Bottom Down, Penelope Brown portrays the difficulties children face with having so much energy and having to stay in their seat. What was your inspiration that made you want to write this book?
My third graders inspire me in many ways. Penelope Brown is a combination of many characteristics I have observed in students over the years. Every year I notice students who work better standing up or leaning over their desks because sitting is just not their style. Sitting at a desk the better part of the day is tough for all of us–children with excess energy find it close to impossible. I felt like it was time those students had a character with which they could identify. You don’t see too many of those characters in pictures books–the ones who can’t sit still and actually have someone in their school experience who understands.
As a teacher, how do you handle energetic kids in your own classroom?
It took me a few years to really grasp that sitting still and being quiet all day was not the way to go. I try really hard to incorporate opportunities for my students to get up and out of their seats with games and activities that still address the standards we are currently studying. Life became easier for me as a teacher when I decided to let those who wanted to stand up to work just stand up. If they listen better with their knees in their chairs and aren’t blocking anyone’s view, well, they can sit that way.
This story is very cute and fun. What was your favorite scene to write?
I think the scene at the table with Ms. Flowers was my favorite one–that moment when Ms. Flowers realizes what Penelope is trying to ask her. When Penelope’s light bulb goes off–that’s the moment you hope every student gets a chance to have.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Our next book is very different from our first two. This one is nonfiction and will be a combination of photos and illustrations. It’s a look at Amy’s family’s homeplace through her eyes. The house predates the civil war and holds a special place in the hearts of her family members. We are excited about it!
Penelope Brown is a bundle of energy, and everyone in Mighty Oak Elementary knows it. Year after year, Penelope hopes she will find herself in a classroom where she can truly be her delightfully happy self–each year she is disappointed. Will third grade be any different?