Posted by: nancyisanders | March 18, 2008

Author Interview: Gloria Whelan

Featured Book:


Sleeping Bear Press is proud to announce Yatandou, the first release in a new series: Tales of the World.

Yatandou lives in a Mali village with her family and neighbors. Although she would rather play with her pet goat, eight-year-old Yatandou must spend hours each day helping the women of her village pound millet kernels. To grind enough millet for one day’s food, the women must pound the kernels with their pounding sticks for three hours. It is hard work, especially for an eight-year-old child.

As they work, the women dream of a machine they have heard that can grind the millet for them, but they know that the machine will only come when they have raised enough money to buy it. Yatandou must help raise the money, even if it means parting with something she holds dear.

Meet Author Gloria Whelan!
E-mail: Gloria Whelan
Web site:

Gloria Whelan is the author of many children’s books including Homeless Bird for which she received the National Book Award. Her picture books with Sleeping Bear Press include Mackinac Bridge: The Story of the Five-Mile Poem (a 2007 Michigan Notable Book) and Friend on Freedom River (a Jefferson Cup honor book). She lives in Grosse Point, Michigan.

Gloria shares, “When I visited Africa, my two strongest impressions were of the beauty of the land and how hard many Africans had to work to take from the land necessities as simple as a drink of water or a dish of porridge. Because their help is so crucial to this work, children are robbed of their childhood and their education. What a satisfaction it was, then to write the story of Yatandou and the grinding machine.” (Officially known as a multifunctional platform, this equipment has been placed in 350 villages with the support of the United Nations Development Program.)

Q: What inspires you most as a writer?
A: I am attracted to place. I love to learn and explore new countries, some of which I have visited and some I have discovered through research and conversations with people who have lived in the country. Stories seem to grow out of place.

Q: Do you ever base characters in your books on people you know or have known in your past?
A: I never base characters in my books on people I know or have known. I want my characters to do what I want them to. If they are someone I know, their own character intrudes and takes over and it’s a fight to the finish.

Q: What writing project are you currently working on?
A: I am currently writing a novel about my own city of Detroit. I have written nearly forty books and many of them set in Michigan, but I have never written about my native city and now I find I am looking at it in a new way.

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