Author - Dianne Ochiltree
Publisher: Calkins Creek Books
Source: Review galley from author
Genre: Children's Picture Book, Historical Fiction
This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City's Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history. One winter day in 1818, when many of the firefighting volunteers are sick with influenza and a small wooden house is ablaze, Molly jumps into action and helps stop the blaze, proudly earning the nickname Volunteer Number 11. Relying on historic records and pictures and working closely with firefighting experts, Dianne Ochiltree and artist Kathleen Kemly not only bring this spunky and little-known heroine to life but also show how fires were fought in early America.
I am always on the lookout for great children's picture books. This ranks right up there. You may wonder what makes it different. No, it isn't the pictures even though they are wonderful. It isn't the story, even though it is well written. For me it was the idea that a story was written that will entice children of all ages. Not only that, the author has done a tremendous job of providing the historical information at the end. You the reader have the opportunity to share it with a child. She has also provided resources for parents and teachers to further entice children to learn more about fighting fires. I was very impressed and consider myself lucky that Dianne Ochiltree is my guest today for an interview.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WANT TO BECOME A WRITER?
I think it was all the books read to me by my mother at bedtime, along with all the others I read by myself by flashlight under the covers when I was older.
Our home was filled with all sorts of books and we were encouraged to explore them. Good writers are always good readers first.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK? All the ‘Golden Books’ were well-loved, and as an older reader, I remember devouring Madeline L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME.
BRING US INTO YOUR HOME AND DESCRIBE YOUR WRITING ROUTINE. I work from an office at home, and I have two ‘office assistants’: Simon, a Maine Coon cat and Sally, our chocolate Labrador Retriever. My routine varies according to whatever else is happening that day, but I do make the effort to put words on paper each day. My early morning is dedicated to making this happen.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT WRITING?
Finding large blocks of time for the creative work, the actual writing. I have learned not to be picky about writing time---I will write whenever there are fifteen minutes, or two hours, or whatever, to devote to writing.
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE AGE GROUP OR GENRE YOU WRITE? In large part, children’s writers don’t choose the age group they write for---their natural voice and inner child’s viewpoint points them toward their primary readership. I wrote a lot of different stories and learned that I was most naturally suited to writing for the very young reader.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO UNWIND AND RELAX? Yoga! It clears my head and soothes all the muscle kinks that come from being at a keyboard.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT WOULD SURPRISE YOUR READERS? I don’t always get my stories right the first time. I have to write them again and again. My editors are my teachers: they ask me to re-write things sometimes because they want me to be the very best writer I can be.
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT WRTING MIDDLE SCHOOL OR YOUNG ADULT BOOKS?
I have had a young adult short story published in an anthology for teens, titled
DON’T CRAMP MY STYLE: STORIES ABOUT THAT TIME OF THE MONTH (2003, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers). My latest book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! THE LEGEND OF MOLLY WILLIAMS, THE FIRST FEMALE FIREFIGHTER IN AMERICA (2012, Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press) is a picture book aimed at slightly older readers, about 7-10 years old. It’s a re-telling of Molly’s legendary adventure, drawn from firefighting lore, that also teaches kids how fires were fought in early America. For more information about this book or my other books, go to
I look forward to providing a review of "Don't Cramp My style at the end of October. Check out her website and her book for a quality read.