Home schoolers are on the bookshelves, both as characters and as authors.
"My father was and still is a terrific story teller," says Mary Casanova, who home schooled her daughter at one time and whose new children's novel, Moose Tracks, features a home schooler as the main character. "My mother is the epitome of patience. They were great parents … [who] believed kids should be allowed to be kids. Some of us are still working on growing up!"
Moose Tracks tells the story of Seth, a 12-year-old boy living in the northwoods. One day, while hunting rabbit, Seth stumbles across a band of poachers who have killed a moose, leaving a calf without a mother. Threatening to hurt his family if Seth tells what he has seen, the poachers leave Seth with a moral dilemma. How can he help the calf without putting his family in danger? Moose Tracks is the first mainstream children's book to feature a home schooler as a "normal" character. The book is doing well nationally and has received high praise from the School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews and more. It is also available in bookstores everywhere, and by calling Spring Arbor at 313-481-0900. "My children, Katie and Eric, who are now 10 and 13, are my best editors," Casanova relates. "They read what I write and always give me their honest opinion. If I write something boring, they're the first to let me know!"
Casanova lectures widely on children's writing and has taught for the Institute of Children's Literature. She has written short stories for such children's publications as Cricket, Highlights, and Once Upon a Time.
[CAPTION] Mary Casanova is the author of Moose Tracks, which features a home schooler as the main character.
Another author, home schooled as a child in Africa, is now making waves of her own in the world of children's books with her stories and folk tales from Ethiopia. "When I was two years old, my parents packed up their four children and moved to Ethiopia to work for the Presbyterian church there," Jane Kurtz shares. "My childhood was mostly spent near Maji, a small village in southwestern Ethiopia, where we had no radios, no television, no telephone, and no computer games." Instead, she and her sisters spent imaginative hours out in the Maji hills.
Once Kurtz learned to read, she remembers mostly reading the same books over and over. "My parents had not brought many books with them," she explains, "but they did bring a love of reading." While all four girls took a bath in water heated on the wood stove, their father would read aloud. "My father also often told us stories," she says, "and my parents would read the Bible to us every night. The language was obviously seeping into my brain, because one time when we were late coming into the house, my mom asked where we'd been, and I said, 'Oh, we were just lifting our eyes unto the hills.'" Kurtz believes she became a writer because of that love of language. "I have nothing but strong, warm memories of those early years of school," Kurtz says, "where my love of reading was nurtured and my sisters and I had plenty of time for making up and acting out stories."
Kurtz's African childhood, home school experience, and love of writing has led her to children's books. Ethiopia: Root of Africa, Fire on the Mountain and Pulling the Lion's Tail are currently available, and five new books are under contract. All reflect Kurtz's love of family and the joy of storytelling. "I think people have a hunger for connection," says Kurtz. "Through my books, I connect with my childhood, the family I grew up in, my own children, and, ultimately, anyone who read and cares about my books."
[CAPTION] Jane Kurtz, home schooled as a child in Africa, is the author of Ethiopia: Root of Africa, Fire on the Mountain, and Pulling the Lion's Tail.
Home schoolers are out there on the bookshelves, either as characters or in authors. Jane Kurtz and Mary Casanova are available to speak at home school conferences about their own writing, helping children connect with books, and inspiring young writers. To contact them, write Mary Casanova at P.O. Box 141, Ranier, MN 56668 or Jane Kurtz at 1210 Lincoln Drive, Grand Forks, ND 58201.