Posted by: nancyisanders | September 16, 2009

Author Interview: Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz

Meet Author Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz (hi doo SHEV its)

Blog: Parenting4Literacy
Web site: I Like Me

Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz (hi-doo-SHEV-its), M.S.Ed., is a bestselling children’s author, speaker and consultant whose publishing credits include more than 100 books and more than 350 poems and songs for children, parents, and teachers. Her latest title, a picture book, Sputter, Sputter, Sput!, was published in 2008 by HarperCollins.

Babs brings four decades of educational experience to her appearances at schools, conferences, workplaces and community centers. Her passion is literacy, and her mission is to transfer that passion to children directly and indirectly by involving the entire learning community along with the entire family.

“Literacy is so much more than reading words on a page,” says Babs. “Words are language, and language involves speaking in addition to reading. No parent can be too busy to talk to a child. Children who love to talk will love to read, and vice versa.”

A frequent visiting author/poet in schools, Babs has taught early childhood, elementary and special education in Indiana, Ohio, and New York. She served as director of special education for school systems in Indiana and Michigan and taught special education teacher training at Eastern Michigan and Cleveland State universities. She founded Pee Wee Poetry™ to introduce children ages 2-9 to the love of language and the printed word. Her unique program is captured in the three best-selling classroom poster sets: Poetry Works!, Poetry Works! The First Verse, and Poetry Works! The Second Stanza (Modern Curriculum Press/Pearson Learning).

A literacy blogger ( and guest columnist for major newspapers including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Babs is the author of many picture books and classroom materials, and she has contributed to or edited numerous elementary-school textbooks.

Babs’ capabilities include:
Visiting Author / Author-in-Residence
School District Consultation and Staff Development
Parenting4Literacy™ Seminars
Pee Wee Poetry™ Classes
WOW Words™ Seminars
Conference Keynote Speaker and Workshop Presenter
Author Appearances and Signings

Q: How do you hope to influence today’s young readers through your books?
To turn children on to the wonders of vocabulary and knowledge of the world around them. To grab children’s ears with enticing language sounds that invite children to say what I call the “3 Magic Words” which are “Do it again!” Children who are helped toward saying those 3 magic words will learn the enticing language they’ve heard again and again; thus, the language goes into their “pockets” to take with them to use in daily living. Children with pockets full of enticing language will use that language as their “prior knowledge base” to then be interested in reading and writing that language. So, in essence, my goal in every book I write is to make this magic happen for every child everywhere toward becoming the very best reader, writer, and learner each child can be!

Q: What books influenced you most of all when you were growing up?
I experienced extremely limited literacy in my childhood, but for my total fascination in going to school every day. So much was my fascination with school, that the one punishment I remember vividly is when my parents told me I could not go to school the next day because I had repeated at school a bit of gossip I’d heard at my family’s dinner table…and promptly told my family that night what I’d said at school…duh! I remember my devastation in being told I could not go to school the next day––’twas the worst of all punishments for me…and it worked!

I do remember loving the Bobbsey Twins books and a bio of Lou Gehrig, but have no memory of any other books. In fact, I remember meeting the same question every year on the Ohio Basic Achievement Tests: the question was about Pinocchio. I had no idea who he was and guessed every year on that test item. I must have guessed correctly, because I had top score in the class every year; however, each year as I faced that question, I remember telling myself I was going to find out who Pinocchio was…but, alas, life would take over and I’d face the same puzzling question the next year.

We had no books at home, but we did get the daily paper and I watched my mother read and value it every day. Mother didn’t drive, so I remember 2 visits to the library. She had 10th grade education; my daddy had 8th grade education…but they valued good grades and finishing high school. I also saw my mother write letters every single morning…to relatives. She also talked to us a lot and used big words. Beyond that, well, read my Atlanta Journal-Constitution op ed piece reprinted on my blog post: The life-changing article that educators in CA & TX sent home with every student.

