Shelley Michael is the author of “All Aboard!: The Adventures of
Louise and Her Pink Polka Dot Suitcase.” The children’s book was
inspired by her love of transportation and traveling with her daughter
and husband. It’s also a fit with her role as director of the early
childhood center at Assumption Parish in south St. Louis County.
How did you get the idea for the book?
always loved literacy, all through school and college. Before I had (my
daughter) Georgie, I sent in a bunch of manuscripts. I was turned down.
A lot. After I had Georgie, I decided to try again from a different
perspective — from a mommy’s brain and a little further in my career.
is a true story of me, Georgie and (my husband) Bill taking a train
trip to Normal, Ill., when Georgie was 3. She received a pink polka-dot
suitcase from Santa for Christmas. So we took a train trip over
Christmas break. The book is that story, of her not wanting to give the
conductor the suitcase because it was important to her. Inside the
suitcase was her bear.
She now is 8 years old, loves to travel and
has four suitcases. We now are working on a second book which includes
an airplane ride.
How difficult was it to get the book published?
hard. Start to finish, from chatting with the publisher to having the
book in my hand, was 20 months. Lots of edits. Lots of patience. You
have to learn to be super open-minded to the editing process. One of the
big things is that Georgie is a blonde-haired girl, and in this book
Louise is a red-haired girl. The kids ask that question all the time
when we go to schools for author demonstrations. My explanation is
that’s the process of being open to receiving feedback on your work. We
were trying to figure out what could be eye-catching. A little
red-haired girl is eye-catching. … and Louise is the name of my
husband’s mom who passed away and never got to meet Georgie.
Why is it important that children read?
is a great foundation for beginning language skills. It’s important new
mothers read to their babies while they’re in their bellies, that we
read to our babies even when they’re not reading yet because they’re
listening, hearing language, hearing the spoken word, hearing their
parents’ voice, which creates bonds.
What else do you do to encourage reading?
started a free library in my front yard. It’s a pink polka-dot
suitcase. I try to keep it stocked with children’s books. Webster has a
ton of little free libraries (see littlefreelibrary.org). My long-term
goal, and I’ve been working with my publisher a bit on this, is to get
some pink polka-dot suitcase libraries in some underfunded,
Why do you like working at Assumption?
I really do enjoy children from birth to 5. They’re me. I get it. I sit on the floor. … you have to be comfortable with that.
How do you bring your faith into your work?
very value-based. To be kind, to love one another. We do a lot of
outreach to the homeless. I’m a huge believer that everyone needs an
opportunity. That’s why it’s important for me to give the opportunity
for literacy for all children, not just those who can’t afford it. We
have received some donations of books from people who own businesses to
buy books for a classroom. I will go to the school, read and give away
Did your faith play a role in creating the book?
in perseverance. Absolutely. I’d come home from work every day to “No
thank you.” Every time I sign a book, I sign it “Be amazing.” I think it
may sound cliche, but I think everyone has a way to be amazing, whether
it’s to be good friend, have a kind heart … .
PARISH: Annunciation in Webster Groves
FAMILY: Husband, Bill; daughter, Georgie, 8
POSITION: Director of the early childhood center at Assumption Parish in south St. Louis County
FAVORITE SAINT: St. Teresa of Kolkata because she took care of children and babies
OF: “All Aboard!: The Adventures of Louise and Her Pink Polka Dot
Suitcase.” The book is available at The Novel Neighbor, Left Bank Books,
through her office at Assumption School and on Amazon.