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.
Being Teddy Roosevelt
Author Claudia Mills is at her sparkling best in her latest chapter book Being Teddy Roosevelt. Riley O'Rourke is planning for the fourth-grade biography tea by researching and writing about the famed Rough Rider president. Along the way, Riley tries to apply Teddy Roosevelt's purposeful, optimistic attitude to his own life, especially his longing for a saxophone. Meanwhile, his good buddies prepare the costumes for their chosen historical figures. Sophie practices being Helen Keller by wearing a blindfold and earplugs, Erika assumes a regal voice for Queen Elizabeth I and Grant, as Mahatma Gandhi, assembles a loincloth (with swimsuit underneath). Mills wonderfully portrays the dynamics, dialogue and dreams of 9 year olds, with R.W. Alley creating pictures that capture Riley's world, from yard sales to report writing to a best friend with shaved head and loincloth. 2007, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 7 to 10, $16.00. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum(Childrens Literature).
Ziggy's Blue-ribbon Day
On track-and-field day, Ziggy is hoping for rain. He is good at drawing, but not at any of the events of the day. His teacher emphasizes that it is important to do your best, cheer for everyone, and have fun. But as he has tried and cheered, but has only a silver/gray participant ribbon for each event, Ziggy feels bad. Still his classmates come to admire the beautiful pictures he has drawn on the envelope with his ribbons, and offer him one of their prize blue ribbons if he will decorate theirs. Ziggy happily skips the optional races and draws away. He ends up with five blue ribbons for doing what he likes to do, and has had fun as well. Alley’s double-page scenes depict a mixed group of elementary youngsters in energetic action unashamedly displaying their emotions. Ziggy’s feelings seem more pensive, even dreamy in one scene, as he creates his pictures, still feeling demoralized by his failures. But as he is asked to draw by his classmates, his face becomes animated and his posture upright. In this hopeful story--which could open class discussions--individuals are valued for their different talents. 2005, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.00. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).
Gus and Grandpa and the Halloween Costume
Beginning readers can't go wrong with the Gus and Grandpa stories. The characters and situations are real and this story is no exception. Gus is really excited about Halloween but he knows that his Mom and Dad are not going to let him have a store-bought costume and his Dad even says what is all the fuss. "When I was a kid we wore any old thing we could find lying around the house." Gus ponders as to what he can create. His real hope rests with Grandpa. On his weekend visit, Gus harvests the pumpkins they planted in the spring, but he also asks if there might be any costumes in Grandpa's shed which seems to be a resource for most anything. It is not the shed but a musty trunk stored in a closet that turns out to be the source of Gus' Halloween costume. It is a handmade Canadian Mountie uniform made by Gus' grandmother because his father had made such a fuss over having just the right costume. Needless to say the costume and the story are both winners. Stock's pencil and watercolor illustrations are also a perfect match for one of the heartwarming teams in children's books--Gus and Grandpa. 2002, Farrar Straus Giroux, $15.00. Ages 5 to 7.Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (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.
Grades 3-6: 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 read Claudia's blog please visit www.claudiamillsanhouraday.blogspot.com.
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