Children’s Book Week: From Politics to Children's Books

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It’s November, time for the political election season and Children’s Book Week. Today, Washington, DC, politics professor Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love teaches military officers at the Pentagon and university students on topics from terrorism to ethics and globalization. She serves on the Board of Jesuit Refugees International, and advises the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as government officials, on globalization and U.S. Foreign Policy.

Today, Washington, DC, politics professor Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love teaches military officers at the Pentagon and university students on topics from terrorism to ethics and globalization. She serves on the Board of Jesuit Refugees International, and advises the U.S. Catholic Bishops and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as government officials, on globalization and U.S. Foreign Policy. She teaches diplomats and military officers, and makes media appearances on CNN International. And she is the author of the best-selling children’s books You Are my I Love You and You Are My Miracle from Penguin/Putnam/Philomel.

It’s November, time for the political election season and Children’s Book Week. What do politics and children’s books have in common? More than you might think!

Many successful authors and illustrators move between the worlds of politics and children’s books. Dr. Seuss was a prolific political cartoonist before ever writing for children. He lambasted politicians for failing to stop the rise of Hitler and facism in the 1930s. He finally gave up on adults, and delivered his message of tolerance to the young.

For Dr. Love, children’s writing helps her continue political writing and teaching. “While there are some bright spots in international affairs, there is a lot of bad news to deliver. Thirty thousand children a day die from hunger and disease. It can wear you out. Children’s writing helps restore the balance, and reminds me of the hope and wonder in life. I also occasionally get to write a story with a happy ending.”

Others have moved from politics to children’s books. Political cartoonist Jules Feiffer changed gears and writes and illustrates for children. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and President Jimmy Carter have written children’s books. Some children’s books deliver political messages. Lawyer Doreen Cronin teaches lessons about democracy through barnyard animals. In Click, Clack, Moo children learn about the power of writing, collective action, and bargaining. In Duck for President, duck sets his sights beyond improvements at the farm, showing children how elections work.    

For Dr. Cusimano Love, politics and children’s writing are intimately related. Her children’s books You Are my I Love You and now You Are My Miracle were inspired through her work with children in the PeaceKids program of the Sursum Corda housing projects in Washington, DC, blocks from the U.S. Capitol. “One in six children in America lives in poverty, raised often by single parents, who are short on time and money. The parents feel badly that they cannot afford Christmas gifts or the latest sneaker or video game for their kids, but what their kids really want is their time. The same was true for the upper income children I work with. To earn my way through school, I worked as a clown, story-teller, singer, puppeteer, and child caregiver, and I found kids all over were starved for their busy parents’ time and attention. All these children lit up whenever we spent time doing the simple things, walking outside, reading, baking. I wanted to capture the magic of simple time spent together in my books, the ying/ yang of the adult/ child relationship, the parent providing stability and constant love, the child bringing mischief and wonder,” said Love.    

The books’ success has been a Cinderella story. Although well-known in her field, Dr. Cusimano Love was a newcomer to the children’s book world when she sent in You Are my I Love You to the unsolicited/ unagented manuscript “slush pile” at Penguin/Putnam/Philomel. Miraculously, the book was selected for publication, and became an international best seller, published in English, French, German, Japanese, and Korean. The books, like many political movements, have taken on a life of their own. They are used for literacy programs, parenting classes, poetry classes, teacher training programs, as new parent and new baby gifts, and by parents separated from their children by military service. The National Institutes of Health’s Children’s Inn has used the books to console the families of critically ill children. Churches use the books in children’s services. Literacy groups use the books to encourage parents to read to their children. Perhaps children’s books, like politics, are in the end both acts of imagination.

An award-winning, tenured professor of international relations at Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., Dr. Love holds a PhD in international relations from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. She earned a masters and bachelor's in her field from the University of Texas, Austin, and St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia, PA, respectively. A native of Buffalo, New York, she grew up in Bethlehem, PA and lives with her family on the Chesapeake Bay.

Contact:

Martha Cusimano

610-691-8185

610-737-2606 (cell)

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