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Cori's Interview with Helen Lester

In the era of quick emails and text messaging, the art of letter writing seems to be disappearing. The long letters of days gone by were expressions of people's lives; their thoughts and feelings sprinkled with cleverness, humor and sentiment. Helen Lester began her journey as an author by writing such letters to friends and family members. This was something her mother and father did frequently and Helen was encouraged to do so as well. The letter writing became the foundation of a long, successful career as a children's author. She is best known for her mega-successful series, Tacky the Penguin.

Helen invited me to her home in Pawling, NY on a beautiful summer day in July, where she and husband Robin settled down to enjoy writing, gardening, singing and cuddling their dog, So how did this second grade teacher become one of the most successful children's authors in America? Throughout the day, I began to understand.

As a late bloomer in the art of cooking, Helen also cooked up the perfect recipe as a writer. She drew on her personal experiences; as a parent, as a teacher, and as a person with dyslexia. She writes about being different and adds lots of humor. Her beloved characters have garnered loads of awards, like Hooway for Wodney Wat which gained awards in 17 states. Her list of 21 books have had rave reviews.

Her sense of humor and bubbly personality are infectious. Helen even whipped out her Ukelele and played me three songs she wrote for some of her books.

Camp Whoopiehaha Song

How Many Toes Does a Fish Have

Oh Tacky Tree

Helen has even tackled the subject of fear. After 911, Helen's older son, Robin chose to be there when "something happened." He obtained his 36 hours certificate as a commercial diver and helped on a boat to rescue people from ground zero and so the book, Something Might Happen was conceived. It is about a lemur named, Twitchly Fidget who is afraid of everything but learns to overcome his fears. The book is dedicated to Robin.

Helen expressed pride in being able to connect with children and parents on a large scale, through her writing. Adults, on behalf of themselves and their children, who may be struggling with being different come up and thank her for such esteem building messages. Her future dreams are to keep writing books, music and to write a TV Family special.

Helen talks about what books brought her joy as a child.

Helen's very first book, "Cora Copycat."

How "Tacky the Penguin" was born.

Helen's former second graders are the inspiration for her book, "Me First."

Bullying and speech disorders gave Helen the inspiration for "Hooway for Wodney Wat."

Awards, Awards, Awards for Hooway for Wodney Wat!

When does Helen Lester write her books?

Never toss out an idea!

Tackling the subject of fear in "Something Might Happen."

"Author: A True Story," is the story of Helen's interesting life.

Helping professionals at the Yale Dyslexia conference.

For parents and teachers with children who have learning difficulties.

Who inspires Helen?

What Helen is most proud of.

Helen learns to love cooking.

Helen as a grandma.

Helen is forever grateful to her husband Robin for his many years of love and support.

Helen discusses what she plans to do in the future.

This interview was taken by Cori Chertoff and edited by Zachary Brady.


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