The Edmond Sun

Arts & Entertainment

May 16, 2013

Best of Books observes 94th annual Children’s Book Week

Choctaw storyteller shares tales at Saturday event

EDMOND — Internationally renowned Choctaw storyteller and author Tim Tingle will perform and sign copies of his new children’s novel, “How I Became A Ghost,” a story about the Choctaw Trail of Tears told by a young boy, Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon at Best of Books, 1313 E. Danforth Road, Kickingbird Square.

Children will take home free Children’s Book Week posters and totes. This year’s poster artist is Brian Selznick, the 2008 Caldecott Medal winner for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. And children also will get one of the first peeks in the country at Tingle’s new book for children.

The award-winning author of six books, Tingle is author of “Crossing Bok Chitto,” which was an Editor’s Choice in the New York Times Book Review, a 2007 Jane Addams Peace Award Honor Book and an ALSC Notable Book for Children.

Tingle has done 11 speaking tours for the U.S. Department of Defense, performing for children and military personnel overseas. Tingle makes his home in Canyon Lake, Texas.

Children’s Book Week runs through May 19. Admission is free.

Tingle also will speak from 2-3:30 p.m. Sunday at Full Circle Books, 50 Penn, in Oklahoma City.

AUTHOR GIVES INSIGHT INTO HIS STORIES

Q: You are known for your stories and award-winning children’s picture books. How did you get the idea for your new children’s novel, “How I Became A Ghost?”

A:
From childhood I recall stories of my Choctaw “grandfolks” walking on the Trail of Tears. My great-great-grandfather, John Carnes, was 10 years old when his family began the long walk to what is now Oklahoma. I wanted to write a book based on these family memories that a young reader would enjoy, with humor and discovery, with snow monsters and shape-shifting panthers.

Q: Why did you want to write this particular book?

A:
I will never forget the Trail of Tears. I will never forget because I learned of the Trail when I was young. When my dad and uncles told me what happened to my family, to many, many Oklahoma Indian families, they always made sure to make us laugh.  We were kids, after all. I want “How I Became a Ghost” to present a story that young readers will never forget. It is a tale of hardship, but — as in all of my stories — goodness wins and humor abounds.

Q: Tell us about the setting for “How I Became A Ghost.”

A:
Mississippi is the original Choctaw homeland, and the book opens there, in a small town in the heart of Choctaw country. Andrew Jackson was president and had passed the Indian Removal Act through the U.S. Congress. “How I Became A Ghost” is told by Isaac, a young boy, who knows nothing of the history. He tells us what he sees, and from the book’s opening he knows he will soon be a ghost.

Q: You are an internationally known storyteller. Do you think stories still matter in this high-tech age of eBooks and iPads?

A:
Regarding eBooks, I was quite an opponent until my son bought me one for Father’s Day.  When I discovered I could sip my coffee, turn the page, look up a word in the dictionary, all at the same time while flying an airplane (OK, riding in an airplane), I was sold. But nothing will ever replace the touch and feel of a book, just as no book can ever replace the sound of the human voice, whispering or rising to meet the needs of the plot.

I’m 64 years old. A few years ago I realized that the storytellers I most admired were people like Harper Lee, Oklahoma’s Rilla Askew and Mark Twain, and the stories they shared will live as long as we are a civilized folk. My oral stories can reach maybe a hundred thousand people a year, but someday I will be gone, my voice will be silenced. For that reason, I am returning to my first love — writing.

Q: How does storytelling impact your writing?

A:
I write in the rhythms of the voice and breath. For 25 years I have been sharing bits and pieces of plots, in coffeehouses, bookstores, at festivals and classrooms. What last year was a 10-minute tale might next year be a half-hour story, and four years later become a novel or a children’s book. My first book, “Walking the Choctaw Road,” included written versions of several years of oral stories.

Q: Why do you write children’s books?

A:
Children’s book change lives. They did mine.

Q: We will be getting a little sample of your storytelling prowess at your author visit Saturday at Best of Books, as part of the 94th Annual Children’s Book Week. What can attendees expect?

A:
I’ll be sharing a few scenes from “How I Became a Ghost,” family-friendly and fun.

Q: When you’re not writing or doing author talks, what are your other interests or hobbies?

A:
I’m a big Thunder fan. I live near Austin and watched Kevin Durant nail three-pointers as a college freshman. I always have a book going, usually fiction unless I’m researching for a book. I like World War Two-based fiction, “The Book Thief,” crime novels, anything by James Lee Burke, and Oklahoma writers LeAnne Howe, Linda Hogan, N. Scott Momaday. I enjoy travels to rivers and mountains, especially the winding roads of the Kiamichis. And graveyards. They speak to me.

Q: What are some of your favorite books for children?

A:
Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco. I am of the Pink and Say School of Thought, whose members prefer children’s books that provide fresh insights into the world we face as adults. My first children’s book, “Crossing Bok Chitto,” is of this school. I also like monster books. Eric Carl is a hero, an icon. When we meet, ask me why.

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