Behind the Bookcase

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Subscribers also receive access to exclusive Behind the Bookcase content. Check out some of the awesome stories you’ll read about when you subscribe.

Time at Home: A Chance to Cultivate New Reading Habits

Extra time at home is the right time for cultivating new reading habits or expanding old ones. Some reluctant readers may wish for the endurance or patience to finish a book, others may want to break out of a reading rut. Physical distancing and canceled plans present the opportunity, and these ten ideas will give a boost to anyone who wants to shape a new reading lifestyle.

Eileen and Jerry Spinelli's grandkids excited to see grandfather's book cover in bookstore window

Eileen and Jerry Spinelli: Writing for a Living and a Lifetime Together

A little poetry brought Eileen and Jerry Spinelli together. Forty-one years of marriage and more than a hundred books later, they are still each other’s biggest cheerleaders (with their grandkids close behind). In this subscriber exclusive, the couple shares how their dream of making a living as writers turned into an adventure.


After the Storm: Houston Bookstore Comforts Neighbors in Harvey’s Aftermath

“A bookstore is a community,” says Murder By The Book owner McKenna Jordan. When Category-4 Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast in August but spared her bookstore, there was only one thing to do: open the doors for their neighbors. The days following brought delayed book shipments and canceled author events, as well as a host of small miracles, not the least of which were the people who came in to share their stories.


Marly Cornell: Inspired by Inspiring People

Award-winning author and editor Marly Cornell says, out of two hundred manuscripts, “The ones that made the difference to me, those I cared about the most and felt the greatest energy while working on, were books about inspiring people.” Marly recently spoke at the American Center New Delhi about the book she wrote about her daughter Cody, who lived a joyous life despite being paralyzed from the waist down. “Everything I learned about living an able life, I learned from Cody,” Marly says. Writing that book led to her being chosen to write about Suri and Edda Sehgal, refugees who escaped dangerous circumstances as children, led remarkable lives, and used their resources to make a difference in rural India. Marly says she feels “lifted into another orbit of tremendously inspiring individuals” and will continue to use her writing to celebrate them.


Kimberly Johnson: On More Than An Itty Bitty Adventure

Children’s book author and publisher Kimberly Johnson is best known for her work in educational environments, reading her character books to young children, teaching creative writing to elementary and middle school students, and encouraging school teachers through her dynamic workshops. She was perfectly content writing about itty bitty frogs and bunnies and butterflies until she met the Friendship Nine, a group of gentlemen who went to jail for sitting at a whites-only lunch counter in 1961. The past few months have been a life-changing journey for Kimberly. In this month’s subscriber exclusive, she reflects on how she got to this place, the influence of her grandparents who raised her, and her hopes for the lasting impact of her most important work.


Getting Your Manuscript Ready for Publication

Perhaps you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of writers who accepted the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. Or maybe you’ve been honing your manuscript over several years. How do you know when your work is ready to submit for publication? Author and teacher Mary Carroll Moore says, “We usually think our manuscript is more ready for prime time than it is. … So when do you know? When is it really time to hit the streets with your hope?” She offers eight steps to help you get your manuscript ready to send to a publisher.


Alvin Unlocks More Than a Secret Code

Books Make a Difference reader David Grabitske, outreach manager for the Minnesota Historical Society, shares how a childhood decoding book enabled a deeper relationship with his dad, taught him critical thinking skills, and set him up for a lifetime love of learning. “My father worked for National Security Agency at the time I first read this book, and reading it became one more in a long string of special moments we shared,” writes David. “I could see myself cracking codes to help my dad. I spent hours at a time over the course of many years working on codes and ciphers … The book taught me to love language as much as I love history, propelling my voracious appetite for a broad spectrum of literature.”


Book Choice Makes Difference for Struggling Readers

Eighth grade literacy teacher Lori Price connects with her students by sharing her own experience as a struggling reader. In this Readers Write exclusive, Miss Price shares her strategies for turning those dramatic eye rolls at the start of the school year into a classroom full of students who enjoy independent reading. At the top of the list: let them choose their own books to read. (Photo: Miss Price gets “slimed” by a student who met her reading challenge.)


Armin Brott: A Father of the Fatherhood Movement

When Armin Brott was the expectant father of his first child, he wanted to know everything about his new role, but he was disappointed at the lack of information available for dads-to-be. He wrote his first book to fill a gap and soon discovered other gaps that needed closing. From dads-to-be to single fathers to deployed dads, Armin has been providing books and resources for fathers for nearly twenty years. Now with a radio show and almost 2 million of his books sold, he hopes to empower dads to be more involved in their kids’ lives and help dads—and society—realize how important dads are to their children.


