Friday, September 7, 2012

Series Review and author Q&A: Susie's Shoeies by Sue Madway Levine

About the author:  Sue Madway Levine has been working with children, families, and schools for more than 40 years. As a Speech and Language Therapist, a Learning Disabilities Resource Teacher, a college professor, researcher, and published author, Sue has dedicated her professional life to making a positive difference in the field of education. During her work at Dominican University in San Rafael, CA, Sue led game-making workshops for local teachers. This lead to her working in the toy and game industry, inventing new products for companies such as Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley, Hasbro, Mattel, Pressman Toy Company, Tiger Electronics, and The Great American Puzzle Factory. After having two of her textbooks published by Academic Therapy Publishing, Sue has now turned to writing children’s literature. Presently she is in private practice as the Director of Educational Services for The Child and Family Study Team. She lives in a suburb of Philadelphia, PA, with her husband, the Service Learning Coordinator at a local school district. Sue spends her free time gardening, making Sailors’ Valentines, and traveling. 


My Reviews

Book 1:  Susie's Shoesies:  Some Dreams Do Come True

The Susie's Shoeies Series is based around a young girl, Susie, whose Grandmother gives her magical red shoes for her eighth birthday.  These magical shoes get named "Susie's Shoeies" by her amazing and resilient rhyming brother, Bennett.  The magical shoes allow Susie to travel throughout time, to talk to famous and/or significant people and to experience significant historical events to help Susie deal with issues in her present day life.

In the first book the world changing pioneer, Eleanor Roosevelt, teaches eight year old Susie, as well as other girls, that they have value.  Mrs. Roosevelt speaks to Susie about her work in gaining equality in our county in the 1948.  Susie learns so much more than a history lesson.  She learns to stay calm during emergencies, to slow down and to think rationally while solving problems and to tackle inequality with "spunk and determination" (p. 78).

I love the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."  The book really captures the meaning behind that statement.

What a great book to kick start a series!

Book 2: Susie's Shoeies:  Another Susie's Shoeies Adventure

The second book in the series tackles the difficult topic of bullying.  I feel that the section of the book that says "I couldn't believe nobody stood up for me and I did not want to be a tattletale" (p. 4), really captures what children feel when they get bullied.  They don't want to speak up for fear the bullying will worsen.  The second book takes Susie and her brother, Bennett, to the Olympics in 1960 where Olympic track star and world class athlete Wilma Rudolph give the kids a lesson of overcoming diversity and unfair treatment with determination and grace.

This book encourages children to conduct research, to look deeper at things, to find connections to what is happening presently and to apply it historical people and events.  This gives the kids ideas on how to deal with the difficult situations.

Here are two quotes that I totally loved.  The first was said by Wilma Rudolph " I ran and ran and ran everyday, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened"  Remember "triumph cannot be had without the struggle" (p. 12).  I feel these are the types of encouraging statement are children need to be reading.

The book also captures the richness of Italian language, art, architecture and culinary excellence.

In the end the kids discover that the bully is going through some tough stuff at home and instead of being mean back they decide to move forward in a positive way.  They join forces and find a great way to turn their once negative relationship into a campaign to better the school.

Book 3:  Susie's Shoeies: A Splendid Reward

In the third book in the series we go on a scientific time travel adventure of epic proportions.  Some tough decisions need to get made by kids when cheating is discovered at the school science fair.  How will the kids deal with this tough subject!?  You must read the book to find out.

The book explains many science based concepts such as; how experiments are conducted, how you can use predictions or create hypothesizes,  how experiments involve trial and error and how they can have splendid rewards when the discovery helps other people.  This book, like the others, encourages reading and research.  The books really teach children that knowledge is power.  What another great lesson to have our children read and eventually put into practice.  How wonderful to teach learning is exciting, how it opens up your world and how it drives you to become a more well rounded, educated person.

I love this series!

Book 4:  Susie's Shoeies: The Show Must Go On

In the forth book in the series the time traveling kids learn lessons of poverty, famine and drought and war.  All the great elements that the series is known for are present in this book.
The book highlights how our history is connected to our futures, how reading give you knowledge and how knowledge can evoke change.  How people's deficiencies can actually be a be benefit, among so many other amazing lessons kids need to be learning. In the end the kids do some amazing things to change and better their home town.  I cannot say enough how much I love the Susie's Shoeies series.  I think they are without exception some if the best books written for this age group (8 and up). I highly recommend this series and rate it 5 stars!!

