Tuesday, December 19, 2017

With Sorrow: Teddy Draper Sr. Navajo Code Talker

 I had the privilege of knowing Teddy Draper Sr. and to learn his story over the last few years.  He passed away on December 16, 2017.

I am a writer and yet he taught me about language.  Not only how it was used with courage and bravery by the Navajo Code Talkers in the pacific in World War II.

I learned from Teddy Sr. that language truly can be sacred.  Words are not just words but they carry the power of the actual things they represent. 

He said,  “It is by our language that the Navajo People know who they are, how we are related and where we come from”. 

I will always remember the time I spent with him.

It is a sorrow to know he has passed.   And a comfort to know he left quietly with his family around him.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wishing You Hope for the Holidays and into the New Year.

A shout out to Peebles elementary school for this little tree inspired by Circles of Hope.

Hope for the environment and...

 some recycling, creativity, imagination and determination.  Inspired by Galimoto.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

NCTE 2017 Conference 2: One School One Book: Four Feet Two Sandals

One School, One Book indeed!  

One Little Book:   Connections, Kindness, Empathy, Generosity, Caring, Sharing, Friendship....

Thanks to Eva Thomas and the students at Popcopson Elementary School.

Look how they shared Four Feet Two Sandals at NCTE 2017.  Paste into your browser and enjoy.


One Goal:  Peace.  An important goal.  One to keep in mind for the holiday season and beyond. 

Wishing Peace for all of us in the coming New Year.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

NCTE: Saint Louis 2017

It was an honor and a delight to present with Mitali Perkins on the panel: 

Teaching AND Learning from our Students Today, Tomorrow, and Forever--Lessons from our Refugee Students through Texts of All Sorts for All our Students.

Here we are at the National Council of Teachers of English 2017 in Saint Louis.  That's Mitali's latest book You Bring the Distance Near.  Nominated for the National Book Award.

Learn more about Mitali and her books here:  http://www.mitaliperkins.com 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Why I Love Writing for Children

School Visits are the best!

Dedicated Librarians and Teachers.

Creative Librarians and Teachers and Students.


Good listeners.

Great Questions.

Thanks you all at Hosack Elementary School!

Monday, September 18, 2017

First Grade King a Hit Even Today.

If you follow my posts at all, you know I shamelessly use my grandchildren to promote my books.

And why not?  I wrote First Grade King when my own boys, Peter and Christopher were about the same age as my two oldest grandchildren, Ethan(7) and Evan (4)are now.  It's based on the experiences of my two boys ...kind of.  In fact the book is so similar to life around our house at that time that Christopher, when he heard the rough draft, exclaimed,  "Mom!  You can't steal my ideas like that!"

That gave me pause for thought.  Yes he was afraid of the dog on the corner when he had to walk to school and there was a bully and fears about having a substitute, but wait a minute that was MY first grade experience too.

So get over it kid, your mother is a writer.

Outdated you say?   I thought so too... possibly

But I have reports that Ethan and Evan are enjoying the read-aloud as much as any any 7 and 4 year old might have when my children were that age...when I actually wrote the book...kind of about my first grade experience and yes kind of like Christopher's first grade life too.

Maybe they like it because their grandmother wrote it.  Definitely a possibility....

But it turns out that Ethan, living in Taiwan, going to school, has fears too...bullies and more.  "Why IS Roger so mean?"  He wants to know.  He has questions about the Joey's visually impaired classmate.  Like Joey in the book Ethan is a sensitive kid, like his dad and his uncle at that age and like...I think... most kids.

I am happy to know that my stories cross generations and cultures even if I am using my own grandkids to prove it.

Full disclaimer?  I am listening and watching and might be using my grandchildren's "ideas" next.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Notes From a Reader: Your Story is My Story!

A writer will tell that he or she writes because they have to.  A writer cannot NOT Write.  But to touch another life is bliss.   This book written so long ago, still connecting and sharing

Dear Karen

I have just finished reading "When Africa was Home" to my 10 year old son Michael. Then I found myself searching the website and found your email.

I spent one hour explaining every detail in your book to my son. We used google to look up Paw Paw trees and Ant Hills. I explained in detail because, it is my story too. When Africa Was Home....I lived such a very different life than I do today.

I am a mother of 3 boys, currently in Phoenix Arizona. I am holding myself from writing a back right here as this is simply an introduction email. However, I would love to share with you so much.

Thank you for all that you do. My son was so excited and now feels that he understands a little bit about my upbringing and why I cook the corn paste with fish sauce and why we eat with our hands.He finally knows why the bottom of my feet is soooo hard.

