Published last fall, Hello, Pounce is a children’s book written by UWM authors Hope Longwell-Grice and Donna L. Pasternak that chronicles a day in the life of the beloved UWM mascot and undergraduate, Pounce.
This was the authors’ first children’s book, though both have an extensive background in education.
Longwell-Grice is UWM senior associate dean of the School of Education. As an associate professor, she taught in the middle childhood through early adolescence education program.
Pasternak is professor emerita of English education in the department of Teaching and Learning in the UWM School of Education. She was site director of the UWM Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project.
We interviewed the authors via email, and then chatted with Pounce when all three recently visited the Golda Meir Library. The authors answered their questions as one.
(Interview conducted by Steve Burnham)
Q: How did the book begin?
Authors: The project started several years ago with a request to the School of Education for assistance in finding a children’s book author. As someone with a background in early childhood and elementary education, it was something Hope had wanted to try her hand at for some time. There were several changes in leadership on the project and several conversations about content. At that point Hope asked Donna, who had expertise in children’s and young adult literature, if she would have time and interest in creating the book once it became clear that the project was definitely going to move forward. The two had published together in the past, and this project was a welcome invitation to work together again.
Q: You are co-authors. How did you divide up the writing?
Authors: We worked together on the book – bouncing ideas off of each other – first by brainstorming events, places and characteristics of UWM that made it a unique and exciting place to study. We then talked through, wrote, and rewrote dialog and descriptions about what a day would be like for Pounce to experience UWM.
Q: You are both experienced teachers of children and of university students. How did your backgrounds help shape the book?
Authors: Donna has a huge depth and breadth of knowledge about children’s literature built through study and practice. She has taught literature at the middle, high and university levels in the U.S., Ecuador, and Norway. Hope’s knowledge comes mostly through practice as an early childhood educator. She taught in Montessori programs in Iowa and Delaware.
Q: The book recounts an adventure-filled day in the life of Pounce, UWM mascot and undergraduate. How did you decide his itinerary? We were particularly excited to read about Pounce’s visit to the Golda Meir Library!
Authors: There are many exciting places to go and things to do on our campus. It was hard to whittle the options down but given the richness of the library as a resource, we had to have Pounce visit the library. We did want to give a sense of the energy on campus and the diversity of options for students and community members. We hope that the reader can find more than one of Pounce’s experiences that they would want to explore as well. Knowing our audience, we focused on places young children would find memorable at a young age and continue thinking about as they aged and as they considered attending the university.
Q: What was it like to work with Pounce?
Authors: Pounce is great to work with. His curiosity is infectious! He is so proud of our campus and the students who attend UWM. He is energetic and kept us both on our toes as we chased him around campus.
Q: Was it fun to write the book?
Authors: The book was fun to write but it is more fun to see the response that it has received. Former students, alumni we haven’t even met, and various faculty members have contacted us regarding how excited they are about the book. We are very happy that the book was part of the Panther Prowl this past fall. Children who participated in the race received a copy of the book. We were able to sign the copies that were presented.
Q: Any new books being planned?
Authors: We would like to do a follow up to this book. Time will tell.
Q: Pounce, are you excited about this book?
Pounce: [Vigorous nodding of head up and down, and both thumb-claws up]