Interview Penelope Anne Cole, Children’s Books Teach How to Use Talents to Help Others

Posted in Interviews, Other Disabilities, Special Needs Children by - January 21, 2013
Interview Penelope Anne Cole, Children’s Books Teach How to Use Talents to Help Others

Folks at Special Needs Book Review were pleased to learn of another wonderful children’s book about children with disabilities, Magical Matthew,  by Penelope Anne Cole.  I watched the book trailer and book preview videos and can see how Magical Matthew will soon be in lots of homes and classrooms to foster understanding and acceptance of those with disabilities. Lily, one of the characters in Magical Matthew, cannot walk.

Congratulations to Penelope Anne Cole  for writing her series of children’s books and thank you for writing a guest post to tell our readers about it.  Read Ms. Cole’s guest post here and learn all about her adorable resource for children to help them understand that “children with disabilities are the same” and that “we should use our gifts or talents to do good for others“.

Penelope lives in the United States on the West Coast and I live in Canada on the East Coast but after reading her bio I felt we have many things in common.  If we lived in the same area, she might be a person I would be friends with because of our common interests and work experiences.  Today our Author Interview Series goes up a notch by adding an interview with Penelope Anne Cole.

Please Note: We are updating this post, Nov. 2015, to include links to our posts on Penelope Anne Cole’s most recent books in the Magical Series.  

Lorna: Welcome to our interview series! I read you have a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and a Masters in Education.  Tell us about your teaching career. From experience I know it keeps you young and on your toes!  Also your studies and working with children were a good foundation for writing  children’s books.

<<  Penelope Anne Cole  >> In my first career I taught adults — English as a Second Language in Spain and Turkey, as well as workshops in personnel management to government employees.  After I got my Masters, I wanted to teach children, but that came after I left government service.  I substituted and then got my Teaching Credential.  I taught Reading in a K-8 Home School Program for three years.  I find I love the younger students for their innocence and freshness.  Teaching kids to read opens up amazing worlds for them.  Later, I taught middle and high school English as a Second Language for nearly 4 years.  I like the older students because they have one foot in adulthood and the other in childhood.  The push and pull that happens in high school is so poignant.  They need support and can’t always ask for what they need.

Lorna: Another hat you wear is being a Certified Reading Therapist with Read America.  Please tell us about the work of a reading therapist.  Your bio says, “One of Ms. Cole’s special joys is reading to children, and encouraging them to read on their own and love literature.”  

<<  Penelope Anne Cole  >> In my teacher preparation program I thought we weren’t doing a good job with students who were struggling to learn to read.  So I took Read America’s Phono-Graphix Training Program and worked with students who needed special help.  The Phono-graphix program is great for beginning readers as well as those with sound blending, sounding out, spelling, and word recognition problems.  In teaching elementary students I especially enjoyed “story time” reading and bringing the stories to life made reading so “magical”.

"Magical Matthew by  Penelope Anne Cole Children's BookLorna: Magical Matthew was your first children’s book but I read in your bio that you have written throughout your life.  Do you have other published works or a blog?

<<  Penelope Anne Cole  >> For years I wrote for myself.  I’ve kept journals and written stories about my life, about my daughter, and my dog.  Now I have a blog where I review books and support other authors.  I am writing for K-3, and for middle school and high school students.

Lorna: For those who are not familiar with Magical Matthew, tell us about it and what goal you had in mind when you wrote it.  I read that you even hope to have your book available in other languages!

<<  Penelope Anne Cole  >> Magical Matthew started out as a book to show kids that whatever gifts or talents they have, they can use them to help others – we can all be “magical” in our own way.  The book grew into a series when I thought about how my younger brother was always getting into mischief.  I asked myself, what if Mea wasn’t using her magical gift to help others?  In Magical Mea, I portray Mea, Matthew’s little sister, as a prankster.  I am fortunate that my nephew’s wife and twin sister are multi-lingual and offered to translate Magical Matthew into Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Lorna: A second book and even a third book could follow.  How are these children’s books connected, what is the common thread?  How are those books progressing?  Do you have release dates?

<<  Penelope Anne Cole  >> The common thread to me is how will each of you use your gifts and talents?  We all have them — we just need to find out what they are.  How we use them is part of our life’s journey.  I want kids to be empowered, to feel good about themselves, and to know that we can all contribute.  It’s up to us what we do with our lives.  Mea uses her magic to get attention and praise — like some kids seek attention, even if negative.  Matthew and Grandma Nonie try to mentor and counsel Mea to use her gifts for good.  Can she learn to use her magic to help others and not play tricks on them?  See what happens in the end of Magical Mea.  In the “queue,” Magical Mea is illustrated, contracted, and awaiting publication, hopefully this year.  The third book, Magical M and M, is still a work in progress.  I need to add a couple more “scenes.”  But it should be sent for illustration in a few months and will hopefully be published next year.

Children with Disabilities Are the Same – Children’s Book Magical Matthew by Penny ColeLorna: In my introduction to your guest post I wrote, “It is also wonderful that one of her characters is a grandmother.  Many children are helped by their grandparents and some are even being raised by them; therefore, this story will make them feel better about their position in a ‘grandfamily.’”  Please tell us about Grandma Nonie and her role in these stories for children.

<<  Penelope Anne Cole  >> Grandma Nonie is the first person Matthew confides in about his secret.  She’s stays with him while his parents are at work.  She is portrayed as a “wise woman.”  I believe we all need an older person in our lives — a grandparent figure – someone who has years and wisdom to share with us, to help guide and mentor us when our parents are busy, away, or hard to talk to.  Grandma Nonie is that older, wiser family member.  She is in all the books as a caring figure, giving loving support and guidance.  She is modeled after my Aunt Georgia and Great Aunt Dolores, who listened so well when I needed someone to talk to.

Lorna: Do you have plans for more children’s books after this Magical Series of three?

<< Penelope Anne Cole >> I have a really cute Halloween story in “near” rhyme for K-1, a reverse counting book called Ten Little Tricksters. The idea came to me when I saw three racoons and I thought, what if they were witches in disguise?  I developed that into a Halloween theme.  I had an image of trick or treaters running down the sidewalk dressed in costumes, and the chant, “Ten Little ghosties out on Halloween . .” .  came to me along with the counting down from ten.  I thought of the costumes I’ve seen — and there was the book idea.  I see the school kids practicing their counting down to the singsong rhythms of the story.  Kevin Scott Collier is almost finished illustrating it.  He’s my artist for my Magical Series.  I hope it will be out in the fall in time for Halloween – no release date yet.

I’ve also written a rhyming “color” story, also for K-1, which is about visiting Grandma’s House, tentatively called My Grandma’s Pink House.   I remember the fun we three kids had when we visited our Grandma’s house.  It goes through the whole year, starting with summer and typical colors in each season.  It shows them all enjoying a fun, warm, loving family time as well — remembering Grandma.  I want Kevin to illustrate that one, too.

I’m working on two mid-grade novels as well.

Lorna: Well Penelope, you will have to let us know when your new books are on the market. Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview series.  Please tell us how we can follow you and where we can buy your book

<<  Penelope Anne Cole  >> Thank you Lorna for your help in getting the word out.

Follow Penelope Anne Cole:

4th book in the popular Magical Series, Magical Max and Magical Mickey by Penelope Anne Cole. Special Needs Book Review has reviews of the first three children's books in this award winning seriesRead Also:

Buy Books by Penolope Anne Cole:

  • Magical Mea Goes to School

This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.