American Girls author to speak at local library

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child

February 22, 2008|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Felicity cradled the guitar in her arms. She felt as if she had been given something magic, something full of enchanting music waiting to come out, waiting for her to bring it out. She brushed the strings with her fingertips. They were out of tune, and the fine old ribbon tied to the guitar was frayed. But to Felicity the guitar was perfection. It was a treasure.

"Thank you, Grandfather," she said. "I promise to take care of the guitar. Someday, when I am older, I'll play it for you. We'll sing together."

Grandfather's eyes were their softest gray. "Indeed we shall, my dear girl," he said. "I know you will guard it well and keep it from harm. You are a young lady to be trusted."

- From "Happy Birthday, Felicity!" by Valerie Tripp

The tender relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter appears to be captured effortlessly by the hand of Valerie Tripp. But to the American Girls Collection author, it is just one of many steps in the creative process. The groundwork is laid long before the first sentence is constructed.


Tripp will talk about creativity and writing during a program for girls ages 6 to 12 at Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown on Sunday, March 16, at 2 p.m.

"They can expect to hear the inside scoop - the stories behind the stories," said Tripp during a phone interview this week from her home in Silver Spring, Md.

Jeff Ridgeway, head of children's services for the library, invited Tripp to present a program after he learned she lived in the Washington, D.C., area.

The program is free, but tickets are required. Tickets can be picked up in the children's department of the library.

Tripp's talk will be interactive, encouraging girls to stand and curtsey, pretend that they are replastering adobe walls and try on some of the clothes they've read about in the American Girl books. Girls also will have the opportunity to have a photo taken with Tripp and for her to sign their books.

"We will move around quite a bit. I find it hard to sit still, and I remember how hard it was to sit still when I was a little girl," Tripp says.

Young girls often become attached to the characters in Tripp's books.

"Very often children ask me if the characters are real," Tripp says. She gently explains that in historical fiction, the history is real but most of the characters are pretend.

Many times the personalities of her characters will mirror the conflict occurring at that time in history. For example, Tripp's character Felicity is a young girl who lived in Williamsburg, Va., during Colonial times. Just as the colonies wanted to be independent of the British king, Felicity yearns for independence and freedom in the choices she wants to make.

Whenever Tripp begins a writing project, she immerses herself in that time period.

"I always begin with a great deal of research," Tripp says.

She reads about the time period. She travels to places she plans to include. She listens to music and studies artwork from the era.

Then she begins the challenging work of organizing that information into a compelling story.

That formula is one that keeps young girls returning to American Girls books for more.

ยท To reserve a free ticket to Valerie Tripp's program, call Washington County Free Library at 301-739-3250, ext. 132, during library hours - Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. No more than four tickets will be given out to one group unless they belong to the same family. Seating at Tripp's presentation is limited to children. Parents may wait on the main level for their children until the program ends.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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