Q: What is your educational background and how does this help you as a children’s writer?
I have an MS.Ed. which has allowed me to write for children and for their teachers and parents. It has also allowed me to become a motivational, training, and educational speaker for children and their teachers, parents, and for all citizens––whether in business environments or otherwise employed or not employed, and whether folks have children or really aren’t fond of children!––around the importance of viewing every child with an immense amount of respect and care…to help empower every child to become the best conversationalist s/he can be, since it is my learned opinion and the focus of my long career, that talking with older persons is a child’s foremost and most accessible vehicle toward learning vocabulary and knowledge, the two pre-requisites for a child to become their best as a reader and writer, and leader.

Q. Share one tip you would like to give about school visits.
I so enjoy school visits…my favorite! Getting to share my work so intimately with my market is pure delight. I have a blog post that will be posted soon about some of the interesting and fun questions children ask me during school author visits. To share one tip? I guess it would be that I tell the school contact person––up front, as in ahead of my visit––that it is such a pleasure for me to be invited to spend time with their wonderful children! School folks need to know what a pleasure it is for us authors/illustrators…they too often tell me how they hesitate to ask authors as they feel intimidated by us, that they feel it’s an imposition on us, that they don’t think we’d like to spend the day with kids. Oh, my! BUT, they’ve gained that thinking from somewhere, and I think it behooves us authors/illustrators to debunk such thoughts. We get to write and/or illustrate books because children seek enticing vocabulary and knowledge. To me, it is just such a JOY to have the opportunity to partner with children’s families and their teachers toward all children’s learning!

Featured Books:
Note: Sputter, Sputter, Sput! and The Bridge is Up! are under my first two names, Babs Bell, at the personal request of HarperCollins’ president who felt the short name was “So cute!” I agreed to use my shorter name for these two books.


Sputter, Sputter, Sput! HarperCollins (2008) picture book for ages 2-5

Read what reviewers of all ages have to say!

School Library Journal
“Vibrant art…playful rhyming text…to be a favorite among toddler vehicle enthusiasts”

Kirkus Reviews

Children’s Literature
“Whirlwind adventure”

Benjamin, age 4, says:
“I wish I had a car like that!”

Children ages 4 and 2 and their mom say :

Max: Car! Vrooommmm!
Cayden: He is filling the car up with gas.
Cayden: Look at him go! That is a very windy road he is driving on!
Max: Drive car!
Max: Up! Up!
Max: Down! Down!
Cayden: Now he can go again because he filled it back up with gas.
Max: Vrrooommmm!
Mom: Sputter, Sputter, Sput by Babs Bell is a very basic and fun book. Both of my children love cars so when they saw the car on the cover they were already hooked! The illustrations are engaging and helpful in teaching children simple concepts such as up, down, and far. Max really enjoyed following the roads and hills with his finger and letting us know what direction the car was going.

From the Publisher
Suddenly my car won’t go!
Sputter, Sputter, Sput!
What’s the matter? I don’t know!
Sputter, Sputter, Sput!

Riding in the car can be lots of fun—going fast and far, uphill and downhill, zooming all over town. But suddenly—with a sputter! sputter! sput!—the car slows down and stops. What can be wrong?

Babs Bell’s simple text, complete with all the sounds a car makes, combines with Bob Staake’s bright, stylish illustrations to make an enjoyable ride.

Children’s Literature
Doesn’t every child fantasize about driving and being independent? Riding in a car is a big adventure—going faster and faster, uphill and downhill, zooming past all of the houses in town, seeing new sights, visiting interesting places, and experiencing new things. But suddenly the car stops running and makes a sputter, sputter, sput sound. What has happened? Will the car ever run again? Or will our hero have to continue without a ticket to ride? Once the main character puts more gas into his car, he soars off on a whirlwind adventure, taking young readers along with him for the ride. Bob Staake’s illustrations add a wonderful touch to this fun and entertaining book, which combines a simple storyline with onomatopoeia. Children and parents will enjoy Sputter, Sputter, Sput! because of its simple text and vibrant illustrations that zoom off the page. This book is highly recommended for preschool readers. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.

