These past few weeks, I’ve had the First Amendment on my mind. It’s being discussed and tested in ways I’ve never seen before. But what exactly does the First Amendment protect? Well, Christy Mihaly has written the perfect book to help. Free for You and Me: What Our First Amendment Means is written for children, but I found it an excellent reminder for parents—and well, me!—of what our First Amendment rights are.
Christy is the ideal author for this book. She practiced law for 20 years and is especially drawn to writing nonfiction for children. She’s written about women’s rights, freedom of the press, immigration, human rights, and how our diets impact the earth’s changing climate.
It’s a free country!
But what does that mean?
Find out the five liberties protected by the First Amendment in Free for You and Me. Vivid examples from history and everyday life demonstrate the meaning of freedom of religion, speech, and the press, and the rights to assemble peacefully and to petition the government.
Christy also writes fiction. Her Hey, Hey, Hay!: A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them is a delightful rhyming story about a girl and her mom “storing summer in a bale.” I grew up in Kansas, with bales as far as the eye could see, but never knew how they were made until now. I also learned about haymaker’s punch, or switchel, a sweet and sour, gingery drink that’s superb for hot summer days. Winter is still in the air here. If it is for you, Hey, Hey, Hay! might just be the right antidote with its endless blue skies and long golden fields. It’s a bright kick of summer to help readers, tall and small, hold on until spring is really here.
Having heard all that Christy writes, it will come as no surprise that she is a multitasker, happiest when she is working on several things at the same time. She digs deep into books and the internet for her research and goes on location and conducts face-to-face interviews whenever she can. When Christy needs something beyond that, she searches out inspiration on walks, at visits to schools and libraries, and from conversations with her cat, Cyrus, and dog, Cheddar.
Christy joins us today from the wilds of Vermont to tell us What Was on Christy Mihaly’s . . .
List of Favorite Things to Tell Kids About the First Amendment: I tell kids . . .
that in some places in the world, speaking out against the country’s leaders can get you thrown into jail;
that in some countries, you can’t march to protest policies you don’t like, and groups that disagree with the government are banned;
and that in some countries, people of one religion are treated better than those who practice other religions, and you can be arrested, or beaten, or thrown out of the country for your religious beliefs.
Examples like these make the First Amendment real, and help kids begin to understand the importance of defending and protecting the freedoms we’re fortunate enough to enjoy.
Desk: Piles. Piles of: notes, notebooks, picture books, ARCs, books to read, research materials, files, calendars, cards, bookmarks, newspaper articles, drafts, manuscripts … you really don’t want to see this.
Refrigerator door: Hah. I used to have a rule: Nothing on the refrigerator door! Somewhere along the line, this rule was relaxed. Now I have:
Lists of lectures, concerts, and book events to attend
Names of movies to see (old, new, obscure, unavailable …)
Sticky notes bearing children’s current (and often updated) mailing addresses
Phone numbers of repair persons
Switchel Recipe: Oh, this is fun and easy! The characters in Hey, Hey, Hay! take a switchel break, so I included the recipe in the back of the book. You take about 4 cups of water (plain or sparkling) and add about 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 4 tablespoons of pure maple syrup (this is the Vermont version) and 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, mix it up and chill it well. It’s a great thirst-quencher on a hot summer day. (If you don’t like the gingery bits in your drink, you can strain them out.)
Switchel may not be to everyone’s taste—when we serve it to young people at schools and events, their reactions range from grins to grimaces. It’s best on a hot day. Note that this is a traditional drink and there are lots of regional variations. I’ve given you the New England version. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about the “ginger-water” that Pa, Laura, and the other workers in the fields enjoyed on a hot summer day out west. I encourage people to experiment with the recipe, make it sweeter or use less syrup, try using honey or molasses instead of syrup, or add cucumbers or mint … and enjoy!
Neighbor’s Farm: I love just watching our hay grow. Our closest farmer neighbors raise hay, cows, and chickens. Other neighbors have goats, sheep, horses, llamas, blueberries, corn, asparagus, and plenty of other fresh vegetable crops. Oh, and hemp.
