Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Raleigh author pens picture book about girl during Reconstruction

Posted January 12, 2012

Kelly Starling Lyons, children's author

Kelly Starling Lyons, a Raleigh mom of two and children's book author, is celebrating the launch of her third book.

"Ellen's Broom," published by G.P. Putnam's Sons and illustrated by Daniel Minter, tells the story of a young girl who learns more about her family's past as her parents, former slaves, legally register their marriage during the time of Reconstruction. The book is designed for kids ages 6 to 10.

Lyons will debut the book at 3 p.m., Sunday, at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh with a live musical performance from members of the Martin Luther King Jr. All Children's Choir, a special Ellen's Broom craft and a unique wedding cake.

She'll also introduce the book at 2 p.m., Jan. 21, at Richard B. Harrison Library, 1312 New Bern Ave., Raleigh; 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Jan. 28 at the 11th Annual African American Cultural Celebration at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh; and from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Feb. 25, at the Raleigh City Museum.

Lyons and I chatted a bit by email about her new book. Here's our conversation:

Go Ask Mom: You've written several books. When did you start writing? Did it take a long time for you to originally get published?

Lyons: I started my journey to become a children's book author about 12 years ago. I still remember the book that inspired me to write for kids, Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. It was the first time I saw an African-American girl on the cover of a picture book. As I read the story, I was touched in a special way.

Growing up, I rarely saw kids who looked like me as the main characters of children's books. I loved books and treasured every story I read. But after reading Something Beautiful, I knew I had missed something important. Right then, I decided to add my voice.

I started by learning about the field, reading lots of children's books, coming up with ideas and sending out manuscripts. I got my break when publisher Just Us Books took an interest in my writing. Four years after I dreamed of writing for kids, my first book, NEATE: Eddie's Ordeal (Just Us Books) was published. Now I have three published books with two more on the way in fall 2012 and spring 2013. I feel so blessed.

GAM: How do you find your ideas for your books?

Lyons: I mine my life for the seeds of stories and look for parts of history that are still unsung. I'm also inspired by every day moments I witness - children eating at a soup kitchen, a father reading to his little girl.

GAM: Tell me about your new book?

Lyons: My new book, Ellen's Broom, is illustrated by Daniel Minter and published by Penguin/G.P. Putnam's Sons. The story is set during Reconstruction and celebrates family, love and freedom. Ellen's parents became husband and wife by jumping a broom during slavery. Now, that it's ended, Ellen carries that same broom on the march to have her parents' marriage registered and made legal. Click here for the trailer if you want to take a peek inside.

GAM: What other children's authors inspire you?

Lyons: Two of my favorite picture book authors are Jacqueline Woodson and Eve Bunting. I'm also inspired by our many wonderful North Carolina children's book authors including Eleanora E. Tate and Carole Boston Weatherford, who have both helped me.

Learn more about Lyons and her books on her website or Facebook page.


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