NAPPA Awards Q & A with Mary Amato, author of News from Me, Lucy McGee
We are thrilled to introduce you to our latest NAPPA Award winning author, Mary Amato — sharing childhood memories and how she created Lucy McGee.
Please share one fun memory from your childhood.
My father loved to sing and whenever we would get in the car, we would all sing together. Show tunes, pop songs, folk songs, commercials, TV theme songs . . . anything and everything. I loved it most when we were driving and singing at night. There was something magical about the idea of this car filled with music traveling along a road with darkness on either side. As I was joining my voice with my sisters and parents, I would sometimes be overcome with a joy so big and deep I would start to cry.
Tell us a little about Lucy and why you created her?
Lucy is a fourth grader with a huge heart, lots of energy, and a tendency to make mistakes. Her zest for life gets in the way of her ability to know when she is being manipulated by mean girl Scarlett Tandy. I wanted to explore a character who struggles with her desire to fit in with the “popular” crowd and her desire to be true to herself. Lucy is also a budding songwriter and ukulele player, and I wanted to offer a role model of a child who takes the risk to write and share her own music with her friends and family.
What do you hope young readers will gain most from the Lucy McGee series?
To me, the series packs a three-fold punch. It’s about friendship, family, and the joy of music.
- Regarding friendship, I’m hoping that my readers will see that you have to learn how to be a good friend, how to own up to your mistakes when you hurt a friend’s feelings, and how to stand up for yourself when a friend hurts yours.
- Regarding family, I’m hoping that my readers see that loving and close, relationships between family members can be strengthened with humor and honesty. Often, in order to have drama or tension in a book, authors create a negative or challenging home life for their characters: parents who don’t understand or who are absent, or siblings who are antagonists. I wanted to create a model of a healthy, happy family—one in which everybody makes mistakes, but always works together to learn and forgive.
- Regarding music, I’m hoping my readers will be inspired to play and sing and write their own songs.
These books are special in that the songs that Lucy writes are available to hear and sing along. I want to encourage families to sing together. Parents can find all the songs and the karaoke versions of the songs on a special page on my site. https://www.maryamato.com/lucy-songs/
Our readers are all parents. What’s the best way for parents to encourage their kids to read and write more?
My favorite suggestion is to encourage diary writing. Instead of buying a fancy blank book, start with a very small, thin book that your child can feel good about filling up. Encourage your child to write anything and not worry about mistakes. Do your own at the same time. Once a month have a special reading where you each share a page from your diaries.