Meet Molly Nero
It is great to have you here on my blog today, Molly, and to get to know you better. Welcome!
Could you tell us what age range is your book for?
A: Smarty Pig is written for children ages Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Its message of “learning is for life” could be for even younger pre-school kids creating a positive feeling about learning and school.
Can you share a memory of yours or a story of you from when you were within the age range of your target readers?
A: Christmas at my house was incredible for me. Because there were so many kids, Christmas and birthdays were the only times we received presents or something new or special, so the anticipation was huge. The live tree was decorated with sparkling glass ornaments alongside the crayon and colored paper ones we made. My father loved a heavy coating of silver tinsel on every branch creating this glorious sparkling illumination in the corner of the family room. My favorite though was the 6 ft. silver tree made of tinsel that was placed in the front dining room window for all to see. As it turned on its base, the rainbow wheels turning below made the room magically change colors. This area was off-limits during the holidays for protection of the delicate tree, but I would sneak in with our little dog for company to sit watching that tree turn and the colors change while Christmas music would play from the stereo in the next room. Nothing ever seemed so beautiful when I was little.
How has life changed for children today than when you were that age?
A: I grew up playing outside without sun-block, helmets, knee pads, or fear of strangers. It was simply a different world. There were no television stations playing cartoons 24 hours a day, and no video device in my hands. Kids today have entertainment available at all times, even while riding in the car. Atari games didn’t become popular until I was a teen, and the video craze was just beginning. We were expected to use our imagination when playing, while children today are accustomed to being told how to play by the mechanics of their toys. Basketball and football games were made up of neighborhood kids of various ages, not the rec teams that we all sign our kids up for now with uniforms, refs and a trophy every year just for participating. Kids today see much more realistic violence and hear foul language in movies that are rated PG or PG-13 at an age where I was only allowed to see G rated movies. School was important. Now kids seem to have a different attitude about learning and respecting those trying to help them learn. I was considered a “high-level” student, so I went with other “high” kids to reading or math class where we learned at our pace while other kids went to other rooms with similar kids. Now all children are expected to learn together which can result in frustration for the struggling students and boredom for the faster learners. Again, it’s a different world.
How is life still the same?
A: Kids will always be kids. The surprise as they open a birthday gift, the anticipation of Christmas, the anxious faces on the first day of school each year, and the thrill of watching fireworks explode above them are all a part of our children’s lives today as in years past. It’s the world that they’re being raised in that has changed so much. Imaginations are still alive, but video games and tv have created a vacuum that devalues the use of them. Toys are loved, but the actual toys don’t inspire creativity. But some things don’t change, kids love to play, create, learn and grow, and they always will.
What was your favorite toy or activity when you were that age?
A: Being the youngest of 7 kids with 5 brothers to deal with, I loved to play with dolls. I had my precious baby dolls, but at this age, Barbie was my favorite. She was dressed in the most glamorous clothing which was thrilling for a little girl living in hand-me-downs. The trick was to keep her from being captured by G. I. Joe. Being under the command of my brothers, G. I. Joe always left a ransom note demanding my cookies from lunch or root-beer flavored Kool-Aid for her safe return!
What inspired this book and how did you decide on this age range for your book?
A: Being in an elementary school for 18 years as both an academic and music teacher, I worked hard to create a classroom where kids could talk about their frustrations concerning different things, and that has given voice to my writing. During the state testing schedule, students would arrive for music absolutely drained and despondent. The idea for Smarty Pig came from hearing students express their apathy toward school after several days of taking these tests. During the year, it’s worksheet after worksheet preparing kids for the tests. Then you have intense review right before it’s given. They even have pep-rallies to try to excite the kids about taking the tests! Students didn’t understand why it was necessary, and the pressure was undermining all the joy of learning for them. As the years passed, I heard this from younger and younger students. My object in Smarty Pig is to uplift our youngest learners early in their academic life to see the value and fun in learning.
I love the idea of building a theme gift around a book. If you were to give a gift basket to a child based on your book, what else would be in the basket besides (your book’s title)? Feel free to include pictures of the gift basket if you want to get really industrious. If you do, I need them sent in jpg format as separate attachments, please. But, a picture is not required.
A: I love themed baskets!
Smarty Pig, play money, plastic food, price tags (those price stickers for a garage sales you get at a dollar store), string, colored beads, Earth blow-up beach ball, magnifying glass, a journal & neat pencils, sketch pad, cookie cutter alphabet, and cookie mix in a jar.