The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

Read on…from America to Ethiopia

Kids have asked me whether I longed–when I was a girl–to follow in the footsteps of Jane Goodall or to creep after wildlife on the savanna…the way Lanie longs.  I always explain that I DID see roving animals on the savanna when I was a girl.  So–as one student recently pointed out–I was more like Lanie’s friend Dakota.  My mind is sometimes full of the sights, sounds, smells of the savanna. 

But I admit that most of my hours these days are being taken up with thoughts of people, not animals, on the continent where I grew up.  These weeks of June, I’m throwing starfish.  I’m following clues, asking questions, tip-tap-typing to help put together a program in Ethiopia for 12 teachers who will be spending the month of July there, thanks to the generous and idealistic funding of a Fulbright-Hayes grant.

In my 2010 books, Lanie discovers she can do little things in her own back yard that will have a big impact.  I’m hoping the little things I’m doing on my couch will have a big impact, too.  It’s hard to guess, in this world, how dominoes will fall.  After all, I had no idea that Lanie would ripple out from Saba, my first American Girl book (still available at

All over Ethiopia, these days, Ethiopian educators are trying to dream new dreams.  This building, for example, is part of a project to plant 250 new primary schools in the general part of the county where I grew up.  Maybe giving up a month of summer vacation, a month with family and friends, and traveling to Ethiopia doesn’t seem like a big thing.  But this trip is a ripple from another teacher-to-teacher trip almost three years ago…and I can hardly wait to see what will ripple out from this one.

Start those ripples rippling wherever you are.

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