impossible Patriotism Project came out, it remains a touching and timely reminder to be thankful for those who sacrifice to protect our lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
As Linda says: “I hope children look past the sparklers and fireworks and think about patriotism and what it means to be an American.”
Where you can find Linda:
Facebook: Linda Skeers
And if you’re looking for fabulous Fourth of July flag-making crafts for the kids, check out Vivian Kirkfield’s lovely Perfect Picture Book Friday post on Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing.