Amazon announced it’s “20 Best Children’s Books of 2017” last week.
Among the titles was “A Band of Babies” by award-winning author Carole Gerber.
Gerber, a resident of Delaware County, has received 14 awards for her work as a poet and children’s book author. She said she’s authored about two dozen picture books. She’s also written early readers for children, chapter books, and around 100 or so science and reading books for large publishers of children’s book.
The synopsis of “A Band of Babies,” printed by “Publisher Weekly” in May 2017, reads: “Benny, a newcomer to the play-group, exudes energy as he toddles into a room filled with bored babies, whose eyes brighten with anticipation. After Benny pulls a drum from a toy box, his playmates follow suit, and Gerber’s story takes off — as do the babies … It’s an exuberant celebration of toddlers’ willful, can’t-be-stopped independence, …”.
Gerber said when an adult reads a book, they’ll read it once, put it away, and not pick it back up to read it again for years. That’s not the case with children.
“If kids love a book, they want to hear it over and over and over,” she said. “They want it read to them every night.”
Gerber shared a story of a woman who contacted her through the publisher of her book “Firefly Night.” The woman told Gerber her niece really loved the book, but that the family’s home burned down and they lost everything. The family tried finding a copy of the book, but couldn’t.
“It was out of print,” Gerber said. “I started crying and pulled one out and signed it for her. It was so touching that she would be so attached.”
Gerber said as a little girl growing up in a small Ohio town, “my thrill was when the bookmobile would come around and I would always take the maximum number of books.”
Gerber admits even now, “I read all the time. I probably take out five to 10 books at a time.”
However, she admits the majority are picture books she researches to learn what type of manuscripts publishers are buying.
While reading her pile of books from the bookmobile in her younger years, Gerber said she did think of being a writer. However, she chose to teach English to middle and high school students.
“It wore me out,” she said. “Nowadays, I’m perfectly happy to work at my desk, meet a friend for lunch or something, and have control over my schedule.”
Gerber said she learned much while pursuing a graduate degree in journalism.
“Back then I was learning from the old guys that covered the war. I would have two or three people standing around waiting for me to finish typing a story for a deadline,” she said.
Gerber noted that her writing still leads back to the standards of journalism, the “who, what, where, when, why, and how. Every story has that, whether it’s a little band of kids going through a grocery store or whatever.”
As a freelance writer for several years, she took assignments from publishers for science and reading books as “work for hire.” The books were written for a flat fee and many are still in circulation, she said.
“Mark (her husband) and I were in Amsterdam when I saw one that I had written years ago,” she said. “It gives you discipline. I did all kinds of stuff as a full-time freelancer. If I could get people to define what they wanted, I knew I could write about it.”
Gerber has worked as an adjunct professor of journalism at The Ohio State University, a marketing director, and an editor of a company magazine. She has been a member of creative teams for an advertising agency and a hospital, a contributing editor for a computer magazine, and she has written hundreds of elementary textbooks, magazine articles, speeches, annual reports, and patient education materials.
Gerber said writing advertising copy for McGraw-Hill led her to write children’s books. She said she has been rejected more times than she can count.
“I read somewhere that one in 5,000 manuscripts gets accepted to be published,” she said. “I don’t think I’m special or wonderful. I look at this as my trade.”
Gerber said she likes writing in verse, “because everything is so condensed, you really have to get to the point. My audience is kids. Kids don’t want to hear a big long treatise.”
Gerber volunteers at the Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware during the spring and fall, leading groups on tours of the farm.
“I don’t take anybody past the fourth grade,” she said. “I like the little kids. I think I’d be a fraud as a children’s book author if I didn’t enjoy children and spend time with them. I teach them how to climb a farm fence and we’ll gather apples to feed to the pigs. The kids are just exhausted at the end of the tour.”
Gerber said the advice she gives people, especially kids, who want to be writers is, “Your first thought isn’t your best though, it’s only your start. If you’ve got a story, then you tell someone your story; then you’ve satisfied that need to communicate it. I never tell my stories until they’re published. Sometimes I have to wait for two years.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.