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

The power of books

I could pretty much write about this topic every single bingle day.  I definitely talk about it every single bingle time I do an author visit.

My romance with books started with my mom, who grew up in a tough household in small towns in Iowa.  She coaxed my dad–the storyteller–toward books.  (When I spoke at my alma mater, Monmouth College, last year, I discovered this picture of them in a book about the college.) 

She read on camping trips.  She read every day.  She was my first teacher and the one who modeled a love of books for me.

I think of her when I read this quote from Julie (the person I wrote about in The Power of Julie): “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.” – Betty Reese

Just before we moved to Ethiopia, Mom happened to read an article by a librarian, “One Hundred Best Books for Children.”  They didn’t have much money, she said, but she bought as many of those books as she possibly could.  Those were the books that got unwrapped every Christmas, every birthday.  Oh that moment in the afternoon–after all the hustle bustle died down–when it was time to curl up and open that book for the very first time!  When I finished, I traded books with my sisters…or sometimes went right back to the beginning and started over.

It still feels magical that I had a chance to publish books that would show other readers a bit of Ethiopia, the beautiful country where I learned to read.   When I saw E. B. Lewis’s art work for the first time (in the Simon & Schuster offices in NYC), I cried because it brought back so many memories of the place where–at that point–I hadn’t been for sixteen years.

It’s thrilldom that a young Ethiopian woman who loves children’s books got permission from Simon & Schuster to bring out an Ethiopian edition of Fire on the Mountain, illustrated by an Ethiopian artist.  You can see a video of the book being put together and distributed at 

As Yohannes says, books change lives. 

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