Sincere thanks,

And this:   Early riser just like me! I used to fetch water pushed wheelbarrow up the hill around this time...but now I rise and I miss the dew under my feet, the sound of the train, the abundance of happy birds and the squirrel that used to greet me every morning.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

An Honor to Help Tell This Remarkable Story and Now You Can be a Part of it!

Look What is in the Works and Coming Out Next Year!

Here is how you can be a part of this remarkable story: 

Any donation, no matter how small, will help make this Legacy Statue become a reality.  Questions?  Contact me(karen@karenlynnwilliams) or Teddy Draper Jr.  or Sara Sinclair.  Information below.


Navajo Language and Code Talker’s Legacy Sculpture
Language is rooted in culture, and culture rooted in language. Within the 21st century, Americans have simultaneously forced assimilation while idolizing Native American cultures. The pressures to assimilate have nearly wiped out an entire language in four short generations and have deeply affected the culture and way of life for the Navajo people.
During World War II, the Navajo language was used as a code to communicate sensitive information across enemy lines. The Navajo soldiers were able to take advantage of the nuances and subtleties of the language to create a masterful code that remained elusive well after the war.
The declassification of the code allowed for a renewed interest in the language in an era where young people were being shuttled to boarding schools and removed from their culture. Teddy Draper Sr, a former codetalker, used his experiences to create and teach the first Navajo language courses at Navajo Community College (now Diné College). His commitment to the preservation of language and the culture of his people are what have led us to this project.
Teddy Sr, now an elder of 96 years, has seen his courses flourish into an associates degree program and lives to see a revival in which young people are seeking out their roots and culture through language.
We are raising money to create a bronze sculpture of the Navajo Codetalkers to honor the legacy of the language in both Navajo and American history. The sculpture will be created by the talented Jeff Wolf and placed on the Navajo Nation reservation at either Diné College or Navajo Technical University so that students and community members can easily access it.
  • The sculpture will be life size, approximately 6-7ft tall.
  • From the completion of fund raising, we anticipate the process to take 6mo. This
    includes sculpting, molding, casting and delivery.
  • The total estimated cost is $67,000.
  • To donate – please contact Teddy Draper Jr (dechelly2000@yahoo.com) or Sara Sinclair

Saturday, July 22, 2017

ESL Institute An Honor

(Ha!  Me sitting down on the job.)

It was an honor to present to educators at the ESL Institute at Millersville University in Lancaster, PA. this July.  Hard working, engaged, thoughtful and creative, enthusiastic about what they do. These teachers are using their summer to learn more so that they can better help their students succeed.

They deserve our respect and support.

(No I am not reading texts.  I am checking time on my phone.   This was a timed writing exercise.)  ;-)

Here is a shout out to Lancaster, PA, Millersville University and teachers everywhere.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Even if You Can't Get To the Beach

When I first began writing I just wanted to finish the book, a final draft, then I wanted to get it published.  Then I thought about seeing it a bookstore and in the LIBRARY!  Dare I hope to get fan mail?  Reviews?

One thing I never even imagined was the gratification that comes with seeing my own grandchildren read my books.   Here is two and a half year old Everett "reading"  A Beach Tail.  I am told he woke of from his nap and quietly picked the book out by himself.  He is having a summer beach adventure right in his own bedroom.  And I am shamelessly using him to promote this beach read for you this summer.

But if you cannot get to the beach, no worries.  Take your children or grandchildren on a journey to the park or back yard.  Draw your own lion or other creature in the dirt.  Give him a long tail and go on your own adventure around a tree, an ant hill, up the jungle gym, around the pond, up the hill.  Come back and tell the tale (or tail) of your own adventure. Make a sand drawing.  Look at what  the the students at Severn School did when I visited their school and they read A Beach Tail.

Beach or no beach,  enjoy the summer with a book!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Reading List For Participatory Citizenship: Four Feet Two Sandals

Literacy and NCTE

See What the NCTE (National Council of Teacher of English) Official Blog has to say about Four Feet Two Sandals:

Four Feet, Two Sandals
by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed 1-5

This book is a great way to introduce children to the realities of living in a refugee camp, why people are refugees, and then relate it to their own lives. A ten year old girl named Lina ends up sharing a pair of sandals with a girl named Feroza, since there are not enough sandals for everyone. These two characters experience the hardships of life in a refugee camp: waiting on long lines for water, the hard journey that brought them there, the fear for their futures, no access to education, among other obstacles. This is a book that will get children thinking about the hardships faced by people in other parts of the world.

