Monday, June 29, 2009

Rajah and the Big Blue Ball by Mosetta Penick Phillips-Cermak

Rajah, the big black dog, likes to play in his big back yard. He chases the leaves. He sniffs the air every day. It is his favorite place. One day a strange thing happens. Something hits Rajah on the head. It scares him. A blue ball is up in the sky. Where did the ball come from? Did it do it on purpose? Did it want to make him afraid? Rajah has to find the courage to take back his own world. Written by the author of The Wishing Flower and The Magic of Laven-Rock, Rajah and the Big Blue Ball looks into the face of the unknown.

Available from: Barnes and Noble Online
Note: She is donating $1.00 of each sale to the Cleveland Animal Protective League.

Interview with Dr. Mosetta:

1. Why did you write this book?

It was originally written for one of my favorite group of children, in my favorite classroom. The classroom was in a model school for the District. Although the school first opened its doors eighty-four years ago (in 1924), it was the first year that this school had been K-8. As such, most of the 65 teachers were new to the school. I was new to the school.

Located in the middle of what is still considered a particularly dangerous inner-city neighborhood of a large metropolitan city, all of our students were considered disadvantaged. The families in our school were at or slightly above poverty level.

Most of the children came from single parent families, or were living with foster or adoptive families, but many have extensive support systems through a lattice of extended family within the same household, or within walking distance of the school.
There were no discipline problems even though two children were under psychiatric care. One student had seizures, and one student had severe asthma.

Of the 21 students, two were African-American, one was Asian Indian, five students were Hispanic, one was of mixed black/white ethnicity, and the remaining 13 students were white.

It was for these children that I wrote "Rajah and the Big Blue Ball". It was from their "Tell Me a Story" time that this book evolved.

Some students in the classroom were the subject of custody battles by their parents, and another student watched as one of his cousins was shot in the head by a drive-by shooter. The child was so traumatized by the sight of blood and neural material splattered all over him, that he did not speak for six months. But when he did, he asked me to tell him a story. And the story I told was "Rajah and the Big Blue Ball".

2. What was most fun about writing this book?

I think that the most fun part of writing this book came when the students asked me every Monday to read the new part of the story that I had written over the weekend.

We had an agreement. I set aside the last period of the day, every Monday, just to read the new parts of the story. They were so patient. They would ask me "what's going to happen next"? I would answer "Rajah hasn't told me, yet".

3. What was most difficult?

The most difficult part was the editing. It was often heart wrenching to let go of parts of the story that were great for oral story telling, but were not so great from a publishing standpoint.

4. Who should read this book?

This book was written for students in the second grade, but I believe that it is a wonderful story to read to children as young as kindergarten. In fact, one of neighbors reads Rajah and the Big Blue Ball to his four year old. She loves the story and asks for it by name. I have even had some students as old as middle school who have read it and seemed to enjoy it.

5. What's next for you?

I am under contract for six more "Rajah" books. I am also editing a middle grade chapter book, and a Young Adult title.

In addition, I have three new stories that I am trying to hone. These three stories are related to things we, as parents, want to teach or children. And, I hope to start an adult horror that I outlined. Finally, I have been working on a parenting book. I hope that after rearing successful children, who have also reared successful children, that I may have something to offer related to this concept.

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