Shana Corey has a flair for finding the story in history and making it accessible to kids. She was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for her first picture book, You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer!, which was also selected as a Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of 2000, a PW Best Book, a Booklist Editors' Choice for 2000, a Children's Literature Choice for 2001, and a 2001 Orbis Pictus Recommended Book. Shana's other books for young readers include Here Come the Girl Scouts!, Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story of Annette Kellerman (A Junior Library Guild Selection), Milly and the Macy's Parade (an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Books Award winner) and Players in Pigtails (an ALA Amelia Bloomer Project Recommended Book). Shana is also a children's book editor.
"When I was growing up in North Carolina," Shana says, "my favorite books were about the olden-days: Little House on the Prairie, the Betsy-Tacy books, The Little Princess, and All-of-a-Kind Family. I used to check these books out over and over again from the library. I already had them memorized but I just liked knowing they were in the house. Books about the olden day held a sort of magic for me."
"These olden day books directly inspired my first attempts at storytelling," Shana continues. "No matter how many times I checked them out of the library, I was never ready to leave the characters behind, and so I would spend hours making up stories that continued their adventures—and sometimes I even let myself be a part of them! (Thankfully for readers everywhere, there are copyright laws in place keeping these stories from ever seeing the light of day!)"
"When I grew up, I went to Smith College," Shana says. "For me, one of the best things about college was that I suddenly learned that those books I loved as a kid were a window into a very real history, the history of women and girls. Believe it or not, I could actually take entire courses (and get credit for learning!) about olden girls! Consequently, I took a lot of women's history courses at Smith."
"Because history is my own passion, most of the stories I write are also rooted in the past," she explains. "I tend to be drawn to stories about real life rebels—people who defy convention and expectations—largely because that's something I think is so hard to do. Every child knows how strong a force peer pressure is, and so to go against your peers, your society, in order to fight for something you believe in, I think that's incredibly brave and and also very inspiring."
"One of the words that was most often used to describe Annette Kellerman (the main character of my book Mermaid Queen) in newspapers of her day is “plucky,'" says Shana. "It's one of my favorite words (along with moxie and gumption which Annette and many of the characters I write about also have). To me, “pluck' is a combination of courage and confidence—courage to try things others might not approve of, and confidence to keep trying no matter what anyone else says."
"And that's what I really hope kids take away from my books," says Shana. "That's it's okay to be different and to go against the norm. That history isn't separate from us—we're part of it—we're connected to what came before us and we directly influence what comes next, because the truth of the matter is the world isn't usually changed by far away battles or famous people. More often it's a series of small steps and individual rebellions by real people who aren't that different than we are that end up turning the tide of history. Change happens because Rosa Parks didn't want to stand up one day. Or because someone decided that even though they were a girl, they wanted to vote or play sports or dress in comfortable clothes. And I want kids to know that if these people can change the world, than they can, too."
Shana Corey lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young sons. Visit her online at www.shanacorey.com.