Lori Degman's books for kids include the picture books Like a Girl and Just Read!. She has worked as a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing, and she lives in Vernon Hills, Illinois.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Like a Girl, and how did you pick the women to include in the book?
A: After decades of hearing “you ___ like a girl” in a negative way, I heard it one more time and that was the last straw. I decided to write a book to highlight all the amazing things you can do “like a girl.”
I wrote the first line, “Stand up like a girl by refusing to stand.” with Rosa Parks in mind. There were several other lines I wrote with specific women in mind. For the rest, I did research to find women who personified each line.
I wanted to have a diverse group, in regard to age, race, location and era. I’m happy with the women I chose, but in hindsight, I regret not representing women of all races and religions. I’m Jewish and I didn’t even think to include a Jewish woman!
There are just so many amazing women in the world; I wish I could have included them all!
Q: What inspired your book Just Read!, and what was your own relationship to reading as a child?
A: I was a really bad reader as a kid. My twin sister was always in the highest reading group and I was in the lowest. Reading was hard for me – I read very slowly and it was hard for me to remember what I’d read. Not surprisingly, I really did not enjoy reading.
Then, through the years, I discovered that, when I found a book I really loved, I could read it more easily and enjoyed reading more. Because of my love-hate relationship with reading, I wanted to let struggling readers know that reading is fun if you find the best way for YOU!
Q: What do you think the illustrators--Mara Penny and Victoria Tentler-Krylov respectively--add to the books?
A: I have to say, I’ve been so lucky with the illustrators for my books! I’ve loved them all and they’re so different from each other!
Mara Penny beautifully captured the emotion of each woman’s struggles and triumphs. I love the colors she used and I especially love the three girls she created for the cover and the last few spreads of the book!
I love Victoria Tentler-Krylov’s style! She added so many details to each scene – things I’d never thought of! I still find new things whenever I look at the book.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from these books?
A: Really, there’s an overlapping message to these books – I never realized it until now. That message is, find what you love and what matters to you, then do things your way to make things better for you and the world!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have many works-in-progress and I have several manuscripts I’m submitting to editors. I’m also working on marketing ideas for my upcoming book, Travel Guide for Monsters.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’m stealing an idea from one of your previous Q&A authors, Megan Angelo (thanks!). I’d like to give a shout-out to the authors and illustrators who are friends and critique partners. I encourage your readers to check out their books!
Cindy Derby, Meg Fleming, Megan Maynor, Janet Nolan, Natalie Rompella, Stephen Shaskan, Trisha Speed Shaskan, Suzanne Slade, and Mary Reaves Uhles.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb