Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
As a part of our ongoing interview series, Mom’s Choice had the privilege of sitting down with Award-Winning author of Dinosaurs Living in My Hair 2 Jayne Rose-Vallee. Jayne was born and raised on a farm in Battle Creek, Michigan, which taught her that a little dirt and hard work builds character, and that has translated beautifully into the work she has done. Between writing her books and visiting elementary schools to share her love of poetry and imagination, you can find Jayne fly-fishing with her husband in Montana or the backcountry of the Florida Keys. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to share more about her and her books with you!
MCA: Jayne, thank you so much for coming! We have loved having Dinosaurs Living in My Hair (1 &2!) in the Mom’s Choice family. Tell us a little bit more about the inspiration behind your book series- it’s just so sweet and feels very personal!
Jayne: Dinosaurs Living in My Hair was a poem I wrote for my daughter when she was young. She had a mass of blonde curls which exploded from her head. I tell the story of my daughter not letting me comb or touch her hair. She began to resort to things like, “There could be dinosaurs living in your hair and no one would know because I haven’t combed it in a week.” My daughter would stare, smirk, and run off without giving any thought or care to the possibility dinosaurs were living in her hair. When my daughter was in her late twenties she challenged me to publish the poem as a children’s book. It took prodding and constant nudges until I found Anni Matsick, watercolor artist, who agreed to be the illustrator and undertake the project. I remember that’s when I knew the book was not going to be an Apple Book to give to family and friends. Anni’s wonderful interpretations of my vision led to creation of wonderful, classic books.
MCA: It must be so special for your daughter to see bits of her childhood in a beautifully written and illustrated form. Your new book, Dinosaurs Living in My Hair! 2, tackles a very important topic: bullying. Can you tell us how, and why, you tackle this subject?
Jayne: Dinosaurs Living in My Hair!2 was meant to be more inclusive and reflective of the classrooms I visit across the country. A first-grade setting allows for this to be possible. As a visitor in classrooms, I have seen firsthand how children can be insensitive, cruel, and mean towards others. Providing simple techniques to young students was a way to begin a conversation with adults reading the book. There is no magical answer to the subject of bullying, however, children need to understand the importance of telling adults when they see something amiss. DLIMH!2 also allows the discussion of community. Noticing things we share in common is as important and relevant as understanding things which make us different. We took a soft approach, combined with dinosaurs, (which allow us in to their imaginations), to remind children friendships are important and though we think we are the only one with dinosaurs and/or difficulties, there are others out there just like us.
MCA: So, if you had to sum it up, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from reading Dinosaurs Living in My Hair! 2?
Jayne: The last sentence of the previous answer is the best answer for this question. Sabrina thought she was the only one with dinosaurs living in her hair. She worried about what her friends would think if and when they found out about her dinosaurs. Everyone worries our friends and family will find something out about us which may lead them to think we are strange, weird, or unacceptable. It’s almost human nature. As we age, we learn everyone comes from the same thought process. Everyone has something which makes them unique; different. Often, we find what we thought was unique to us is not – others have the same thing. When Sabrina learned her friends had dinosaurs like she did it must have made her feel amazing; accepted; normal. More than the bullying topic, this realization for Sabrina is the true message of the book.
MCA: What a beautiful lesson, for adults and children alike! Learning hard lessons- like the consequences of bullying, or celebrating the differences we see in ourselves and others- should begin early. How can your book be used as a teaching tool?
Jayne: The simple techniques we give children to use to stand up to others are: Stand up straight. Make eye contact. Tell an adult. Throw mean words into the trash.
Although basic, and not that tough, these four things have to be practiced and discussed in order to use them effectively. “Throw mean words into the trash” means what? I explain to children to pretend they see the mean words heading their way. I tell them to grab them out of the air before they attach themselves and throw them down and away. Be Teflon. Don’t let them stick. I remind students they say more about the person who said them than they do about the person they’re directed at.
To “make eye contact” and to “stand up straight” should be taught to all children with or without the bullying topic. Many children still don’t know the importance of this. It needs to be practiced. Reinforced.
To “tell an adult” seems like a relatively easy thing for children to do. Statistics report only between 20% and 30% of students being bullied speak up. Not so easy after all. Children need to understand the difference between tattling and telling. This is something I share with classrooms I visit. Parents need to have an open dialogue with their children. It has to start young. Children need many tools to successfully navigate their young life. DLIMH!2 is trying to part of the solution.
MCA: We love when there are practical lessons being taught through children’s literature. These are some great ideas! So tell us, since we are all wanting more of Sabrina’s adventures with the dinosaurs living in her hair, what’s next?
There is one more book being written in the series. I spend a great deal of time in the Florida Keys and so don’t be surprised if some reef fish meet some dinosaurs living in somebody’s hair. What can be guaranteed is it will be colorful, educational, touch on how children learn differently, and continue the tradition of weaving a beat and rhythm through the rhymes which will drive “expert” poets mad, but children will love.
Thanks to Jane Rose-Vallee for taking the time to chat with us! You can visit her website here.