Mymcbooks's Blog

Keepsake that Educates!

Interview with Stephanie Calmenson


Stephanie Calmenson is the author numerous books for children. Her books have been called “marvelous” (Publishers Weekly), “lyrical” (School Library Journal), “hilarious” (School Library Journal), “sweet, funny, and right on the mark” (Booklist).

Among her most beloved titles are Dinner at the Panda Palace,
a PBS StoryTime Book; Welcome, Baby! Baby Rhymes for Baby Times; The Principal’s New Clothes; and Rosie, A Visiting Dog’s Story, which Smithsonian Magazine called “one of the outstanding nonfiction titles of the year”.

She has collaborated with Joanna Cole, author of the Magic School Bus series, on many best-selling anthologies including The Read-Aloud Treasury; Ready, Set, Read!; and Ready, Set, Read and Laugh!; and with Ann Martin, as co-writer of the Baby-Sitters Little Sister series.

Before turning to writing Stephanie was a New York Cityelementary school teacher, a children’s book editor, and Editorial Director of the Parents Magazine Press Read-Aloud Book Club. She feels privileged to have found work that brings together her love of children, language and laughter.

 Interview with Stephanie Calmenson author Dinner at the Panda Palace.

I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog

What is the last book you read?  David Copperfield.

What were your earliest memories of writing?   Fear!  And, privately, pleasure.  I was afraid of being graded on my writing.  But I loved putting words on paper.

Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?  Writing came naturally.  Words were part of my upbringing.  My mother and father were both avid readers.  And my mother loved to write.

Are you working on a new book?  Yes, with my friend Joanna Cole.  We’ve worked on many books together and I’m lucky to have found such a great friend and workmate.  (Joanna is best know for her Magic School Bus series, but she’s done a wide, wide range of books.)

What inspired you to write Dinner at the Panda PalaceI used to teach kindergarten and I was always on the look-out for good ideas to share with kindergarteners.  One day, I saw a young boy outside a restaurant tug at his mom’s sleeve and say, “I’m going to ask for a table for two!”  I thought that was a great start for a counting book and my imagination took over.  

 What was your favorite children’s book? Heidi by Johanna Spyri. 

What is the most difficult part of writing?  It depends on the day.  Some days, the hard part is coming up with an idea.  Some days, the hard part is figuring out what to do with the idea once I’ve got it.

You have written so many books, which one is most close to your heart?  I don’t like to show favoritism, but DINNER AT THE PANDA PALACE has been in print for 20 years and I get so many fan letters about it.  Or maybe it’s ROSIE, A VISITING DOG’S STORY.  OrMAY I PET YOUR DOG?  Or it could be … 🙂

What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books?  I enjoy the company of my family (dogs included!) and friends. 

How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block?  I’m fortunate to have had very few bad reviews and I let them be cancelled out by the good ones I get for the very same book.    As for writer’s block, I’m no stranger, but I know it always passes.

What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?  Joy.

Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with?  William Faulkner.  Maurice Sendak.  Mark Twain.  Johanna Spyri.

What author inspires you the most and why?  Margaret Wise Brown because of her obvious connection to very young children.

What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?  I write because I love to and am not very strict about schedules.

What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?  Introduce a wide range of books.  Then watch.  Listen.  Let your child be your guide.

What advice you would give to new writers?  My advice is very pragmatic: Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for guidance and camaraderie. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?  I feel extremely fortunate to have made my life’s work writing for children and I’m truly grateful for the letters and pictures I receive letting me know when my books have tickled funny bones and touched hearts.

Thank you for this interview.






September 2, 2011 - Posted by | Meet the Author | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. It is so neat that you started writing from a young age and never stopped. So many young children seem to get discouraged and stop writing. I also love how you love your work!

    Comment by Cassandra | September 2, 2011 | Reply

  2. You are so very talented. I admire your work Stephanie.
    My grandchildren would love to read your books. Heidi was also my favorite book. 🙂
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

    Comment by Carol L. | September 2, 2011 | Reply

  3. I have surrounded my granddaughter with books and read to her as much as possible. She really enjoys the rhyming ones and soon knows them by heart.

    Comment by Lisa Richards | September 2, 2011 | Reply

  4. Looks like an adorable counting book! Would love to give this to my new nephew to help him learn his 1,2 3’s along with the cute rhymes and colorful pictures!

    Comment by lisa | September 2, 2011 | Reply

  5. I agree completely with your advice to read your child a wide variety of books and watch them to see which ones they relate to the best. I’ve been doing that with my kids since the oldest ones were little, and each child is definitely different in what they prefer!!

    Comment by Julie Witt | September 2, 2011 | Reply

  6. I love it that what the author, Stephanie Calmenson, wants readers to take away from her books is Joy. She has an impressive list of credentials for the writing of children’s books. I also like to surround my grandson with a wide variety of books so as to peak his interest in learning to read and continuing to read as he gets older. I love the rhyming aspect and would love to read this book with my grandson. Of course, being a math teacher, I also like the chance to learn to count.

    Comment by Christine W | September 2, 2011 | Reply

  7. Thanks to each of you for your comments, and thank you Ella Johnson for all you do to connect kids and books!

    Comment by stephaniecalmenson | September 2, 2011 | Reply

    • Thank you for writing great fun books.

      Comment by mymcbooks | September 2, 2011 | Reply

  8. I like that her favorite children’s book was Heidi…I always loved that story! 🙂

    Comment by Kristie | September 2, 2011 | Reply

  9. Great interview. Thanks for sharing

    Comment by Lora1967 | September 3, 2011 | Reply

  10. Loved the review. The book sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Kali Kiki Porzel | September 3, 2011 | Reply

  11. This sounds so cute for my young son.

    Comment by Kaitlyn Ortega (@Missysweepsalot) | September 3, 2011 | Reply

  12. Loved the interview. I am not familiar with Dinner at The Panda Palace, but I will definitely request it from our library.

    Comment by Renee G | September 3, 2011 | Reply

  13. Wow, this book has been in print for 20 years? I’m impressed. Table for two!

    Comment by Susie Chadwick | September 5, 2011 | Reply

  14. I agree with your parenting advice on what kind of books to read. I have 7 kids and they all have different tastes.

    Comment by Stephanie Barmann | September 7, 2011 | Reply

  15. Another great interview!
    Stephanie has written some great books. Love how the concept for this book came about.

    Comment by Larissa | September 11, 2011 | Reply

  16. Thanks for the great interview! I enjoy reading animal stories and I’ll definitely check out your books.

    Comment by Lily Kwan | September 17, 2011 | Reply

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