I am excited to interview a fellow Cleveland Author! I had the opportunity to meet Michael Samulak at our school book fair. I appreciated his education background and how he uses that knowledge to empower the books he writes. The inspiration for his book A is for Africa came while he was on a mission trip to Uganda. He met a local artist who he collaborated with to create his alphabet book. I emailed questions to Mr. Samulak, which he graciously took time out of his busy schedule to answer.
I will review both of his books: A Wonderful Day! and A is For Africa. Please check back throughout the week for the book reviews!
Give a Building Future Readers welcome to Michael Samulak, our first author visit!
What makes you fall in love with a children’s book and how do you incorporate those techniques in your own writing?
A book that can I connect with on a deeper level is what I would have to say brings me to a level that I would call – love. Pink and Say, by Patricia Polacco comes immediately to mind. When feelings and connection flow so easily through you as a reader I believe you have a real winner. Nothing is forced. Nothing has to be explained. Everything is just all there: ringing real and true within.
Now, incorporating such magic into my own writing is the challenge. Writing a story that is perfectly balanced between mechanics and content while at the same time connects instantly with the reader – well, wherein lies the recipe for perfection, does it not?
I suppose I do what I can to write what is precious and real to me, from the heart. If I cannot connect or be moved by my own work, I find it hard to believe that this would be happening with others who would pick it up.
Who are your favorite picture book authors? Why do you like him/her?
To pick favorites is almost unfair to ask. I feel so many authors are masters in their own respects. Their books can be vastly different, but still something I treasure equally. That being said, I suppose I am a big fan of Patricia Polacco and Tomie dePaola probably for many of the same reasons I stated earlier concerning lovely books and finding love for a book. I found both of these two authors early on in the days of my studying to be an early childhood educator. Speaking to making connections and provoking literacy with early readers, I feel that both of these two are master storytellers who engage their young readers, (heck me!) in a way that swallows you up whole and transports one right into the narrative. I would love to be able to say that I could one day, as I feel they do, fill page after page with emotion and heart that keeps one engaged till the very last period of the very last sentence: Truly, masters of the trade.
What do you hope your readers and listeners will find in your books?
Their world, their interests, depicted in a way that they not only connect with, but also affects them personally on many levels. I love to help young readers along their literacy journey, utilizing my formal education in reading and teaching to blend content and presentation together in a way that is at their level and fun, funny, well written, and it has to be from their world (that is, their perspective and needs are attended to). One of the best ways that I know how to help a young person to fall in love with reading is to give them stories that they are interested in. I try to write not only in a way that is engaging, but also have my content be about something that they can relate to or that they care about. A lot of my books are laced with learning moments that do aid emerging readers in becoming better readers, but the content is purposefully aimed at that same young readers’ interests and current real world experiences.
How do you hope parents use your books with their children?
I hope they read with them. Interact with them. Ask them questions and engage with them beyond the text so that young readers gain a full experience of reading. I hope my books are loved and read, but I also hope that they enlarge and enrich the overall reading experience of those who read them to be more than words, more than the black and white that is immediately in front of them; that they grow and learn that there is a full and rich experience to reading that the reader is meant to have, and ought to have, while reading.
Is there a picture book you wish you had written? Why?
I think I can honestly say no to this question. I feel that we all have our unique stories that are to be known and enjoyed by the world. These come from unique experiences and people that basically I feel cannot be duplicated. I so appreciate those who have been able to put their stories out for all of us to enjoy, but those are not my stories. I have my own stories to tell, as I believe we all do, and so have learned to simply love, enjoy, grow from and appreciate that which has come forth from others.
What is your best tip for parents to help build future readers?
Be involved in your child’s literacy journey. Read to them. Speak with them about what you read, engage them with the text; help them make connections to their hearts and minds. Talk with them about what you are reading, what you enjoy from what you are reading, what you find difficult about reading. Let them see and know that you too are a reader and how much of an important part reading and literacy overall is to a happy and successful life in this world.
Make it practical and personal: Take them to the library. Buy them books – and you buy one with them. Have a reading party and talk together as a family over cookies or popcorn about what you have been reading. What made you laugh, what made you cry – Why? Have a family library that they also contribute to every year. Signing them up for long-term subscriptions to an age-appropriate magazine is always a great way to build a future reader: Who doesn’t like getting something in the mail with their name on it!
I feel that we learn very early on what our parents and adults truly ascribe value to: what is taking our time, our money, our hearts? Our children see it – They know it. Reading has to be one of those things. It takes a real conscious effort on our part to make sure that our children not only hear from us the value and need for reading, but also practically see it and know it to be more than words in our own lives and how we would practically bring literacy into theirs.
Are you working on any new projects?
Short answer: Yes indeed. I have been working on a few pieces so that I can hopefully present to an agent who is willing to take me on and work with me as I step further on in the next chapter of this beautiful journey I have been on as a writer. I’ve have been trying to branch out with these new projects to touch not only the early readers and Children’s Picture Books that I am comfortable with, but also a few that are a bit risky in that they attempt to address issues and matters that children today are having to face or deal with, such as the loss of a loved one. I don’t want to say too much more here…spoil the soup that’s cooking and all, ya know!
Anything else you would like us to know?
I am a husband and father of five children. They are my world. So much of what I write about is inspired by them, and for them. My books are a sort of extension, not just of me, but also of my family and so I hope that when people read my works they touch that, they feel that, and come to realize that it is more than stories but also a bit of me and my own family that is hiding behind those words.
Connect with Michael Samulak
(I am an Amazon Affiliate. I do not get paid to review books. The opinions are mine. However, if you click on the pictures it will take you to Amazon, where if you make purchases I will receive a percentage of the sale.)
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