The Beauty of WHY
By Nancy Churnin
One of the questions I get asked most frequently is: Where do you get your ideas?
The truth is I find them everywhere, but there’s one place in particular that never fails me. Since I write for children, I go back to my inner child which is always asking, as kids still do, Why? Why? Why?
It turns out that this is one of the best questions an author can ask. Because the best children’s book ideas often come from looking at something that seems familiar and asking Why? Why do we have this? Where did it come from?
Why do we have signs in baseball? I found out that it was because of a Deaf player, born when Abraham Lincoln was president, who taught American Sign Language signs for safe and out to umpires so he could play the game he loved. That became the heart of my book, The William Hoy Story.
Why do people decorate trees for Christmas? I found out it was because of kind Queen Charlotte, a German princess who married England’s King George III. She dedicated herself to helping children and came up with the idea of delighting a party of 100 kids by dragging an entire tree inside Windsor Castle and decorating it with fruits, nuts, and candles on the branches and then strewing presents underneath. That became the key moment in my book, The Queen and the First Christmas Tree, Queen Charlotte’s Gift to England.
Why is there a charitable organization named Hadassah? I found out that Henrietta Szold dreamed all her life of helping her people the way Queen Esther had in the Bible. When she founded the first charitable organization run by women, she gave it Queen Esther’s Hebrew name, Hadassah. That double Queen story became the theme that runs through A Queen to the Rescue, the Story of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah.
So look around you – in your home, on your walk, in your conversations, everywhere you go, every place you read something surprising – and ask yourself: Why do we have this? Where did that come from? and How did that make our lives better or happier in a way that’s meaningful to a child?
If you come up with wonderful story ideas, as I hope you do, you’ll know why you’ve been reading our Ninja Notebook!
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