Chillicothe native, Jo Ellen (Humphrey) Black (now living in Marshall, Mo.) teaches second grade. This past winter, she signed with Tate Publishing to have her first children's book published.
The character in her book, although fictional, is based on her grandfather and life-long Chillicothe resident, Clyde Cranmer.
What inspired you at such an early age to become an author?
I've always loved books (especially rhyming books) even as a teacher, they are my favorite to use with my students. I can remember as far back as 2nd grade writing stories to go with pictures in my coloring books. I was introduced to the Little House books several years later and became a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I just always carried the dream of becoming an author. I have several in the works- several more children's books- all rhyming and all based on family members. My next big goal is to write a book for adults- inspirational fiction.
What inspired you to select a book based on your grandfather?
Well, grandpa was a character! He was funny, eccentric, and never knew a stranger. He also made a great "character" for my children's book. But it didn't start out as a book- it began as a poem for a unit I was working on for my 2nd grade students about 6 years ago. The story just seemed to get bigger and bigger until I realized this could be a children's book. My grandpa would be thrilled to know that he was "famous"- even if only in the eyes of his close friends and family.
Why did you choose a children's storybook?
I am drawn to children's books- both personally and through my profession as a teacher. I also have done much graduate work in the area of reading fluency. Having a background on the mechanics of reading and the needs of the young reader helped me to build my story in such a way that the reader(s) could benefit both educationally as well as by being entertained. I've used the story itself for the last 4 years in my classroom during the week leading up to grandparents day. They write about a special "senior citizen" in their life and practice putting their own story into a poem format. My music background makes it very easy for me to feel the rhythm of a rhyming book and I even use a piano to set some of my own poems (including the one that is repeated in this book) as well as an occasional student poem to music. Bringing stories to life is so much fun!
What is the storyline?
The story in Clyde McLivingston Takes a Walk is actually based on a real character (my grandpa) and loosely based on a real incident.
The title itself pays tribute to my home county- Livingston. Grandpa's last name is actually Cranmer. He lived all of my life and much of his own in the Gravesville area of Chillicothe. The setting is actually Chillicothe. I think the illustrator did a great job of making the town square look much like Chillicothe's. It is set in the 1940's-1950's but the story could take place even today.
The background to the actual story line is based on the fact that my grandpa never knew a stranger- and was greatly cared for by those who knew him. He lived through the Great Depression- this meant nothing ever got wasted- not even time. After he retired from the glove factory in Chillicothe, he began walking every morning both for exercise and to collect "treasures"- we called it trash. He dressed very plain- nothing usually matched. The characterization of him in the book looks much like how my grandpa would have dressed. He would walk the Gravesville business area- south town collecting pop bottles and then pop cans to sell. You never knew what grandpa would come home with. He didn't need the money for the things he was selling and he wasn't homeless. But that's what he looked like walking around. One time when I was in middle school, my grandpa left in his truck and still had not returned by lunch time. This was very unusual. The family and friends in the neighborhood began to worry and several were out looking for him. Later in the day, grandpa arrived at home wondering what all the fuss was about. He'd been down fishing all day at the Grand River and had a stringer full of fish for grandma to fry up. He had caused quite a hullaballoo- but nothing seemed to get him too wound up. Grandma was both relieved and upset. But, the next morning, he was back out on his usual walk and things got back to normal rather quickly.
More About Jo Ellen Black
Book Celebration A book celebration will be held this Saturday, Aug. 18 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Simpson Park.
Where to buy Jo Ellen's book will be available to purchase locally at Boji Stone on the Chillicothe square.
The book can also be purchased directly through Tate Publishing at tatepublishing.com.
Later this fall, all those who purchase a book will also be able to access a free download to the audio book that is in production right now.
The book is also available now as an eBook for those who prefer digital books. Jo Ellen is also in the process of developing formal lesson plans to go with the book and teachers will receive an eBook download with that purchase to use on their interactive white boards/ Smart Boards.