Stand Up and What? We asked Phyllis J. Perry the big questions on our blog!
When seventh grader Jeannie learns that Keelor Construction plans to exterminate two prairie dog colonies to make way for construction projects, she takes immediate action. From taking part in a protest, to organizing a petition drive, to speaking before city council, Jeannie fights to save the threatened animals. She manages to balance this activism with her schoolwork and auditioning for the school talent show with her best friend, Mary Jo. With support from her friends, schoolmates, family, and other adults, Jeannie learns the power of people acting together, and that anyone can make a difference if they decide to act.
Stand Up and Whistle is Phyllis J. Perry's newest book for children that teaches the young people of our generation to take a stand on issues they believe in. Courageous and dedicated best friends, Jeanie and Mary Jo, are excellent role models for today's youth. In celebration of its upcoming release, we talked with Stand Up and Whistle author, Phyllis J. Perry about her thoughts on current prairie dog populations, inspiration for the characters, and tips for parents.
AJ: How did you come up with the idea for Stand Up and Whistle?
PP: I live in Boulder, Colorado and the issue of what to do when a prairie dog colony is in the way of growth and construction has been a real-life problem that has been featured in our local newspapers and at city council and county commissioners' meetings. Although the book is fiction, it has a basis in everyday events that take place here in Boulder.
AJ: What do you want readers to take away from this book?
PP: The middle school students who take out a petition to try to relocate rather than exterminate prairie dogs make it clear that they are not against the jobs being created in building and working in a new mall. They are seeking a more humane way of solving the prairie dog problem and are willing to work with others to seek a solution. My hope is that readers will come away with an understanding the problems are sometimes complex, and that when people are willing to work together rather than condemn one another or call each other names, good solutions can often be found.
AJ: Are any of the characters based on people you know in real life?
PP: Yes. My granddaughter just completed middle school last month. She and her friends are concerned about animals and social issues. They help keep me in touch with the interests and concerns of today's students.
AJ: How would you suggest parents use this book to help their kids get involved in the community?
PP: The students in this book don't just sit and complain. They take an active part in their community. They get their facts straight. They use a "letters to the editor" column in the local newspaper and also use photographs to draw attention to their issue. They circulate a petition and talk with others in the school and the neighborhood to generate support. They work with the elected officials in their town. Students can participate and feel empowered in working for causes that are important to them.
AJ: Why prairie dogs?
PP: Prairie dogs are a real challenge here in Boulder where I live. They are interesting animals and are a keystone species important in the food chain. Their communication with one another is especially interesting.
AJ: When did you begin writing books for children, and why?
PP: I taught children and sometimes found that books I wanted to use with students weren't readily available. I began writing books to fill those gaps. I began with nonfiction books and then began writing fiction books as well. On moving from California a to Colorado, I found myself teaching Colorado history. One of my first books, A Kid's Look at Colorado, was an attempt to provide a useful book that would interest young readers.
Stand Up and Whistle - Released July 19th, 2016
Click here to read more about Phyllis J. Perry.