Walk: So many things! Walks are an indispensable part of my routine. Here’s a cumulative (but still partial) list of what we see, hear, sometimes smell … and daydream about.
Trees, fields, streams, overgrown farm roads, distant mountains, new forest finding a foothold on old clearings, leaves of brown, orange, red, yellow, and so many shades of green;
historic cemeteries, granite fence markers, crumbling stone fences, winding dirt roads, rusty barbed wire, derelict hulks of trucks and mysterious farm machinery, a shiny solar array.
Squirrels, skunk, deer, woodchuck, beavers, coyote, red fox;
a screeching pair of red-shouldered hawks, startled ruffed grouse whirring up from the undergrowth, barred owl on patrol, chickadees, phoebes, cardinals, robins, indigo bunting, sparrows, crows, musical wood thrush;
maybe bobcat, fisher cat, or a juvenile black bear;
footprints and other animal signs in the snow or mud, scat, trees showing bear scratches, moose tracks, deer bedding areas, bits of animal fur, a dead porcupine;
lichen, moss, mushrooms, milkweed, burdock, wildflowers;
salamanders, frogs, turtle, field mice, black flies, woolly worms, other caterpillars, monarch butterflies, moths, dragonflies.
And, ideas. Story ideas. Walks are magical.
Feet: It’s March so I’m still wearing snowshoes to go into the woods. There’s about two feet of snow on the ground. Sometimes, it snows in March, and snow often sticks around until May.
After that, I pull on my mud boots for Mud Season.
List of Biggest Surprises from her Research: Research often produces surprises. Probably my most surprising research findings were for Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought. Of course I had to sample the foods we wrote about, including roasted crickets and Japanese beetles – and yes, I was surprised how crispy-crunchy-tasty they were!
Other big surprises:
In preparing to write an article about the Spanish sailors who sailed with Columbus, I visited a replica of one of their ships, and was stunned to see how tiny the vessel was.
And more food: for the Ultimate Food Atlas, to be published this fall by National Geographic Kids, I needed lots of kid-friendly foody surprises. Winners include that Iceland grows bananas for food, in greenhouses; that there’s a West African fruit sometimes called “miracle berry” which alters your taste buds so that, after eating it, other foods—even lemons—taste sweet; and that on islands of Micronesia, yams grow large that it may take several people to lift one. Fun facts!
Travel Agenda: I recently returned from Switzerland, where I spent a couple of busy, happy weeks caring for three small grandkids. (And met you, Sandra—and decided we must have been close comrades in a prior life!)
The trips I’m currently anticipating are domestic. In the next few months I’m planning to travel to Ann Arbor for KidLitCon 2020 (to present on a panel about picture books, poetry and civic engagement); to Washington, D.C., for the SCBWI nonfiction conference at the Smithsonian, plus some research for a middle grade project and a school visit through An Open Book Foundation; to San Francisco; and to a bunch of Vermont schools.
Mind: The U.S. election season, and my hopes that we rise to the challenges we currently face.
And my appreciation to you, Sandra, for inviting me onto this blog. It’s a privilege to join all the fine writers you’ve gathered here in cyberspace.
So thanks, and happy writing to all!
Thank you, Christy for stopping by–and for expanding my world. Thanks to you, I now know phoebes, woolly worms and fisher cats exist!
You can stay up to date with Christy Mihaly at christymihaly.com, on Facebook (Christy Mihaly – Children’s Author) at https://www.facebook.com/christymihaly/, on Twitter at @CMwriter4kids, and on Instagram @christymihaly.
If you would like to order Free for You and Me: What Our First Amendment Means or Hey, Hey, Hay!: A Tale of Bales and the Machines That Make Them, simply click on the image below. Bear Pond Books, Christy’s local bookstore offers a 10% discount for online orders, PLUS she will go in and sign the book before they ship it to you (shipping is an extra charge, though). Free for You and Me bookmarks are also included while supplies last. (Be sure to scroll down to the end of the form, after clicking to purchase, and request your personalized message.)
If you would like to know more about me and my upcoming books, visit me at sandranickel.com.