See what other great books are on the list and start reading!


BTW I will be at the NCTE 2017 National Convention in St. Louis in November!  Hope to see you there. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Because You Asked: Update on Beatrice and Her Dreams

Many people have contacted me to ask about Beatrice now.   Here are some photos of Beatrice with her husband and daughter Ariel. 

Wendy Stone is the photographer who took the photos for the illustrations for the book.  You can see her work and learn more about Wendy at http://www.wendystone.com

Thanks for your interest and keep dreaming!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Circles of Hope Now a Scholastic Bookclub Selection!

 So this is the writing Life.   You write and rewrite and rewrite and submit and write and wait and wait and wait to hear from an agent or publisher.  Sometimes you get fan mail.   That keeps you writing.   Sometimes you get rejections.   You keep writing and submitting.  (OK you might cry or scream or rant or threaten to quit).  A royalties check arrives!  You may have forgotten about those because really?  You are deep into the next project(hopefully). 

You write some more and wait some more.  Sometimes you sell a book and sign a contract and wait.  Wait for the edits, the check, wait for an illustrator.  Keep writing and wait.

I am currently waiting for the art for two new picture books to be complete.   One forth coming from Lee and Low and another from Eerdmans Publishing.

And then this little piece of news shows up in the mail.  Circles of Hope has been around for a while
a solid little book has been picked up by Scholastic Bookclub.

I do a little mental dance and continue to write.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

School visit makes the news!

What a great day at Severn School in Arnold Maryland, outside of Baltimore!  Treated like a celeb by the news media.  A full day left me feeling appreciated.

Check it out here in the Capital Gazette.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

A new Spin on Galimotos: It's all about problem solving.

I wrote the book Galimoto nearly thirty years ago and kids at schools where I travel to as  a visiting author are still making galimotos.   In the book, Kondi searches his village in Malawi, Africa to find enough wire to make a toy car that has moving parts; axle, wheels, and a steering wheel that all work.

The children I saw in Malawi used whatever they could find to make these parts for their toys, which for me, are like works of art.  The wheels might be made out of wire pounded with a rock around a pipe to make them perfectly round.  Or maybe the children used discarded bottle caps found in the market area, saved up until there were enough for 4 wheels.  I have seen the wheels of galimotos made out of thin vines woven around and around and twisted together to make wheels.  Slices of yams made wobbly wheels and sometimes the styrofoam-like material under the skin of cornstalks worked too.

But when I visited Severn school last week, I saw a new spin on wheels for galimotos.   The children had plenty of pipe cleaners used to fashion their toy vehicles but when it came to wheels they could not find anything in the classroom that might work.

No problem! With a three-D printer they were able to turn out enough round plastic discs to make wheels for everyone in the class.

It took me a while to digest this solution and the connection between play in an African village and this high tech world of a classroom in the US.    Galimoto is, after all on one level, a story about a boy whose uses recyclables to make a toy.  In a place where toys are not available.  There are no building materials to buy and no money to buy them with.   Kondi is resilient, creative, independent, persistent and determined.  Just like the children I met in Malawi.

But then this hit me, it's all about problem solving.  Kondi is a problem solver and so are the kids in the school I visited.  They, like Kondi were using whatever was available to them to do what they had set out to do.  Create a galimoto.

We need problem solving abilities  more than ever.  Everywhere in the world today.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


You see this letter about Sangoel?  It was written on October 25, 2016.  This reader likes the part about how Sangoel writes his name in rebus on his shirt.  "I think it was a creative solution."   I love it!  I did write back.  But I have not posted anything in a long time.  Recent events have dragged me down.  FB can be a scary place.  The whole internet, the world too.

But the sun is out and the sky is blue, completely blue.  Not a cloud.  And kids are reading.  and responding.  And believe it or not I am still writing.

Recent works in progress include picture books about Albert Schweitzer,  and the environment.  I cannot let go of my passions so I am also working on two more books about refugees.  One is coauthored by a young woman who was herself a refugee.

I am getting more response to my books about refugees than ever before.  It is great that kids and teachers and parents and librarians are reading.  It is sad that this subject needs to be addressed.  But I am pleased to be a small part of the dialogue for our most important readers.

And the reviews are good too.  Here are a few recent blogs you should check out.  Not just because they praise my books but there are many other good books mentioned too.  Important books that need to be heard.




Read and Write.  It is one way I know to connect and share and maybe make a little difference in a difficult  world.