Monday, February 8, 2016

I just came across this lovely review and some lessons librarianarika created around my book, Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift. It is such a pleasure to see how my story and pictures are shared with children and thought it would be fun to answer her students questions here.

By librarianarika Elementary Library Lessons for Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift

2nd and 3rd grades:
Fact: I almost never read any December holiday stories. This year, though, I couldn’t pass up Dara Goldman’s Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift.  It was perfect for so many reasons: a little bit of Christmas AND Hanukkah, a thoughtful story that would provoke good questions, and (my favorite!) a version of O. Henry’s classic short story “The Gift of the Magi”.  Goals: review last week’s TAG lesson, discuss A=Ask a Question about the characters / problem as a class, write T=Tell What You Like independently.
For each class, the questions started out slow.  One thing I explained to them was that the ability to ask a good question (one that we don’t already know – and can’t infer – the answer to) leads to deeper thinking and reflection on a story.  Eventually, they hit on some winners: 
Question:  Are the two bears married?  
Answer: Are they married is a question I get often and which concerned my book publisher, Sleeping Bear Press in the beginning. Would parents have trouble with Boris and Stella living in the same apartment if we did not reference marriage in the text? We even tried a revision where Boris and Stella lived in separate apartments. It seemed to take us off the track of the story and became confusing. In the end, we decided to put them back into the same apartment together just like the original O Henry tale.  
Question:  Why did the illustrator choose to make the characters bears instead of humans?
Answer: I chose animal characters over people because I wanted to make this story more accessible to younger children. I also like to draw animals more than people. But Stella wasn't always a bear. At first she was a pig, and then I tried drawing her as a mouse too. Finally, it was a honey colored bear that seemed just right to me.  
Question: Where do the bears live – Russia, Italy, or somewhere else?  
Answer: Boris and Stella live in Boston because the street scenes I drew are from Newbury Street. Also there is a bear on the first page spread wearing a Boston Red Sox hat and jacket.  

How old are the bears?
Answer: Boris and Stella are each 8 years old because that is my favorite number and a good age for bears.