Margi Preus, the beloved children’s book author of “Shadow on the Mountain” and “Heart of a Samurai,” will visit The Bookworm of Edwards Sunday via a Skype broadcast. While her books are predominantly historical fiction, Preus will take advantage of modern technology and address her young audience via Skype from her Minnesota home.
It is an honor for The Bookworm to welcome Preus, whose book “Heart of a Samurai” won the 2011 Newbery Award, an honor given to authors who have made the most significant contributions to children’s literature. Its international flavor and adventurous spirit continue to distinguish it as one of the most popular children’s fiction.
This award was a tremendous career step for her.
“It made me start writing again,” she remembers.
Preus was so sure no one would read “Heart of a Samurai” that she “stopped writing, assuming [she’d] never get another book contract,” she said.
That wasn’t the case.
“We read ‘Heart of a Samurai’ with our (age) 8 to 12 book club last year, and they absolutely loved it,” said Franny Gustafson, manager of the children’s department at The Bookworm of Edwards.
Preus has never before spoken at the Bookworm, but her popularity with the kids made her an obvious guest of choice.
“(The) writing is wonderful and the kids seem to find her books entertaining and engaging,” Gustafson said. “I am thrilled that she has agreed to Skype with us; I’m a little starstruck myself!”
A love of reading
Preus was inspired to write because of her love of reading. Many of her ideas come from books she read when she was a child and also more recently. “Snow Treasure” by Marie Mcswigan, inspired her newest book, “Shadow on the Mountain.” Its emphasis on strong child characters overcoming Nazi oppression strongly parallels the themes in Preus’ book.
“Shadow on the Mountain” introduces Espen, a young Norwegian boy, who is swept into the underground movement against Nazi Germany. His skill at espionage and evasion make him an essential peg in the wheel of the revolution. His story incorporates friendship, love and loss in an adventurous history book.
To Preus’ surprise, most of her books are historical.
“I didn’t really realize I was writing historical fiction until someone pointed it out,” she said.
She finds an intriguing story and writes it without thinking about what genre she wants to be in or what lessons children will learn. She is confident that the stories she tells are inherently valuable for young people.
“I think there’s a tremendous lot to be gained by reading good stories set in other places and times,” she said. “It helps broaden the child’s world view and stretches their imaginations to include other times and other places. I believe reading is one of the best ways children can learn compassion.”
This conviction comes not only from her love of writing and reading, but from her belief in E.B. White’s statement that “all that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.”
She will discuss her two books “Heart of a Samurai” and “Shadow on the Mountain” and let the children ask her questions about the characters, plot and anything else they come up with.
“I’d love to hear her talk about the inspiration for her books,” Gustafson said. “I’d also love her to give advice to our young readers and writers. The kids will have lots of great questions for her too — I’m always very impressed with their thoughtful questions and comments.”
The book club is currently reading these books in preparation for Preus’ Skype date with them.
“I’ve read ‘Heart of a Samurai’ and ‘Shadow on the Mountain,’” Gustafson said. “Both books are incredibly inspiring and adventurous. I think they appeal to both boys and girls and the characters are very well developed. Her books are exciting, thoughtful and quite historical, as well.”
While about 20 children are expected to attend, the Bookworm welcomes anyone interested in talking to Preus about her previous and future books, ideas and styles. This opportunity will allow young readers and writers to get inside the head of a successful children’s writer.
Leigh Horton is the journalism intern at the Bookworm of Edwards and a student at the Colorado School of Mines. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.