School Library Journal
“I put some gas in my car. Glug! Gurgle! Glug! It makes my car go very far. Zoom! Vroom! Zoom!” The little red car travels uphill, downhill, and through the town until “Sputter! Sputter! Sput!” its tank is empty. Apparently unfazed by the astronomical price of gas, the young driver fills up the tank and “Zoom! Vroom! Zoom!” heads right out of town. Staake’s vibrant, computer-generated geometric art perfectly complements the playfulness of the simple, rhyming text. Certain to be a favorite among toddler vehicle enthusiasts, this book will be a wonderful addition to transportation-themed storytimes.-Rachel Kamin, Des Plaines Public Library, IL

Kirkus Reviews
In a tale for tots with topical overtones, an enthusiastic young driver in a toylike red auto goes Zoom! Vroom! Zoom! up and down over winding roads through town and country-until (see title) the trip ends abruptly: “The other cars around me pass. / I think my car is out of gas.” A quick fill-up later-from pumps that offer a choice of “Pricey” or “Extra-Pricey”-the little car is good to go, chugging off “right out of town.” Staake’s stylized illustrations feature bright colors and big, simple, eye-catching geometric shapes, pushing the minimal narrative into the back seat, but armchair motorists will have no trouble following the car as it tootles along a big black road that snakes across the spreads. Outsized round heads with perfectly round eyes and tiny mouths convey a remarkable range of expressions as the car stops and goes. Chris Demarest’s My Little Red Car (1992) makes a natural continuation for the joyride. (Picture book. 2-5)

The Bridge is Up!
HarperCollins (2004) picture book for ages 2-5

Publisher’s Weekly

Because of the titular circumstance, “the bus can’t go”-and neither can
six other vehicles, each of which shows up in turn with an animal
operator at the helm. “So everyone has to wait,” writes Bell (the
Dainty Dinosaur beginning readers series), in what becomes the
cumulative story’s refrain. Notwithstanding the clear blue sky and
endearingly ingenuous spring landscape, which appears to be rendered in
gleeful blended swoops of crayon and chalk, idling is no one’s idea of
fun. The animals grip their steering wheels (or handlebars) in
resignation and stare into space. Bell and Hefferan (Do You Have My
Quack?) don’t try to distract readers from the stasis of their premise.
In fact, the pictures emphasize it by alternating between just two
perspectives: a side view of the line of vehicles when a new one pulls
up, and a head-on view of the entire group (Hefferan cheats the
perspective, in keeping with his naif style). But readers won’t be in
the least bit bored-thanks to the unusually fresh, cheerful pictures,
they’ll enjoy watching the line build. When the bridge finally does go
down and “nobody has to wait!” the meaning is clear: Sometimes, all
there is to do is wait-but it’s not too painful, and it doesn’t last
forever. Ages 2-5. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal
In this delightfully simple cumulative tale, a drawbridge is
raised and a bus must wait to cross. A car, a bike, a truck, a
motorcycle, a bulldozer, and a tractor-all driven by various
animals-soon join the line. As each new vehicle arrives, the text lists
all of them again, along with the refrain, “-so everyone has to wait.”
When the bridge is finally lowered, the vehicles rumble across and the
phrase changes to “Now nobody has to wait!” Hefferan’s pastels are
colorful and lively, and the creatures’ impatient facial expressions
add to the humor. Vehicle-obsessed youngsters will demand repeat
readings. Add this to Byron Barton’s My Car (Greenwillow, 2001) and Don
Carter’s Get to Work Trucks! (Roaring Brook, 2002) for a storyhour that
will go places.-Rachel G. Payne, New York Public Library Copyright 2004
Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
This enthusiastic read begins, “The Bridge is up! The bus can’t go, so
everyone has to wait.” Following the bus and joining the queue come
various modes of transport, from a bike to a bulldozer. Each vehicle is
tacked on to the end of the refrain, building repetition. When the
bridge finally descends, everything is repeated again, only this time,
the bus can go! Hefferan’s illustrations have cottony edges with an
oil-base crayon vibrancy to the colors. The drivers and passengers,
animals all, are expressive and charming. The font is expansive and
jaunty, part and parcel with the artwork. Slightly bothersome, though,
are the perspectives. Throughout the story the automobiles shift,
inexplicably, from forming a line to sitting side by side. However,
children will enjoy identifying the vehicles and watching the
bicycle-riding monkey wander about before joining the motorcyclist.
Whether to a crowd of one or many, this read-aloud is sure to be a
pleaser. (Picture book. 3-6)

