Behind The Story: Stephanie Calmenson on GOOD FOR YOU! TODDLER RHYMES FOR TODDLER TIMES

GOOD FOR YOU: TODDLER RHYMES FOR TODDLER TIMES by Stephanie Calmenson, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (HarperCollins, 2001). Cheerful, multiculturally inclusive images accompany the universal poetic themes. An excellent choice! Ages 1-up. This interview was conducted via email in 2001. Visit Stephanie Calmenson.

What was your initial inspiration for creating this book?

I love the company of toddlers. They’re so busy! And they’re learning so much so fast. I wanted to put their experience into words. I chose to write catchy-rhythm rhymes because they’re most fun for toddlers (and for me) and because rhyming helps with language development.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Good For You Toddler Rhymes for Toddler TimesUnknowingly, I had this book in the works for many years. I kept writing baby and toddler rhymes for the joy of it. I published a few poems in anthologies and submitted a few as board books.

Then I realized I had the beginning of a comprehensive collection, which would include poems — many of them interactive — about bath time, bed time, riding in a stroller, getting dressed, potty training and concepts such as numbers, letters, colors and lots more.

I started envisioning one big book of baby and toddler rhymes. But in putting it together, I saw the focus wasn’t clear enough given the difference in what babies and toddlers can do and in what their world is about.

So, with the blessing of my publisher, I decided to write two books. I began with GOOD FOR YOU! Toddler Rhymes for Toddler Times and followed that with WELCOME BABY! Baby Rhymes for Baby Times (August 2002).

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

About the time these books were signed up, I was confronting a painful realization for me: It was likely that I would never have a baby. I believe that’s why I wrote the toddler book before the baby book. I couldn’t bear to immerse myself in a baby’s world just then. GOOD FOR YOU! was a little easier for me, being mostly about a toddler’s growing autonomy.

While I was writing GOOD FOR YOU! I was lucky enough to have two toddlers right down the hall in my apartment building and I spent lots of time with them. I always make sure to have babies and toddlers in my life for joy and inspiration. I also read many, many books about toddlers. And I looked to my training as an early childhood teacher.

Writing GOOD FOR YOU! Toddler Rhymes for Toddler Times was great fun and when the time came to write the WELCOME, BABY! I was ready. I had resolved my issues and was able to take on the happy task of writing a book for babies and their families to share.

My goal was to make these books gifts to the children and families who read them. The process of writing them turned out to be a gift to myself as well.