Samantha Bell: A Teacher Paints, An Artist Teaches

Samantha Bell doesn’t typically use the word “artist” to describe herself, but this writer and illustrator has twenty books in print, including educational nonfiction, picture books, and craft books. Creating books of her own since she was seven, Samantha now teaches art to children, teens, and adults in a variety of settings, in addition to being a mom of four. We herald spring with a look at this artist and teacher who loves plants, animals, plants named after animals, animals hiding in plants, and any other excuse to bring nature and art together!

Briley Rossiter

Briley Rossiter: 12-Year-Old Author Shares Voice and Feet

Briley Rossiter is not your typical twelve year old. Yes, she loves to listen to music, read popular adventure books, and sometimes gets annoyed with her little brother. But she’s also a published author, with a busy schedule of events, and a philanthropist, donating all proceeds from her book to the Ainsley’s Angels of America Foundation. In Born an Angel, Briley tells the story of her sister’s diagnosis with a rare nervous system disorder, her family’s response, and the exciting details of how racing together has changed their lives. The intensely-protective older sister and preteen author hopes to spread an important message about inclusion.

Fairy Tales and Coloring Books Taught Illustrator Christina Rodriguez How to Leave Her Mark

A book of fairy tales, with its hand-written inscription, tattered binding, and well-loved pages, currently resides on a shelf in Rhode Island. This story book, along with a special coloring book, was the initial inspiration for illustrator Christina Rodriguez’s lifelong passion. There is something about the mark we leave in books. Christina uses her life experience, and the support of many friends and colleagues, to illustrate books that make a difference for children, and to continue to grow and leave her mark personally and professionally.


Elizabeth Raum: Writing Bridges for Kids

Children’s author Elizabeth Raum has published nearly 100 books in her career. She wants to build bridges for young readers, to help them connect to new ideas about the world and themselves. While Elizabeth has a passion for bringing kids knowledge through nonfiction books, she hopes her fictional stories will open their hearts to be more sensitive to others around them. Her latest children’s fiction book, Cedric and the Dragon, provides hope for children who are looking for peaceful ways to battle their dragons.

Reading at School in the Woods, Naturally

Fourth graders who attend School in the Woods call themselves naturalists, and naturalists read, well, naturally. School in the Woods in Black Forest, Colorado, offers a unique, integrated learning opportunity for 78 students each year. Those kids set to arrive on campus this year will be surrounded by a fire-altered landscape and a grateful staff who know how close they came to losing everything.

Mother’s Letters Make a Difference for Bobblehead Dad

Jim Higley used to sneak into his parents’ den to read the unfinished letters sitting on his mom’s typewriter. Her stories inspired him, and he secretly hoped his life would be interesting enough to write about, too. He hadn’t imagined the breadth of the story he would live, starting with the loss of his mother to cancer when he was fourteen years old. Later, he lost his dad and one of his brothers to the same disease and all before his own cancer diagnosis at age 44. A single father of three, Jim used his summer of cancer treatment to write important letters to his kids. The lessons he uncovered in the process have made all the difference.

TOP SECRET: Books (& Hidden Library) Integral to Spy Museum

Ever wondered whether the man standing in line behind you at the grocery store might be a spy? Espionage is intriguing, and people love to read about their favorite spies—both real and make believe. Deception is reality in a world where a shirt button, wristwatch, or hairbrush holds a camera and an umbrella or lipstick case is a deadly weapon. For book lovers, a pair of libraries at the International Spy Museum adds to the intrigue. Learn more in this exclusive interview with museum historian Mark Stout.

William Alexander

National Book Award Winner William Alexander
Straddles Fantasy/Real Worlds

Goblin Secrets

William Alexander’s debut fantasy novel Goblin Secrets received the 2012 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Alexander is among few fantasy writers receiving the distinction, and in this Readers Write exclusive he shares some of the influential places and experiences that prepared him to step out so boldly with his first book.


Firefighter Tim Hoppey, author of The Good Fire Helmet

Tim Hoppey: A Hero Inspired by Children’s Courage

The November 2012 feature article of Books Make a Difference magazine highlighted illustrator Lori McElrath-Eslick and her courageous journey through heart surgery while working to complete illustrations for the award-winning book The Good Fire Helmet.

In this Readers Write exclusive we bring you the story of author Tim Hoppey, the remarkable retired New York City firefighter who was inspired by the courage of children to write The Good Fire Helmet. For all the brave feats he accomplished as a first responder on 9/11 and through the 27 years he worked as a firefighter in Spanish Harlem, Tim believes some of the bravest people he has seen are not always who you think they would be. Children have inspired him to see courage from a different perspective.