Fun to read aloud, this cumulative picture book tells what happens when a bridge goes up. One after another, vehicles arrive at the water’s edge. “The bus can’t go, the car can’t go, the bike can’t go, the truck can’t go, the motorcycle can’t go . . .”––well, you get the idea––“so everyone has to wait.” Young children, who have trouble waiting for most anything, will enjoy seeing the increasing impatience of animal characters who want to get a move on and their satisfaction when the bridge descends and traffic starts up again. Like the animals’ moods, the colors in the artwork seem a bit drab until the bridge goes back down; then the sky lightens to sunny colors, and the drivers and passengers all cross the river. With a childlike air that suits the simple text, the illustrations have a great sense of activity and motion, even when traffic is stopped. Great fun for young children. –– Carolyn Phelan

Don’t Go Out in Your Underwear!
Dominie Press/PearsonLearning, 1997.

Bestselling picture book collection of 67 children’s poems; fun language and delightful full-color illustrations; lots of self-esteem builders! Ages 2-8; Dominie Press

Kids say: “Do it again! Do it again!”

A REVIEWER says. . .

Fran Hauptkorn, Altamonte Elementary, Seminole County, Florida writes:
My first graders were instantly curious! Hilarious illustrations! I’ve been reading aloud from it several times a week . . . [Hajdusiewicz’s] classroom experience is evident in her writing . . . the poems in this book attract children because [they] deal with situations or predicaments that children can relate to . . . children are attracted to this book not only by what it says to them, but also by the pure sound of the language. The rhythm, meter, dance, and fluidity of these poems delight children in the extreme; they can’t help themselves . . . they tell me to “keep reading!”
-Book Review, Florida Primary Educator, December 1997/January 1998


  1. This is a GREAT interview, Nancy! I could really relate…and I’m really glad to know there’s another writer besides myself who does not have warm, wonderful childhood library experiencesto remember. I, too, loved the Bobbsey Twins and we always took a daily paper and had some otherbooks around the house, but my parents also only had 8th grade educations. And, my mother would never take us, nor allow us, to go to the library. She actually feared them because she was convinced they were not truly free…that somehow there were some hidden charges…and we had no money to spare.
    I didn’t truly discover the wonder and wealth of libraries until I was in my teens. But, praise God, some of us have managed to overcome this early deprivation and become successful writers, anyway (although I’m not anywhere near as prolific as Babs is!) Thanks to you, and to Babs, for this post. I so enjoyed reading it.

  2. Fantastic – thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Hey Marge,

    I so appreciate your comment here as, like you, I often wonder if I’m the only writer and lover of language who didn’t “grow up in a library”…gosh, there are at least 2 of us! ;o) Happy writing to you!


    • Thanks so much, Babs, for your nice comments. I felt exactly the same way…gosh, there’s actually two of us!! I’ll definitely check out Words and More Words. Sounds great…and as you can tell if you read my pathetic “poem” efforts from last week, I definitely need help. 🙂

      Thanks again, and I hope we can stay in touch from time to time. Thanks, too, for sharing our blog with others. If you care to take the time, you can read an interview with me at I haven’t accomplished NEARLY the volume of work that you have, but I’m proud of what I’ve done.

      Peace and all good to you, too,

  4. Hello again, Marge,

    I just visited your site and found all the posts fascinating. Thanks to you and to Nancy for providing great tips to writers. I’m sharing both blogs w/writer friends today! And, for writing rhyme, check out my 300-pager titled “Words and More Words” which was written for intermediate grades but is used by tons of bit-older and bit-older-than-that folks! All the tools for writing, including a rhyming dictionary, a “must” for rhyme-writers.

    Write on!

  5. Good to see your articles for children, Marge. Clever stories. Thanks for sharing the site.

    My blog (on my site) may interest you.


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