2006-10-07 / News

Author Visits Mackinac Island School

By Ryan Schlehuber

Children's storybook author Gloria Whelan reads from her new book, "Mackinac Bridge: The Story of the Five-Mile Poem," to an audience of elementary students and adults at Mackinac Island Public School Friday, September 29. The young characters in her book helps students relate to Michigan history. Children's storybook author Gloria Whelan reads from her new book, "Mackinac Bridge: The Story of the Five-Mile Poem," to an audience of elementary students and adults at Mackinac Island Public School Friday, September 29. The young characters in her book helps students relate to Michigan history. Gloria Whelan captures a child's attention with the young characters she includes in her books about Michigan history. During a visit to the school Friday, September 29, she read from her newest book, "Mackinac Bridge, The Story of the Five-Mile Poem."

The story is about a boy in the 1950s whose father is a car ferry captain and whose brother helps construct the Mackinac Bridge.

Mrs. Whelan, who visited with Island students 10 years ago, said a story about the building of the Mackinac Bridge was inspired by her publisher, Sleeping Bear Press, and, as she has with so many of her books, she found a way to relate the tale to her young readers by relating the experience through the eyes of a child.

"I wanted to tell a story, not just write about the building of the bridge," said Mrs. Whelan.

By centering the story around a young boy's interest in the bridge and the appreciation of his father's work as captain of the ferry Aurora, Mrs. Whelan's readers could relate to the main character, an angle commonly found in Mrs. Whelan's books that helps associate her readers with history.

For the story, she checked historical facts with the Mackinac Bridge Authority and others involved in building the bridge, which was completed in 1957.

"If you're teaching history, Gloria's books are a great way to get the kids associated with time periods in Michigan history," said elementary teacher Laura Eiseler. "She creates such vivid pictures. I use her as a great example of rich language."

Elementary students in the classrooms of Ms. Eiseler and Karen Allen have been reading Mrs. Whelan's books this year.

Two of Ms. Eisler's favorite Whelan books are "Traders in Time" and "Journey Back into Lumber Camp."

Ms. Allen's fourth grade students are reading Mrs. Whelan's three-book series about a young girl named Mary living on Mackinac Island during the 1800s.

"The kids were wonderful," said Mrs. Whelan of the Island students. "I enjoyed talking to the kids and I love knowing what they are thinking. I love that these kids are into reading."

Mrs. Whelan, who has published 35 books, including adult short stories, was born in Detroit but lived in the Kalkaska area for 32 years with her husband. Her newest book, "Parade of Shadows," depicting life in Syria before World War II, is expected to be released October 2007.

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