Posts Tagged ‘finding one’s voice’

Meet Author Crystal Vaagen author of Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero

Posted on June 26th, 2014 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts' Interview with Author Crystal VaagenCrystal Vaagen is an educator and author of the children’s book, Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero. In her free time, she likes to read French poetry, go on nature hikes, and bake cookies. Her latest project includes writing the second book in the Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero series which will be published this year.

Twitter account: @robbiezero
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Tell us about your latest published children’s book. Who do you think should read it? What are you most proud of?
Robbie Zero Supergirl Hero written by Crystal VaagenMy latest published book is Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero. It’s an anti-bullying book and the first published book in the “Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero” series. The book is about a girl, Robbie Zero, who gets constantly picked on by a classmate named Tommy, but when Tommy needs help, it is Robbie Zero who ends up saving the day. It’s a book about turning situations that are negative into something positive and about empowerment. It also delves into the psychology of why some people are bullies. Children of all ages should read it and as well as their parents. It is important to start a conversation about issues that children face at school. What I am most proud of is when my book is read to children in classrooms and they can relate with the characters. I’m also pleased when I hear people tell me how much it meant to read it to their families and how it started a discussion that might not have otherwise taken place.

Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero at

Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero at

Thinking back to your own childhood, is there a particular author or illustrator who was a favorite? Why do you suppose that person’s work resonated with you?
I have a few authors/illustrators that resonated with me. Peggy Parish (author of Amelia Bedelia) was a favorite in my youth. I always thought her stories were funny because of the constant play on words (i.e. draw the draperies where the phrase was taken literally by Amelia). Looking back, her books were very well-written. Misunderstandings are a part of everyday life and her books allow her readers to get involved, something I try to create with “Robbie Zero” books. One illustrator/writer who I have always admired is Charles Schulz. I’d have to say he’s my all-time favorite. I connected with his work because the themes were adult like, characters didn’t have to talk to make a statement, and there were no adults ever shown, to my knowledge, in any of his comic strips.

When did you realize that you would be a writer/illustrator? Is there a particular person who has inspired and/or supported your work along the way?
The first time I ever wrote anything was in 2nd grade. I had a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Fields, who allowed us to create. She basically told us that we could put on plays for the class when our work was finished. Inspired, I went home and wrote a small play, grabbed a few classmates to help with the characters, and we put on a fabulous play. I thanked her recently for allowing us to use our imagination, when I happened to met her some 30+ years later.

I wrote my first book when I was nine years old, which I thought was fun. It’s still sitting in a box somewhere. It was about the Lewis and Clark expedition because I was fascinated by how two people could change the face of the nation. It was a small book. In my high school years, I wrote for the school newspaper. After I graduated high school, I ran into my journalism teacher and told her how imperative it is in the real world to know how to write and communicate effectively. She asked me to come back and speak to her class. I never did for some reason. I wish I would have. I kept my writing on the backburner, writing mostly poetry, but decided that there needs to more morally themed children’s books available.

Tell us about your experiences sharing your book with children. Has anything unusual / endearing / funny / unexpected happened?
I have donated Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero to a few schools, especially when I find out that they have limited access and cannot afford them. There was one school in Mobile, AL that received my book. A 5th grade teacher read it to her class and said that some students in her class “wanted to cry because they felt bad” for one of the characters. I didn’t know how to react. The topic of bullying is touchy, but it needs to be discussed. I felt like the story reached her kids, but felt bad that they wanted to cry. It IS a feel good book, after all.

What are the joys of being an author / illustrator? What do you derive your greatest pleasure from?
I like to share my experiences to help others. When you go through things in life, sometimes you wonder, “Why me? Why is this happening?” But when you look back, you realize that it was a lesson learned. This is what I hope to bring to my books, not to necessarily prevent someone from experiencing the issue, but to help them overcome the issue.

Have any of your books been published electronically? If so, what was that process like? What sort of feedback have you had from readers?
Yes, Robbie Zero, Super Girl Hero has been published electronically. The process was easy. Before even writing the book, I watched a video on how to publish it via Amazon, and basically taught myself everything else on other publishing pages. When you have the curiosity to learn, you can do almost anything. The feedback I have received from readers and fans is great. Most people find it easy to download a book on their ipad, iphone or pc. I have been asked by a few people to print my books because there are those who like to actually hold a book. It is something I am still considering, but the demand is not as high as it is for books published digitally, it seems. We’ll see.

Willow’s Whispers – a charming story for boys and girls ages four and up

Posted on November 5th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Storytime Standouts recommends Willow's WhispersWillow’s Whispers by Lana Button, illustrated by Tania Howells
Picture book about finding one’s voice published by Kids Can Press

Willow is a lovely soft spoken girl with ideas, opinions and dreams. Unfortunately, her quiet voice is so soft that it is often overlooked. As a result, her teacher and her classmates miss hearing Willow’s thoughts and choices. For Willow, this means lost opportunities for companionship at lunchtime, being fiven orange juice instead of applie juice, disappointment at playtime and standing at the end of the line once again.

Dad has very good advice for Willow. He tells her, “Your big, strong voice got stuck way inside you, Willow. That happens sometimes. But one day your voice will wiggle its way out.”Lana Button picture book Willow's Whispers

Thinking about Dad’s words gives Willow an opportunity to devise a plan. The following morning, Willow gathers some materials together and designs her very own magic microphone. Initially, the microphone helps Willow to express herself but before long she must manage without it and does so very successfully.

Willow’s Whispers is a charming story that will be enjoyed by boys and girls ages four and up.

Note, although Willow’s Whispers invites discussion of finding one’s voice and having confidence when speaking, it does so very sensitively and without reference to “shyness.”

Willow’s Whispers Facebook page

Willow’s Whispers at

Willow’s Whispers at

You may also be interested in our page titled “Diversity.” We highlight picture books and chapter books that celebrate and inform us about human diversity including learning disabilities, physical disabilities, allergies, single parent families, interracial families, same sex parents, aging, death and more.

Leon’s Song by Stephanie Simpson McClellan – Giving Voice to a Dream

Posted on February 18th, 2011 by Carolyn Hart

Leon's Song by Stephanie Simpson McClellan reviewed by Storytime StandoutsLeon’s Song – written by Stephanie Simpson McClellan and illustrated by Dianna Bonder
“If you saw Leon dozing in the sun, you might think age had made him all quiet and peaceful inside. You might think he was content to spend his day resting and remembering. But you’d be wrong…As old as Leon was, his heart was young with yearning.”

Leon is an old frog who dreams of doing something important. Although he lacks beauty, power and physical strength, Leon wishes most for a beautiful singing voice. When a dark, threatening shadow appears in the pond, Leon’s world is about to change. Fortunately his special talent is unveiled and the pond is profoundly transformed. A beautifully illustrated, thoughtful tale.

I share Leon’s Song with children every summer. I use it as part of a frog theme in a kindergarten program but the story goes well beyond frogs and pond life. It is a joyous celebration of self acceptance, finding one’s voice and making a difference.

Best suited to children ages 5 to 8

Stephanie Simpson McClellan’s Ponds in Winter K-4 Teaching Unit

Leon’s Song at

Leon’s Song at

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