Naomi Zucker Naomi Zucker at 11, reading

Naomi at age 11, reading

About the Author

Children who love books grow up to be readers. Of course I was a child who loved books. But I also loved the feel of clean white paper, the crack when I folded back the cover of a new black and white notebook, the little pile of wood shavings from freshly sharpened pencils, and the smell of new pink erasers—the tools of a writer. And so I grew up to be, not only a reader, but a writer.

Actually, I became a writer even before I grew up. In New York City, where I lived as a child, there was a man who loved his little cocker spaniel so much that he started a magazine devoted to her. In his magazine, this man would print anything that another dog lover cared to contribute. I contributed a story about my dog Eric, a German shepherd. And the man published it.

Many years passed after that first publishing success before I had another. In college, I became an English major; I was still reading books, but now I called it “studying.” Then I married and had two children. Now I was reading children’s books again. Lots of them. Whenever my children asked me to “read just one more story,” I did. My kids had very extended bedtimes.

My kids did eventually learn to put themselves to bed and then I began writing. Together with my husband, I wrote award-winning books and articles for adults. And I taught writing at the University of Rhode Island. But always I wanted most to write for children.

And then something very strange happened. I was looking through the window of a bus stopped in the middle of a crowded street in Istanbul, Turkey. Outside, amid the throngs of workers, shoppers, fruit vendors, and water sellers, was a bear—a shaggy-furred, dusty-brown bear, wearing a leather muzzle and being led on a chain. The bear quickly disappeared into the crowd, but it stayed in my head.
By the time I had returned home the bear had been joined in my head by a boy—a small, skinny-legged, dark-haired boy. His name, I knew, had to be Benno, and he wanted his story told.

Benno’s Bear was my first children’s book. Callie’s Rules is my second. That too began with a sudden inspiration.

I was reading  a newspaper article that said that some towns were banning Halloween. It was a pagan holiday, they said, it was frightening to small children, it taught the wrong values. Halloween, they decreed, must be abolished.

A writer is a story waiting to appear. When I read about those towns, the character of Callie appeared. And she soon began to tell her own story.

But even when I thought I had finished telling Callie’s story, she was not done with me. She had more to say and she demanded that I write another book about her. That book, which will appear in 2010, will be entitled Write On, Callie.

And somehow I think Callie is still not done telling me her story.