There’s nothing better than a good book. And when a children’s book is smart, clever, and can captivate my adult heart, I’m excited to share it with my network. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures is all that and more. Written by Julia Finley Mosca and published by the boutique publishing company, The Innovation Press, it’s the story of Dr. Temple Grandin and she and it are winners! Julia tells us Temple’s life story in delightful prose. Illustrator Daniel Riely brings her words to life in with the most adorable images.
I think what I appreciate most, though, is that the book isn’t singularly focused on Temple’s autism. Instead, it’s the journey of a little girl with a unique mind who grows up to change the world. The book ends with facts, tidbits and timeline about one of the most amazing minds of our generation.
This is definitely a book you’ll want to add to your library, bring into the classroom, and use to help others understand and believe anything’s possible. Enjoy my interview with the author.
Tell us about your book, The Girl Who Thought in Pictures. What inspired you to write it?
The idea for the AMAZING SCIENTISTS series was a collaborative effort. I was approached by The Innovation Press to write a new series about women in the science and technology fields. We immediately knew we wanted to focus on scientists who overcame barriers (sexism, racism, poverty, disabilities, or differences of any sort) in order to bring groundbreaking inventions and ideas to the world.
Dr. Temple Grandin was the perfect fit for our first book. While she is quite famous in the farming and autism communities, I’ve found there are still a lot of people unfamiliar with her work. Using her visual mind, and a unique ability to see things through the lens of an animal, Grandin invented devices and processes to make the slaughterhouse/meat industry more compassionate. Over the years, she has also become a world-renowned speaker and advocate for the autism community. We wanted to share her inspirational story with everyone, particularly kids. It’s important for those with autism to have a real life hero they can look up to, and it’s just as important for children without autism to see that, too. Being different makes a person no less worthy in any regard. In fact, it might even make them capable of amazing feats!
On a personal level…
I have a special place in my heart for autistic children. As a college student, I spent my summers working as an aide at the Cardinal Hayes Home for Children in upstate New York. Many of the residents were severely developmentally disabled. I worked mostly with nonverbal autistic teens—sadly, some who had been abandoned by their families. The daily challenges they faced gave me a whole new perspective on life, and a deep appreciation for the power of support and encouragement. Whether big or small—learning to eat with utensils or simply just to clap at the end of a song—I witnessed many strides in several residents. These were sixteen and seventeen-year-olds who still wore diapers and needed assistance walking down the hall, but with repetition and a loving push, there were achievements to celebrate.
While researching and writing this book, I couldn’t help but think about Temple’s early years, and doctors’ recommendations that she be sent to an institution because there was no hope for her. What would have happened to Temple in a stark grey room with no flash cards or people pushing her to succeed? Would she have ever learned to talk, never mind change the world with her ideas and innovations?
Very few of us will ever attain the level of extraordinariness Temple has, whether we have autism or not. But how many autistic children are perhaps unaware the possibility even exists? There’s a saying, “you have to see it to believe it.” Temple Grandin is an example that they can shoot for the moon. Temple didn’t just accomplish amazing feats for an autistic person. She accomplished amazing feats for a human. Period. She did something no one else had done for the farming industry, and she did it (in large part) using the very characteristics that made her different. She is a pioneer, an inspiration to people of all kinds, and everyone should know her name. I can only hope this book helps spread the word.
Who’s your illustrator and why was he perfect for capturing the spirit of your book?
Our illustrator is Daniel Rieley, a British freelance illustrator based in Lisbon. He and I were matched by the publisher, and while I haven’t had the chance to meet him in person, I’m inspired by his work and can’t imagine a better artist for the project. I love the simplicity and innocence of his style, along with his beautiful use of color. As with any picture book, a lot of the story is told through the illustrations. This helps keep the word count and complexity low. For example, in Temple’s story, Daniel illustrated many of the issues on farms that Temple sought to improve. It’s often easier for children to visualize these things than to be told them. I have a three-year-old daughter who can’t quite grasp all of Temple’s achievements, but she asks to look at the book all the time, so as a mom alone, I’m a huge Daniel Rieley fan!
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
The ideal reader is ANYONE. That probably sounds cliché, but it’s true. If you like learning about new people and new things, I think you will appreciate at least something about this book. It’s written in rhyme, which obviously makes it ideal for children, but I’ve jokingly referred to it as the Temple Grandin CliffsNotes for adults. We’ve included a lot of back matter with the story, for example, a biography of Temple’s life that’s written at a higher level for teachers and parents. I’ve had many adults who had never heard of Dr. Grandin tell me how much they enjoyed learning about her while reading to their kids, and how they planned to research her work further. A helpful bibliography at the end of the story provides an extensive list of books, articles, videos and movies that will help curious readers do just that.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading the book?
That can be best summed up by one of the lines in the book:
So, here is the message: feeling odd or offbeat?
Being DIFFERENT might just be what makes you so NEAT!
I think we’ve all experienced that feeling of not fitting in, whether for periods of time or most of our life. Being different isn’t easy, especially for kids. But when you look at some of the most successful people in society, Dr. Grandin included, you’ll find that it’s usually their differences that propelled them to success. I think it’s not only important for children to accept their own differences, but also (perhaps more importantly) to respect and encourage differences in their peers. Let’s celebrate uniqueness!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your book?
Just what an honor it’s been to write them! Seriously, I’ve learned so much about three awesome women: Dr. Temple Grandin, Dr. Patricia Bath (The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes), and Raye Montague, the third scientist in our series. The Girl with a Mind for Math (coming Fall 2018) will tell Montague’s story as the U.S. Navy’s official “hidden figure.” All of the scientists were so forthcoming and patient in my interviews with them. They generously provided us with personal photos and letters to the readers, as well as previewed and approved the manuscripts. These stories are theirs, not mine. I just happen to be the vehicle through which to tell them.
Do you have a proud moment, inspirational story, or moving fan feedback you’d like to share?
Where to start… I’ve gotten so much incredible feedback since the book came out. Of course, I had hoped it would be inspiring, but I don’t think I anticipated how emotional it would be for so many. I’ve received countless messages from parents who said it made them tear up the first time they read it to their children—their little ones with autism had never experienced the joy of reading a book about a hero just like them. As far as compliments go, I don’t think I can hope for anything better than that!
On a strictly selfish level, I got pretty excited seeing the book on display at a bookstore in Los Angeles. As a struggling young journalist in my early twenties (who started a couple of novels that I’m still working on today), I used to sip coffee in that bookshop and wonder what on earth it would take to get something on their shelves. It seemed like an impossible goal. Yet nearly two decades later, here I am doing this interview. I finally achieved my dream.
Never give up!
Find more about Julia and The Girl Who Thought in Pictures on:
- Amazing Scientists Series Website
- The Innovation Press Website
- Innovation Press on Facebook
If you like this post you may like: