Author Peg Kehret Roars!
Library Lions Roar is Thrilled to welcome the wonderful Peg Kehret to our blog!
Peg’s forty-eight books for kids have won more than fifty state young reader awards, SCBWI’s Golden Kite, the PEN Center West Award in Children’s Literature, the Henry Bergh Award from the ASPCA and many other honors. Her most recent book is Dangerous Deception.
Early in her writing career Peg published five plays, two adult nonfiction books, and hundreds of short pieces. But did you know that Peg didn’t publish her first middle grade book until she was fifty? Peg says, “I am waiting for ALA to launch a Late Bloomer Award.”
I’m an animal lover, advocate for spay/neuter, and have volunteered with rescue groups all of my adult life. I include animals in most of my books and this is a huge connection with my readers. I’m also a polio survivor.
This photo was taken at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where several quotes from Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio were featured in an exhibit about polio.
Even when writing a memoir, I did library research about polio. Without public libraries, I could not have written many of my books. Long before Google provided information, I got the facts I needed from libraries. I still love to browse the stacks and often find useful facts that I would never have found on line because I didn’t know what to look for. I also get inspiration from reading other authors. As a lifelong learner, I use my library regularly both as a writer and as a reader.
I think every school should have a fulltime librarian. We need to make libraries a priority in funding; they are the heartbeat of the school.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs
I’ve done hundreds of school and library visits over the years. I loved the reader board welcome signs
and the chance to talk with the kids and answer their questions. The most frequent question is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Librarians roll their eyes over some questions, but I use “How much money do you make?” as an opportunity to explain how royalties work, and “How old are you?” to show that we should be comfortable with who we are. Schools often had the students do art projects prior to my visit and it was fun to see these lining the halls.
Librarians are my partners. I write the books, and they put those books in the hands of readers who will enjoy them. We make a good team. Library and school talks have led to wonderful friendships with librarians in all parts of the country. The first state award I received was Nebraska, where the committee was chaired by Kathy Schultz, from the public library in Hastings. Later I spoke at Kathy’s library and when I won in Nebraska again we had a happy reunion.
The first time I won the Mark Twain Reader Award in Missouri, school librarian Joan Arth chaired the committee. I talked at Joan’s school, and my husband and I even parked our camper at her house. Joan and I love cats as well as books and kids.
The Iowa Children’s Choice Award is a replica of a brass school bell. Beth Elshoff, a school librarian in Muscatine, Iowa, knows how much I love the bells because I used to tease her that I needed to win four times so that each of my grandkids could inherit a school bell. By the time I won the fourth time, I had a great-grandson so our joke continued. Two years later, I added bell #5. Thank you, Iowa!
Library Love When You Were a Cub
I always loved to read. As a child, I received a book each year for my birthday and for Christmas. My favorites were the Raggedy Ann and Andy books by Johnny Gruelle; I still have all of them.
My favorite game was to play library. Each book has a 3 X 5 check-out card taped inside with the title in my writing, but no borrowers are listed. I couldn’t bear to let my beloved books out of my own hands so I only pretended to be a librarian.
Note that the price of this new hardcover book was seventy-five cents.
After polio left me with weakened muscles, reading became even more important. I graduated from the children’s room to the adult section of the public library in Austin MN. The first three books that I checked out there were The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mrs. Mike, and War and Peace. From then on, I was never without a library book. Decades after I made the leap to adult books, the town built a beautiful new library and I was asked to speak at the dedication. What an honor!
More Library Love
I live in a rural area of Washington State. The nearest town is Wilkeson, population 483. The closest library is in Buckley, and I’m there at least once a week.
I give a library talk whenever I have a new book; once we filled the library’s display case with some of my awards prior to my talk. It bothered me that the kids in Wilkeson had no library. When I offered to provide a Little Free Library for the town, the Town Council helped me get permission to put it in front of the Post Office. There is no home mail delivery in this area so everyone goes to the Post Office. The photos are from our “grand opening” ceremony. The Little Free Library gets used extensively. I monitor it daily when I go for my mail. The adult books tend to recirculate and many people donate books. The kids’ books leave quickly and never come back, which is fine with me. It’s a great excuse to stop at garage sales because I always need more books for children.
(photos taken at the Little Free Library opening event)
Hooray for ALA!
I’ve been to ALA several times. What an amazing conference! I love the speeches, the exhibit halls, and the author events. Most of all, it is great to meet so many librarians. One night at a dinner hosted by Penguin, I was seated next to Jeanette Larson from the Texas Library Assoc. We politely introduced ourselves. When we ordered our meals, we discovered that we are both vegetarians. This led to talk of animal welfare and other issues and by the end of the evening, we were fast friends. Later I went to Texas to do a presentation with Jeanette on Teaching Compassion Through Literature.
Carrie Webster was a school librarian in Mercer Island, WA, when she read Small Steps. She and her students then did a Pennies for Polio drive and raised hundreds of dollars for Rotary, International’s campaign to eliminate polio.
Many classes in all parts of the country have done fund raisers for their local animal shelter after reading Ghost Dog Secrets or Shelter Dogs.
These kids are learning vital life lessons. I’m glad when the kids like one of my books but I’m even happier when the book moves them to take compassionate action to correct a problem.
Thank you Peg for sharing your amazing writing life with us here on Library Lions! We’re so happy you stopped by to ROAR.
Let’s Link Up
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet via the Contact page on this website to set up an interview.
Note to Authors: If you’re interested in Roaring for Libraries on this blog, contact Janet.