On Friday night, over a salmon dinner, I told my dad I’ve been accepted into the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. A tear rolled down Dad’s cheek, which happens a lot because his Bell’s Palsy causes rebellious tear ducts. When more tears came, I realized this was a legit cry, which is weird because I didn’t think he’d consider graduate school a big deal. Three of my siblings have pursued post-secondary degrees (my brother, Brett, has more degrees than I have kids). And I’m going to school for a job that I sorta already have.
Then he said he’s beyond proud that his daughter is furthering her education, and that my Great-Grandma Dotson would be so proud too. Grandma Dotson was the daughter of a second polygamist wife. Her father was decades older than her mother, and the first wife wasn’t too keen on husband sharing, especially with a young bride. As a result, Grandma Dotson had a rough childhood, and eventually left home at the age of 12 to attend a girl’s boarding school in Beaver, UT. She went on to have 9 kids, only 3 of which survived into adulthood. She valued education, especially for women, and told her grandkids to learn and learn and learn. Her son, my grandpa, went on to do a bunch of jobs, largely in education, and married a woman who worked hard for her degree and worked hard in general. Of course, I’d never heard this story (and I’m sure my angel/ghost great grandma is plenty proud already, what with my female Harris cousins at med school or earning teacher of the year or graduating from Columbia). And there, sitting next to me was my mom, a teacher, the daughter of an immigrant garbage man, the first college graduate in her family. Wow. My lady ancestors have bestowed upon me a fierce legacy.
So I squeezed my dad’s hand and we cried happy/sad tears together. I had some catalyst moments these last few months that drove me to enroll after dreaming about this program for 12 flipping years. Even so, it’s been a HARD couple of weeks. My PTSD is maxed, my anxiety off the charts, and my faith in humanity bruised. But when I look back and look forward, I *still* have hope. The greatest responsibility I have as a mother is to hand over a kinder, wider, more-inclusive world to my daughters. My Oma was an orphan in Nazi Germany–she barely survived, forget gaining an education or voice. These last few weeks I’ve seen brave women like Dr. Christine Ford gain their voice. I’m still finding mine. But meanwhile, I’m not looking away or shutting up. I’m going to keep learning. I have stories I need to tell and things I need to say. My Great-Grandma Dotson already got woke when she was 12. Come January ’19, it’s my turn.
Today heralds the release of MOUSE RUSHMORE, Commander in Cheese Super Special #1. Why is it so super special for me to publish a super special (and yes, I’ll answer what the heck a super special is in just a moment)?
When I was in junior high, I was preeeeeetttttyyy obsessed with the Baby-Sitters Club, which led to a rather ironic and viscous cycle.
Lindsey uses babysitting money to buy Baby-Sitters Club Books
Babysitter’s Club gives Lindsey advice on life, love, and of course, babysitting
Lindsey babysits some more.
I didn’t buy or read all the Baby-Sitters Club books, but the ones I was most excited about were the SUPER SPECIALS. These books were longer and had white covers. The girls usually went on huge trips together, which as a mom sounds like a logistical nightmare, but as a 12-year-old was my dream vacation. Like a cruise! (I’m pretty sure one of the girls finds a cruise boyfriend, also a childhood day dream of mine. Also: all-you-can eat lobster).
And now, here I am, 25 years later, with my own Super Special Book! Dreams do come true, kids. In Mount Rushmore, the Squeakerton mice take a break from the White House (hallelujah!) and jet off to Mount Rushmore to solve their first mystery. There’s a mouse roller coaster, an ice cream shop, mysterious gold and adventure (but no cruise ship. Ann M. Martin already wrote that book). There’s also more fun facts and cool tidbits in the back of the book, including art tips from AG Ford.
I’m also doing a giveaway until Friday over on my instagram–you can win the entire COMMANDER IN CHEESE series along with some other fun goodies.
I really love writing this series, mostly because I really love meeting with readers of this series. It’s an extraordinary experience to write the first book a child reads, or write the gateway that gets a reader into history books. Happy Reading!
If you watch this video, I will send your school/library a free book. Seriously. Let’s just lay that out there before I share more. Video. Book. Here’s why…
I love America. Love love love love my country. I love America’s rich history, our social progress, our diversity and our gumption. There are, however, things I don’t like about national current events. Soooooo many things. Like many concerned citizens, I’ve thought hard about what I can do as one person to contribute to the betterment of my country. One thing I’ve realized is I happen to be writing a book series set inside the White House while many people are Not Cool with changes made by the new administration inside the White House.
