Posted by: nancyisanders | March 5, 2009

50 Nifty States Tour: Minnesota!


Let’s celebrate African-American history
all year long from sea to shining sea!

50 teachers in 50 classrooms in 50 states celebrating the accomplishments and rich heritage of African American history! That’s the goal of this 50 Nifty States 2009 Virtual Book Tour.

Today on my tour, I want to give a great big hearty welcome to the marvelous state of Minnesota! Today I’m hosting the wonderful students of Mr. Mark Ceilley’s first grade class at Franklin Elementary School in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Their teacher read them my picture book, D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet.

To all the students in Mr. Ceilley’s class: I’m so happy that you are part of this tour. You can be very proud to live in such a beautiful state. My relatives live in Minnesota and I hear how pretty the different seasons are. Thank you for your great questions! I’ll answer several of them for you today on my blog.

Q: How long did it take you to write the book?
A: After I got the contract from the publisher, it took me three months to write the book. It took several years, however, before it was published. That is because after I finished writing the book, the publisher then looked for an illustrator. They found E.B. Lewis, a very famous and much-beloved children’s book illustrator. Then E.B. Lewis had to have time to paint all the beautiful illustrations that are in the book. After that, the book had to get ready to go to the printing press. But finally, it was all done and ready to be sent to the stores where people like your teacher could buy it.

Q: Was it hard to write the history sidebars?
A: Yes! It was very hard. I drove to local colleges and universities and pretended I was on a treasure hunt. I searched through dusty bookshelves to find nearly forgotten books that were written over 100 years ago. Then I read through these old, old books and discovered many fascinating facts about the important heritage African Americans have contributed to the United States of America. So I put many of these facts in the sidebars of the book. Aren’t they interesting and inspiring?

Q: How were you able to come up with rhyming words on every page?
A: I have a book I like to use. It’s a rhyming dictionary. It gives me lists of every word that rhymes with other words! Can you imagine? I used the rhyming dictionary a lot to help me. I especially had fun rhyming great big words like emancipation and proclamation, Constitution and Revolution, and Timbuktu and knew.

Thanks, Franklin Elementary School, for being an official stop on my tour. To find out more about my 50 Nifty States 2009 Virtual Book Tour, visit the link to the website today. And if you’re a teacher, you’re invited to hop on board and join the celebration!


  1. That’s a great interview Mark & Nancy! I liked how you described you were pretending to be a student as you hunted for treasure at the universities!


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