Anyone who knows Winifred “Oyoko” Loving will confirm that she is a happy, inviting person, who loves to laugh. Hence it comes as no surprise that her second children’s book, My Grandma Loves to Play, 2013, has a jolly, inviting tone. An ideal book for a grandmother to read to her grandchild, it is also a great read for any adult to read to any child, especially as it is about togetherness and having fun.
OPA: You are a poet, a children’s writer and a retired teacher. What grades did you teach and for how many years?
WOL: I taught all elementary grades from Kindergarten through 6th grade over a period of 31 years. In preparation for working with young ones, I received a Masters in Early Childhood Development from Wheelock College in Boston back in 1972. I am ancient!
OPA: You have written 2 children’s books, most recent, My Grandma Loves to Play. I know you are a grandmother. Was this book inspired by your grandchild?
WOL: I have three granddaughters who are the inspiration for most of my writings, and for this book in particular.
OPA: In the notes at the back of the book, you say you emphasize play and family time? Why is the value of both?
WOL: Time spent having fun is more precious than gold to little children. Many life lessons can be said in a funny, animal voice, making it engaging and non-threatening to communicate with a child.
OPA: The book is beautifully illustrated by Niarus Walker, a local artist and teacher, can you talk about how that collaboration came about?
WOL: I went to an art exhibit here on St. Croix, and Niarus was the featured artist. I love her work, so it was only natural that I re-introduce myself a year or so later when I needed an illustrator for My Grandma Loves to Play. Without hesitation she agreed to the job. Niarus has two, beautiful daughters of her own and I do believe she has images in the book that “vaguely resemble” Keren and Rayna! Even her puppy is featured in the story line! I am so grateful that we were able to find time to work together on this book.
OPA: The entire tone of the book is playful, one of patient exploration, and it rhymes. Was the use of rhyme a deliberate choice?
WOL: Oh, yes. It is always fun to rhyme with little ones. If I say hickory, dickory DOCK; the mouse ran up the…(pause) All the kiddies will (more than likely) yell the word CLOCK! Of course, if the class is unfamiliar with Mother Goose, I can begin slowly by teaching rhymes and the meaning of rhyming words. Rhyming poetry is another fun vehicle for learning vocabulary. Memorizing poems at an early age helps the children gain confidence in other learning areas. My story offers a look at a Caribbean grandmother and grandchild, which is a change from mainstream rhyming stories. All my stories, so far, are based in St. Croix, I’m happy to say. This is my home.
OPA: Was there a particular memory or incident that prompted this book, maybe an unmade bed…?
WOL: My own grandmother, rest her sweet soul, taught us manners, the books of the Bible, how to sing three-part harmony, and our bedtime prayers. Those lessons instilled so much confidence into my siblings and me that I now find myself doing the very same things she did!!! To this day I can sing and recite all 66 books~~both old and new testaments!
OPA: How has your years as a teacher, helped you to capture the right tone that would appeal to children?
WOL: Be prepared. Be flexible. Keep it short, keep it sweet, make it fun. Laugh a lot. That’s it!
OPA: When can we expect your next children’s book, and are you willing to share what it is about?
WOL: Most definitely, Opal, my next book will be about a boy who is eagerly waiting for an important event. (I will leavethat for your readers to imagine!) I would like to publish it in 2016. I already have Bethany Kennedy~~an awesome illustrator! (Finally, I have yet another idea looming in my imagination about a book I began while visiting the Philippines last summer.) LOL I am laughing out loud, indeed!
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