So I decided to make this little video and do this BIG giveaway. I have so adored teaching and reading about the history of our country’s leaders. I love talking to students who are also big into presidential history (like Macey Hensley. My favorite seven-year-old besides my own seven-year-old). I want elementary readers to be excited about our presidency and to serve as helpful citizens and leaders. Whitney Houston said it best: The children ARE our future, y’all. Let’s invest in them (And invest in the arts. And libraries. And education. Maybe I need to write another blog post…)
I asked some author/illustrator friends 2 questions. Click on the video to discover what they said. And then share this video. Teachers, share with your students. Librarians, share with your patrons. Parents, share with your kids. Ask your kids these questions. Ask yourselves these questions. (Thanks to AG Ford, Jen Malone, Stacy McAnulty, Kristen Chandler, Elizabeth Eulberg, Lisa Schroeder, Julie Olsen, Lindsay Eager and some adorable children who may or may not be related to me for chiming in with their thoughts!)
Once you’ve watched this video, email me at contact (at) lindseyleavitt (dot) com (or you can message me on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook). Tell me your answers to these questions and send me your school/library address. I’ll send you a copy of Commander in Cheese #4: THE BIRTHDAY SUIT, which just released January 10 and takes place in the White House ON Presidents’ Day!
Yes. That’s it. Watch a video. Discuss. Email. GET A FREE BOOK.
I have no idea what kind of response I’ll get to this, so I’ll just keep sending out books until I run out of money. If I spend all the money I made on this book on FREE books for you… score. My work here is done.
Please share this #commanderincheese giveaway with other teachers and librarians. Again, it’s not a contest. I’m going Oprah with this thing (or, like an iota of Oprah. 1/2932940982309238 Oprah). You get a book! You get a book! You get a book! Just share this video and YOU GET A BOOK!
Yesterday, after recovering from a nasty flu, we marched.
It was cold and we were alone. I bought some balloons because, I don’t know, BALLOONS!! We talked about feminism and femininity. We talked about how we should be treated and how we should treat others. We talked about motherhood and education and creativity. We talked about the difference between God and government. We talked about respecting beliefs that are contrary to our own. We talked about not making fun of people, even when they make fun of us. We talked about the Statue of Liberty, refuges, mismatched socks, and why books are cheaper at the scholastic book fair (our march is not without its tangents). Most of this talk happened back in the truck, because dang it was cold, but the important thing is… we talked.
The snow in the pic says so much too. January is dreary and infinite. I’m distracted, triggered, and world-weary. On a good day, I remember to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer, and on the hard days, I agonize over how I can possibly contribute as an everyday citizen. I’m so grateful for these little lights and the hope I feel from this quote: “Your success as a family… our success as a nation… depends not on what happens inside the White House, but on what happens inside your house.” ~Barbara Bush
No piñatas were harmed in the making of this family. Okay, one.
This was my favorite Commander in Cheese book to write. I know authors say that picking a favorite book is like picking children, but the truth is I like some books more than others, and sometimes I even like one kid more than their siblings. It’s okay if I say that because my family probably isn’t reading this. Our little secret, okay?
The beginning of THE BIRTHDAY SUIT tells the quick version of how James F. Squeakerton, the sorta-mouse president, proposed to his wife VIA PINATA. I based this on my own husband’s proposal, which involved family and all of our kids and a very
confused, weepy birthday girl. It was one of the most surreal and magical moments of my life. It was easy to pick my husband for this book’s dedication, and maybe every dedication from here on out because he’s just that decent and good. But I’ll spare you too much sap.
I never know which pieces of the story the brilliant AG Ford will pick to illustrate. I squeaked when the illustrations came back with this…
You’ll notice this isn’t a screenshot from the book. No, this is the actual illustration. You see, I told my editor Caroline how much joy this illustration brought me. So she thoughtfully asked AG Ford for this illustration, which she had framed and sent to me as a Christmas/book release present. It currently sits by my bedside while we finish building our home. I can’t wait to stare at it in my own office. It’s the second best gift I’ve ever received paying homage to the very first.
I think this illustration also illustrates (pun alert!) just how many people go into a book’s creation. #TEAMCOMMANDERINCHEESE (T-shirts available soon/please make your own) is made up of a wonderful illustrator, editor, agent, and publisher. Sure, my name is on the book. But they’re all working just as hard to make this series into something that early chapter book readers will love for a really long time. I hope this becomes a favorite. With sprinkles on top.