Where's Rodney? is a delightful story about a young boy who takes a journey of discovery and learns just how majestic the world can be. Meet the author this Saturday at the 'Where’s Rodney?' Book Launch and Signing at the Presidio Visitor Center, 11-11:30am, November 18th. I extremely excited to share an exclusive interview with author, Carmen Bogan.
Q. Who is Rodney based on? If he’s a real person? Where's Rodney now?
The idea of Rodney came from my work in public health. For about 12 years, I worked as the Physical Activity Specialist for the California Department of Public Health. In that time I worked with individuals in community based organizations, parks and other arenas to increase physical activity within vulnerable populations to combat chronic disease. I discovered through my interaction with parks professionals and others that many children, even those living close to famous national parks, never had opportunities to spend time outside. A colleague at Crissy Field told me many stories about children who lived across town in Bay View Hunters Point, San Francisco who had no idea that the beautiful open spaces like Muir Woods, and other Bay Area nature destinations even existed. Rodney was one of those stories. In many ways, Rodney is a lot of children who only experience "gray spaces" or dangerous parks.
Q. The illustrations are beautiful. How did you meet illustrator, Floyd Cooper?
Floyd Cooper is an incredible artist. In a recent book reading to a group of children at the Yosemite Valley School, one little boy could not focus on the story of Rodney because he was so in awe of Floyd's art. I met Floyd through my mentor, author, Joyce Carol Thomas. Joyce worked with me to develop the manuscript of my first book, Granny, Who is God? and encouraged me to continue writing for children. When the opportunity to collaborate with the Yosemite Conservancy came along, I jumped at the chance to work with Floyd. Floyd and I will be working together on future pieces.
Q. Why is it so important to you to connect children to nature?
Nature is important to children on many levels. Studies have shown that it supports multiple development domains (spiritual, intellectual, emotional, social and physical). It supports creativity and problem solving, enhances cognitive abilities, improves academic performance, reduces attention deficit disorder, increases physical activity (which helps prevent chronic diseases). It also improves eyesight, improves social relations improves self-discipline, enhances peace and reduces stress. Nature for children is amazing.
Q. Can you tell me about Dream On Publishing?
Dream on Publishing was ten years in the making, but I officially established it in 2013 . Our goal is to promote literacy for all children by producing high-quality multi-cultural children’s literature. Granny, Who is God? was our first published book. Where's Rodney? was a joint venture with the Yosemite Conservancy. We believe that every child deserves to read about characters that look like them, celebrate their cultures and lift up their legacies. To us, multicultural characters are not just the heroes of children of color. They are for all children because they reflect our diverse society and allow us all to see the world more realistically--through a colorful lens. And while we are dedicated to publishing and promoting books that represent children of color, our mission is to respect and free the voices and minds of all children and youth through the journey of reading and writing.
Q. You have BA degrees in journalism and English from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA. What was the spark of inspiration to dive into the world of children’s publishing?
In my career I have always written and consider good writing, listening and speaking skills to be prerequisite for career success. The Bogan Group is my consulting business in which I provide organization development/capacity building to nonprofit organizations. This work requires strong communications skills. But I have always loved children. Writing for them has always been a dream, so I pursued it. Thus the name Dream on Publishing. I encourage everyone, children and adults to follow their dreams. It sounds trite, but I truly believe that it's important in life. All of my loves have intersected in my work. Public health, physical activity, multicultural education, children, literacy art. I consider it to be my life's synchronicity not serendipity.
Q. What do you hope readers--both children and adults--will take away from Where's Rodney?
I hope readers young and old will find joy in "Where's Rodney?" I hope adults will remember to go outside and play, and I hope they will find a Rodney to introduce to nature.
Carmen Bogan is the author of the picture book, Granny, Who Is God? She is a member of the Oakland Literacy Coalition and is a writing coach for children and youth. Where's Rodney? grew out of her experience working with nonprofit organizations supporting public health through outdoor experiences for low-income children.