Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a maker of things—all kinds of things. Cookies, short movies, wishes, invitations, books for adults, books for kids, surprising connections, palindromes….
At a recent visit to Wild Rumpus Bookstore in Minneapolis, Rosenthal made fun for those who gathered using a large tablet of paper, some markers, and letters and numbers every child of a certain age knows.
“Can you read this?” she asked as she wrote a phrase on her large tablet of paper. They could. TOO BAD I HID A BOOT.
“Who can read it backwards?” Rosenthal asked.
One by one the twinkle in her eye came into theirs as kid after kid realized the phrase read the same when started from the left or right—forwards or backwards—the magic of palindromes! Rosenthal had more games with words—more palindromes, words within words, puns, clever logos, and wumbers—to share.
Wumbers is the title of Rosenthal’s newest book for kids. Cre8ted with illustr8tor Tom Lichtenheld, Wumbers (Chronicle Books) is a book about the fun you can have combining words and numbers. It’s phonetics with a twist. Kids light up as they read them, giggle as they make them. Rosenthal clearly delights in sharing them.
“I fell in love with words,” Rosenthal tells the kids when somebody asks how she became a writer. “I like touching words.” She talks about a lifetime of wordplay as the springboard for her writing career.
“Once you’re made aware…its just fun to find them.” Rosenthal looks everywhere for wumbers, puns, scrambles, words within words—signs, bookcovers, headlines, nametags. She believes wordplay can lead to broader and deeper reading.
“I wasn’t an avid reader as a kid,” she says. “I was an avid student. I was concerned with reading for the right answer. But I wasn’t the freaky obsessed avid reader I am today.” She points out the relationship contained in the two words: (READ)Y. “A kid has to be ready to read.”
Today, Rosenthal lives with her family in Chicago in a home they designed to reflect the importance of reading in their lives. Their house is built on a spine of sorts (you can imagine how much she loves this architectural pun) – three stories of bookcases make up the stairway for their home. She works in her book-centric home and in coffee shops and wherever else she finds herself, writing books, dreaming up projects, making things. She believes in setting aside time to think—really think. She promotes working in the crevices of life—the small in-between pockets of time scattered through the day. She has a TED talk on the concept, in fact.
“No one has vast uninterrupted amounts of time,” she points out. “But 20 minutes here, 45 there…even five- to ten-minute increments add up. You can get a lot done in those crevices.”
Rosenthal believes there are connections waiting to be discovered everywhere. She lives and works with the conviction that everything influences everything. She points out the obvious influence of Steig’s book, CDB, on Wumbers.
“Love that book!” she says. She also loves Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and the Olivia books, Ferdinand, and Fortunately, Unfortunately. All of these books challenge assumptions and encourage new and creative ways of looking at things—clear influences in Rosenthal’s work.
Amy Krouse Rosenthal delights in connections between disparate things. She is committed to creating places and opportunities for others to do the same. She is in partnership with WBEZ Chicago Public Radio creating “missions” for anyone who wants to join her—and a lot of people do! They have beckoned loveliness, cheered people on in the marathon of life, received gifts from a money tree and a POETree, danced in a Flashdance mob…. Her website www.whoisamy.com documents some of the adventures she has instigated. All bring smiles and a gladness of heart.
Back at Wild Rumpus, Rosenthal continues wumber adventures with the kids. They are el8ted to discover more puns, tricks, and interesting connections. She shows them how OK on its side looks like a person. (Try it.) She points out that the alphabet is super-friendly. (abcdefgHIjklmnop….) And then she lets them in on her latest discovery…. Wumbers does not use the number 3 in the book. This was because Rosenthal and Lichtenheld could not think of a wumber using 3. But now they have! The ear3 volves around the sun. A concept wor3 peating! says Rosenthal as the kids clap.
Melanie Heuiser Hill is a freelance writer living in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, with her family (one husband, two kids). Since meeting Amy Krouse Rosenthal, she is seeing wumbers and wordplay everywhere.