Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Children's Picture eBook Review and Author Interview: Mess-Up Molly, Written and Illustrated by Sheila Kelly Welch

Illustrations: 4.5 Stars 
Cover: 4.5 Stars
Storyline: 4.5 Stars
Total: 4.5 Stars

My Review for Mess-Up Molly
Molly struggles with impatience and now her father can't trust her to hitch the horses at their Sunny Side Stables. She decides to "be careful, pay attention, and slow down" in order to improve this weakness. Following her good advice, she learns how to tie a proper safety knot, and convinces her father to let her hitch the horses. But how come they still keep getting unhitched?

Illustrations: The illustrations are well-crafted, colorful and realistic. The horses are particularly beautiful and horse-mad children will enjoy this book. 4.5 stars

Storyline: We all struggle with things, and Molly is no different. But it's admirable to see her trying to overcome her weaknesses, with an extra touch of humor when her best efforts keep coming undone. 4.5 stars

I don't look for writers who can also illustrate--I'm not one myself--but Mess Up Molly is another example of someone who can do both successfully. And she's accomplished 5 of them (plus written 7 more, plus illustrated 4 more!).

Author Summary: Sheila Kelly Welch began drawing before she started school. Now she writes and illustrates for children of all ages. One of her short stories, published in Cricket, won the International Reading Association’s Short Story Award. Two of her novels have been on master lists for young readers state awards. Her most recent novel Waiting to Forget was on the best-of-the-year lists for Bank Street College and Pennsylvania School Library Association. Her story for very young readers, Mess-Up Molly was inspired by her own clever old horse. Sheila and her husband, Eric, have seven grown-up
children and a lot of grand children who help her by modeling for her illustrations.

Author Interview with Sheila Kelly Welch:

Valerie Harmon: Are you a horse lover like Molly?
SKW: Yes, I’ve been a horse lover ever since I can remember.

VH: Have you ever worked on a ranch?
SKW: No, but we had three horses over the years while I was growing up. Flash was a handsome black gelding who belonged to my brother. When my brother went off to college, he gave me his horse. During two summers when I was in college, I worked at a small camp that had horses, and I assisted the riding instructor. I also met my future husband at that camp.

VH: Do you know how to ride a horse?
SKW: Yes, but I’ve never had lessons or competed in a horse show. Now, during the warm months, I do therapeutic riding because I have Parkinson’s and riding once a week helps me both physically and emotionally.

VH: Can you tie a safety knot?
SKW: Yes, although if I haven’t done it for a long time, I need to refresh my memory. We used to have six horses, and we always tied them to the hitching rail with a safety knot.

VH: What are 3 favorite books?
SKW: This is too difficult to choose, but I will say I am a fan of Anne Tyler’s work. I also like short stories by John Updike and the mysteries of Elizabeth George and P.D. James.

VH: How did you come up with the story of Mess-Up Molly?
SKW: One of our horses, Max, was very good at untying a safety knot. I don’t remember if he ever untied a horse beside him, but he certainly could have done so quite easily. Years ago, one of our daughters volunteered and later worked at the riding stable owned by the park district in the city where we lived. I based my story on our daughter’s experiences at the stables and Max’s abilities to untie a safety knot.

VH: Who influenced you in art?
SKW: My interest in art began before I started first grade (my school didn’t have a kindergarten class). I remember looking at illustrations in books and wanting to be able to do work like that. I especially admired soft pencil drawings. I loved the color illustrations by N.C. Wyeth and also those by Marguerite De Angeli, and Tasha Tudor. When I got older, I went to museums in Philadelphia and New York and a whole world of art opened up. I studied Fine Arts at Tyler– part of Temple University. Both my parents encouraged my interest in art, and my father was an ornamental plasterer – an art form not seen much today.

VH: What advice do you have for people who want to write children's books?
SKW: Read and read some more. Spend time with children, reading to them and observing them. Write because you love doing it not because you think it’d be an easy way to make a living.

By Walter Farley

VH: Who influenced your writing?
SKW: My older sister was always writing, and I’m sure she influenced me. She was a fan of Walter Farley and he invited us to visit him. Although I was only about five years old, I recall being very impressed to meet a real live author. Of course, the authors of the books I read and loved as a child and as an adult have influenced my writing. 

VH: What do you hope readers will take away from reading your books?
SKW: I think most readers – both children and adults – read fiction as a form of recreation. So I’d like people to enjoy my books. But I must admit that some of my work for older children is not intended solely for entertainment. The Shadowed Unicorn, Don't Call Me Marda, and Waiting To Forget each deal with serious subjects. I would hope that readers would have an emotional connection with my characters that might help them deal with their own lives or help them feel empathy for others.
VH: What are 3 favorite children's books?
SKW: Once again, it’s difficult to choose but I’ll try: The original (not Disney) Winnie the Pooh, My Friend Flicka, and Charlotte's Web.

VH: Any funny stories along the trail taking you to where you are now?
SKW: "My first book, Don't Call Me Marda, is about a sixth grader named Marsha whose parents decide to adopt an eight-year-old who’s developmentally delayed. My mother-in-law was not in favor of  our adopting six of our seven children although none of them was disabled. So when I created an opinionated  Aunt Laura, I didn’t have to use much imagination to know how she would react.  My mother-in-law was thrilled that I’d finally done something productive, and she bought the book as soon as it was published. When she called me to say how wonderful it looked, I asked, “Have you read it yet?” No, she had not.

Two days later, I answered the phone again, and she said, “I’m Aunt Laura, right?”  Fortunately, she was remarkably understanding, and over the years we became very close. But never again have I based a fictional character so obviously on a real person."

See more of Welch on her Website and on Goodreads.

~Reviewed by Valerie Harmon

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