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Spring 2019 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2019 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Spring 2019 Publishers’ Previews, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

Sponsored by
Lerner Publishing Group

The once-renowned African American bronco-buster George Fletcher rides again in the picture-book biography Let ’Er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion.

Photo: Drew Nelson.

1. How did you first learn of George Fletcher?

My husband, Drew, found George’s story in an article in Cowboys & Indians magazine. He said, “I think you’ll want to read this.” Boy, did I! Drew is a wonderful ideas-man and story-finder.

2. Were you a horse-mad young reader?

I wouldn’t have called myself “horse-mad,” but I did enjoy some of the classics such as Black Beauty and My Friend Flicka. I loved the horses in those old British lords-and-ladies films and, of course, in the zillions of Westerns I watched with my siblings. I wanted to ride Roy Rogers’s Trigger, Dale Evans’s Buttermilk, and the Lone Ranger’s Silver. I sometimes dreamed of being a cowgirl and riding off into the sunset with my cowboy love. That sort of came true!

3. Have you ever been thrown from a horse?

Actually, yes. My Girl Scout leader owned a pony named Dynamite. She occasionally invited our troop to her house for meetings or cookouts and would let us ride. Dynamite was small but feisty (as his name suggests) and threw me more than once. It hurt and made me mad, but boy howdy, it was fun. Luckily, I was closer to the ground on the pony than I would have been on a bucking bronco. There was also Sugarfoot, a sweet horse I rode at church camp, who kindly never threw me.

4. What’s the most important thing being a librarian taught you about writing for children?

To not underestimate what kids can handle. They’re smart and beg to be challenged. Sometimes we make the mistake of believing young readers can’t deal with subtlety, that they need to have everything spelled out. But that which is left unsaid is often what gets them thinking beyond the text. The reading process becomes an interactive one, a private affair that adds to a repository of experience they can draw from as they negotiate life.

5. Any interest in writing a Western?

I hadn’t considered it before, but now that you mention it…could be one heck of a ride!

Sponsored by
Lerner Publishing Group

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