COVID is still with us, although easing off a little, thank goodness. Did you have a favorite comfort genre to turn to when things were looking bleak? Something that lifted you away and to a different place for a while?
I find a lot of joy in reading together with people. Particularly during the pandemic my family has been reading books aloud as a family, listening to audiobooks together, or reading independently and discussing. With two teens in the house, it has been fun to explore classic literature and discuss what remains relevant about those stories today and what doesn’t hold up well over time. We’ve read Frankenstein, Dracula, Wuthering Heights, The Maltese Falcon, Emma.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I stumble onto intriguing stories all the time just by engaging with the world. As a part of my everyday life, I engage in conversation with other people, follow the news, listen to podcasts, scan social media, etc. The stories that catch my ear the most are those where people have made a positive impact, often by overcoming the odds, or by seeing the world through a unique perspective, or making the most of an unexpected discovery. I like stories where people show great heart. I also am fascinated by stories relating to nature and science, or stories that are just quirky and fun.
Who made reading important to you?
Both of my parents are big readers. My mom was also teacher who taught me to read before I started school. So, I discovered very early how reading was an opportunity for seeing different perspectives, making connections, and finding adventure. Both of my parents continue to read a lot and still tell me about books today.
How would you describe your books?
I think of my books as telling “the story behind the story.” For example, Bei Bei Goes Home: A Panda Story, is about a tiny cub growing up at the Smithsonian National Zoo. And it’s about a larger story about panda conservation, and about the work of scientists to support endangered species, and about the cultural symbolism around these animals. Similarly, Nothing Stopped Sophie is a mathematician who persevered in tackling a problem that others thought was impossible. It’s also a story about the intersections of math, science, history, and culture. In any story, I try to offer readers different layers to enjoy and spark curiosity about the world.
What one thing would you like to learn to do?
I would like to learn how to train a seeing eye dog. My family was once a “starter” family for a puppy, which means that we hosted the puppy for the first six weeks after he left the kennel. He was a couple of months old when he came and we helped him learn housetraining and basic commands. Then the puppy moved on to another family who was going to train him for about two years. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. I’d like to do it again and practice teaching the dogs.
What message would you like to send to young readers?
I hope young readers will always be curious about their world. There are so many wonderful people to meet, places to explore, and ideas to discover. Being curious is a way of opening ourselves up to wondering, listening, and making connections among people and ideas. It can help us consider issues from different perspectives and recognize opportunities to have a positive impact.
Cheryl Bardoe is the author of several acclaimed books for young readers, including China: A History; Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain; and Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age. She lives in Connecticut.
Two nations and a mother panda work together to nurture a “precious treasure” in the remarkable true story of a celebrity panda cub and his life at the Smithsonian National Zoo—and beyond.
Graphically arresting, packed with stunning full-color photographs, and vetted by the Smithsonian National Zoo, Bei Bei Goes Home paints a vivid picture of global conservation efforts—and international collaboration—in the guise of an ever-popular and beloved black-and-white ambassador.