Call Me Oklahoma! by Miriam GlassmanThis week is Children’s Book Week, so we’ve joined up with Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews‘ Kid Lit Giveaway Hop. We’re giving away (see below) a copy of Call Me Oklahoma! signed by the author Miriam Glassman, who has been kind enough to answer a few questions from our resident 2nd grader, Greek Girl.

In Call Me Oklahoma!, Paige Turner decides to change her name to Oklahoma upon entering the 4th grade in an effort to give herself a new identity. Throughout the book, Paige struggles internally with who she is and who she wants to be, but she also has to handle best friends and book fairs and mean girls and talent shows. In the end, this seemingly light-hearted tale has a deeply emotional core with an admirable lesson that’s not preachy in the slightest. The characters are real, not cartoony. The voice is pure, not forced. The situations are completely believable. Most importantly, Paige is a character with whom every child struggling to find an identity will be able to relate – and isn’t that just about every child?

Miriam Glassman
Miriam Glassman

Greek Girl: What inspired you to write a book about a girl who wants to change her name (and who she is?)

Miriam: The inspiration for this story came from my younger daughter. One day, she came home from camp and referred to a friend named, Oklahoma. “Hold on,” I said. “Her name is Oklahoma?” And my daughter said, “Of course not! That’s just what she told everyone to call her.” That got me wondering: Why would anyone choose to be named for our forty-sixth state? And could a radical name change bring about a whole new personality? Furthermore, what would prompt a person to want a new personality? That’s when Paige Turner–my main character–stepped into my life.

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As I wondered about Paige, I thought about how kids often view the new school year as a chance to reinvent themselves. I know I always did. It might be something as subtle as changing the part in your hair. Or, it could be a more significant shift, like expressing new interests or finding new friends. In any case, I think for many kids, the start of school is a time when they wish to communicate that they’re not exactly the same person they were last year.

Greek Girl: How did you choose the characters’ names? Are any of the characters in Call Me Oklahoma! based on people in your real life?

Miriam: Names play an important part in this story. Paige decides that Oklahoma “is a name with guts,” and believes her feisty new name will pave the way to a more courageous and assertive self. I also try to choose names that fit the characters’ personalities and are fun to say, like Viveca Frye. You have to bite your lip a bit to say it. And your eyebrows jump up a bit, too.

As for the characters themselves, my brother was a lot like Conrad when we were growing up. And we did play a game like the Cottage Cheese Monster. But most of the characters are composites of people I’ve known and imagine. I take a bit of this person and a scrap of that one, and put them together. That’s a big part of the fun in creating characters.

Greek Girl: My favorite scene was the thunderstorm. What was your favorite scene to write? What is your favorite scene to re-read?

Miriam: I think my favorite part was writing Paige’s songs, especially “Paige Rage.” I enjoyed concentrating all of her strong emotions and expressing them through her lyrics.

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One of my favorite scenes to read aloud is when Paige, the picky eater, is confronted with eating cauliflower or as she calls it, “boiled brain nuggets.”

Greek Girl: Where and when do you write?

Miriam: I write most mornings in my small office, next to my bedroom. Sometimes when I need a change of scene or the phone is ringing too much, I take my laptop to the library and work there. I can’t work in coffee shops. I get too interested in people-watching and in listening to their conversations. Of course, that’s often a great way to collect material for stories.

Greek Girl: Did you always like writing as a kid? Did you always illustrate your stories?

Miriam: I didn’t write stories when I was a kid. I thought only authors did that! But I wrote letters to toy companies and my favorite actors and TV shows. For years, I kept a journal. I also liked writing skits and drawing an on-going comic strip about kids at a boarding school. So I guess I was always writing and illustrating in one form or another. It wasn’t until I worked in children’s book publishing that I thought of trying to write my own stories. And though I’ve written two other books, Box Top Dreams and Halloweena, this is the first one I’ve illustrated.

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Greek Girl: What was your favorite book as a child? What is your favorite book ever?

Miriam: That’s a hard question to answer because my favorites changed throughout my childhood. When I was very young I loved Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Madeline, The Nutshell Library, and The Lonely Doll. Later it was Winnie the Pooh, James and the Giant Peach, and anything by Beverly Cleary. Later still, it was Harriet the Spy, The Phantom Tollbooth, and the novels of Sid Fleischman and E.L. Konigsburg. And the list just keeps growing! There’s so much out there to read and treasure.

Greek Girl: Thank you for stopping by Off the Library Shelf. And thank you for being our first ever author interview!

Miriam: Thanks so much for having me as your guest! I hope your readers will enjoy Call Me Oklahoma!

 

If you’re anything like me, or like Greek Girl, you definitely will.

 

Book Information:

  • Reading Level: Grade 2-4
  • Interest: Age 7-10
  • Pages: 123
  • Pictures: A couple per chapter
  • Main Character(s): One 4th Grade Girl
  • Genre: Humor, Fiction

Enter below for your free copy of Miriam Glassman’s Call Me Oklahoma! (open to US Residents only)
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All images appear courtesy of Miriam Glassman.

Borrow. Read. Return. Repeat.