Publishers' Preview: Spring 2024: Five Questions for Minda Dentler

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2024 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Spring 2024, 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.

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Author, athlete, and global health advocate Minda Dentler teams up with illustrator Stephanie Dehennin for The Girl Who Figured It Out: The Inspiring True Story of Wheelchair Athlete Minda Dentler Becoming an Ironman World Champion.

1. Why the sudden turn to athletic achievement as an adult?

I grew up in an athletic family, and it never occurred to me that I could participate in races too. The turning point was when I was introduced to handcycling as an adult. I joined a triathlon club and was surrounded by like-minded high-performing individuals. As a goal-oriented person, chasing athletic goals gave me a new sense of purpose.

2. Where is your favorite triathlon?

New York City, where my triathlon journey started. Watching a disabled athlete compete there inspired me to take on the challenge. The hometown setting and the support of friends and family along the course add incredible energy.

3. What do you think about during all those hours on the course?

I focus on what’s in front of me — reaching the next swim buoy, cycling to the next mile, pushing my race chair to the next aid station. I stick to what I can control: eating regularly, staying hydrated, and managing my effort and speed. When things get tough, I remind myself that the pain is temporary, and I’ve got what it takes to get it done. I do some mental math, calculating my average speed or figuring out how many miles to go until the next segment.

4. What’s it like to literally see yourself in a picture book?

It’s a surreal experience! Stephanie Dehennin brought my likeness and spirit to life in a way I truly appreciate.

5. The virtues of vaccination and physical fitness seem like no-brainers to me; why are they getting such a hard time today?

Vaccination has become unnecessarily politicized; misinformation causes people to opt out or delay getting vaccinated. With fewer visible cases of vaccine-preventable diseases today, it’s easier to downplay the importance. As for physical fitness, the busy nature of life often puts health on the back burner. I encourage people to find something that excites them — a sport, workout, dancing — and take that first step.

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Photo: Minda Dentler.


Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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