Q.  What inspires your writing?

A.  The inspiration for my stories comes from life-cycle events in my life and my connectedness to family, friends, and work. As a teacher and teacher of teachers for more than forty years, I have been inspired by the resilience of the children and vulnerable school communities with whom I have had the privilege to help deal with universal educational and social issues. In writing the Susie’s Shoesies books, I wanted to find a way to link lessons from the past with current dilemmas, through literature, and motivate students to revalue themselves as readers and writers. I also hoped this series would demonstrate the positive difference women have made in world events.

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being an author?

A.  This literature series has given me an amazing opportunity to travel across the country and visit at-risk school communities … to work with inspiring students and teachers and show them an exciting way to approach the language arts, social studies, and character education. Of course, showing up to a signing at a bookstore and seeing a line of kids waiting for me is such a thrill.

Q.  What is the toughest part of being an author?

A.  Editing my manuscripts is the most challenging part of being an author.  For many years, I have taught students to use ‘The Writing Process’ which involves various stages of self-editing and peer editing.  However, working through the Susie’s Shoesies documents has given me a new appreciation of just how difficult it is to edit your own writing.

Q.  If you could not be author, what would you do/be?

A. I consider myself an author-educator and there is nothing I would rather do than continue working with children and teachers.

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

A.  Susie’s Shoesies…Some Dreams Really Do Come True!

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?

A.  John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is my favorite book of all time, for now!  I found it to be such a beautifully written and deeply layered story of faith and doubt.

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A.  I would like to think I have some of the stay-the-course traits of Hema in Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone.  On second thought, maybe this book is my favorite of all time!

Q.  What character from all of your book are you most like?

A. As children look at me and then the cover of the books, they usually ask me, “Are you Susie?”  While there are some aspects of Susie Gardner that resemble me and my life (Have you seen my curls?), Granny Ella is modeled after my own granny and I am a lot like her.

Q.  What is your favorite season?

A. I am a summer-time kind of girl…I love the water and my gardens.  We grow about fifteen different kinds of vegetables in addition to having an enormous perennial flower bed.

Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?

A. As an educator, I know the importance of frontloading…accessing prior knowledge and preparing readers for the story or lesson to follow.  The covers are supposed to be part of the mystery as children try to figure out where the characters are going and what will happen along the way.  The cover of book four is my current favorite; my readers will have to look very closely to guess which country Susie, Bennett and Owen will travel to in this adventure.

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

A. When I do a book reading in a school, I usually have about an hour to finish four of the twenty chapters in the first book of the series. Then I donate the book to the school so the teachers can finish the story with their students after I leave. One day, a young boy who was sitting on the floor directly in front of my chair, as I read to his grade, started to cry when I stood up to leave.  He wrapped himself around my legs and said, “You can’t go!  I don’t know what happens to Susie and Bennett!”  His teacher had to pry him off me … so cute!

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A.  With the first four books of the Susie’s Shoesies series completed, I am already working on the fifth book and doing more research on the final three.  When all eight are finished, I am thinking of writing an adult novel about a teacher.

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A.  Choosing a book to read… making a choice of how to spend those few precious moments we can actually do what we want to do, rather than what our busy lives demand we take on, can be difficult.  Friends and family make recommendations but, for me, I find blogs provide a great service to readers.  Each blog has its own personality and when you find one that matches your own, it’s a safe bet you will get some good tips.  Mrs. Mommy  Booknerd takes a positive, yet selective (no posts under three stars) approach to its reviews in a fun yet professional manner; you can get a feeling for a book and gain an understanding of the author’s point of view.  Along with giveaways, this blog is the total package!  I want to thank Emily and all my readers and fans for spending their time with Susie and Bennett Gardner.  Please go to the series website,, and let me know which book you are reading and what you think about that adventure.  Be sure to look for the fourth book in the series, Susie’s Shoesies…The Show Must Go On! available September 15, 2012, in time for Halloween (hint, hint)!

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