Sleeping Bear Press Author Whelan Interviewed by Michigan Live
Posted on 26 January 2013
KOCHVILLE TOWNSHIP — When a Michigan publisher asked author Gloria Whelan if she was interested in writing a book about the Mackinac Bridge, “I really didn’t know much about it,” said the Detroit-based children’s author.
“But I’m a Michigander; I’ve lived in northern Michigan and Detroit, and I like to share stories of early Michigan with young people.”
The resulting book, “Mackinac Bridge: The Story of the Five Mile Long Poem,” is among the Michigan-based titles featured at this year’s READ Book Fair, taking place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Children’s Book Co. in the Antique Warehouse, 1122 Tittabawassee.
With a little research, Whelan found that David B. Steinman, the engineer who designed the bridge, loved to write poetry in his free time, and that caught her interest. Then she started looking at the ferry operators and wondering how many lost their jobs when the five-mile-long suspension bridge open to traffic between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas on Nov. 1, 1957.
“If you tell a story that kids can relate to, they can put themselves in it, and it becomes a personal memory,” Whelan said. “A lot of kids have gone over the bridge, but what’s important to me is the gift I can give them through my books, the story behind it.”
The book fair is a gift to the Saginaw community as well as a gift-giving opportunity, READ Director Carol R. Lechel said.
“It’s a win-win for us because the bookstore will give us a portion of the proceeds from the books that are sold during that time, and then they will give us a discount on the books we buy with the funds for our mentoring programs in 42 Saginaw County schools,” she said.
Phone orders made before the fair will count toward the tally if the buyer mentions the READ association. And local book clubs will receive a 20 percent discount on their group selections, Lechel said.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that even though the store is called the Children’s Book Co., it carries books for all ages,” she said. “Even if they don’t have something in the store, they can get it for you.”
There’s nothing like the gift of a book, she said, and it’s something READ sees every day as its 500 volunteers work with Saginaw’s schoolchildren.
Especially ones like Whelan’s book, telling how the Mackinac Bridge was built, capture the children’s attention, she said, and that’s why they turned the focus on Michigan through Gary Bower’s “I’m a Michigan Kid,” Kathy-jo Wargin’s “The Legend of Sleeping Bear” and “The Michigan Read,” Annie Appleford’s “M is for Mitten” and Adam Gamble’s “Goodnight Michigan.”
There’s even a selection for grandparents by Jean Reagan about “How to Babysit a Grandpa.”
“We’re going to hold raffles through the day, too,” Lechel said.
The Memory Lane Café will offer lunch specials from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and among the gift items available for purchase is the holiday CD, “Graceful Voices: Soon and Coming King,” created by a local group of musicians for various nonprofit organizations and churches. The full purchase price of $5 will benefit READ.
But the real reward comes from sharing a book, and that can pay off in ways you might never expect.
Just ask Whelan.
“As a child, I could never read enough,” she said. “I do believe that is why I am a writer today.”
“Everyone needs a new book for the holidays,” Lechel agreed.