Welcome to Teach Often's new series featuring author's and artists that inspire us and encourage our children to read! Today's guest author is Mara Rockliff of The Busiest Street in Town. This is a beautiful story of friends making a difference in their neighborhood.
When did you begin writing?
Hmm…well, the first time I remember writing a story, I was about seven or eight. The story was about a man who accidentally put pepper in his pipe and started sneezing. Unfortunately, I got my facts mixed up and made it salt instead of pepper, so no one understood why he was sneezing. I’ve been struggling with plot details ever since!
What authors inspire you?
I love Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. It’s about a little girl named Alice who plans to do three things: visit faraway places, return home to live beside the sea, and (as her grandfather, a painter, says she must) do something to make the world more beautiful. I can’t imagine anyone reading this book without feeling inspired.
What inspired you to write “The Busiest Street in Town”?
I got the idea for The Busiest Street in Town one day while pushing my daughter’s baby stroller down a busy street. (By the time the book came out, she had started first grade, which gives you an idea of the publishing timeline for picture books!) Anyway, this street was lined with charming little houses on both sides—but it was split by several lanes of honking, rumbling, exhaust-spewing traffic. It was as if a human neighborhood had been invaded by an army of machines. I wondered what would happen if the humans got together and decided to take it back!
What is the busiest street you have ever been on?
There was a street fair in my town a week or two ago and it was very busy! In fact, I bet more people walked down the street that day than usually drive by in their cars. And they were definitely having much more fun!
Do you have a best friend like Agatha does Eulalie? What do you like to do together?
I don’t have a lifelong friend like Agatha, because I haven’t always lived in the same place. Actually, I just moved to Pennsylvania this past summer! But I’ve been lucky enough to find lots of new friends who are just as cheerfully offbeat as Agatha and just as loyal and fun-loving as Eulalie.
What is your favorite board game? (Parcheesi, please?)
I am embarrassed to say that I haven’t played Parcheesi since I was a kid! I don’t even remember how to play. It’s just such a fun-sounding name. With picture books, I like to pick fun, colorful words that make kids smile. Like “poodle.” Doesn’t the word “poodle” just sound funny? Our puppy is a poodle/spaniel mix, and we call her a spoodle, which sounds even funnier.
What is your favorite cookie? (Recipe?)
I don’t know if I can pick a favorite! I love all kinds of cookies—baking, eating, sharing, and of course, exchanging recipes. Here’s an easy one that’s fun to make with kids after reading The Busiest Street in Town:
Agatha May Walker’s Sweet and Spicy Ginger Snaps
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
• Mix dry and wet ingredients in separate bowls, then combine.
• Refrigerate dough for a while so it’s not too sticky.
• Preheat oven to 350º F.
• Roll into balls, place on greased cookie sheet, and press down with fork dipped in sugar.
• Bake until they look done. (Or not so done, if you like chewy cookies.)
If you could have your own neighborhood block party, what would it be like?
We have lots of parties in our neighborhood, and they’re terrific! Fantastic food, people laughing, kids running around…the only thing that’s really missing is the mariachi band. :)
Teach Often: What can you do in your neighborhood to make a difference?