An Interview with Don M. Winn: Comfort for Cold Winter Days

Dec 3, 2021 by

Don M. Winn

Michael F. Shaughnessy

1) Don, it has been a long year- and some of us are looking for the comfort of a good book. Do you have any suggestions?

I have been enjoying what I think of as “experience” books. In other words, books that take me to nature and its rich experiences, or those that focus on history and the lives of those who came before us. Here are several favorites:

Planthropology: The Myths, Mysteries, and Miracles of My Garden Favorites by Ken Druse taught me about the adventures of early explorers for whom the discovery of a new species was worth a risky trip around the globe in wooden ships. It’s a great way to learn the exotic history of plants that many of us have in our own yard and see them with a new sense of wonder.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks is an insightful, thoughtful, and inspiring series of histories of neurodiverse patients of Dr. Sacks. These stories demonstrate the incredible resilience of the human spirit and the adaptability of the human mind. I have always loved his essays because they humanize the unexpected and misunderstood among us, and, as a neurologist, he modeled seeing the person, not just their symptoms.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson is a seminal work that follows the lives of three African Americans as they migrate from the south to carve lives for themselves in more northern and western climes. The triumph of the human spirit over terrible circumstances, the hope for better opportunities, and the grit and determination to make dreams come true are themes throughout this moving work.

Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Code Talkers of WWII by Chester Nez is a fascinating history of the only unbroken code in modern war history. The Navajo Language Code Talkers were a group of 29 military specialists who worked in total secrecy and isolation (even from each other), and their role was only declassified in 1968. The author shares moving stories of his childhood and the ways his culture gave him the strength and the values that shaped his life.

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane is an amazing reacquaintance between our connection with the land we walk on and the paths we pursue and travel emotionally and sociologically. There is something about the understanding of ourselves we gain as we travel the earth on foot that centers us and sharpens focus on what really matters; literally, “grounding” us as the self merges with the landscape. The author describes his peregrinations of almost six thousand miles all over the British Isles, Turkey, Tibet. This book inspires the reader to get out and go for a walk, if even in your own suburban neighborhood.

2) Don, since some kids have been “out of school” for a while, we have to get them reading again. Any ideas for some enchanting stories?

Reaching back to my own childhood, I remember hanging on every word as my teacher read The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pené du Bois. I reread it just a couple of weeks ago, and while I found it a bit wordy as an adult, it did bring back great memories of the word pictures this tale of adventure and travel evoked in my curious young mind.

Another good book from my youth is My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. It’s about a boy who learns courage and independence while attempting to live off the land in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. And I always enjoyed a good Hardy Boys story and other favorite charmers that come to mind are Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and anything by Roald Dahl.

As for more recent children’s books, of course, I recommend my award-winning Sir Kaye the Boy Knight series. Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo is a very enjoyable book with lots of fantastic illustrations about a lonely girl who discovers a superhero squirrel. The Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Park are hilarious chapter books for younger readers. The books I Hate Reading and The Book No One Wants to Read by Beth Bacon are entertaining books for kids who don’t enjoy reading. And the book Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai offers an interesting perspective to middle-grade readers of an American girl reluctantly learning more about her Vietnamese roots during a summer visit to her family in Vietnam.

3) As you know, some parents have children with dyslexia or reading problems. Do you have any books specifically to assist parents with the IEP and educational process?

My book, Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know (now in its second edition) walks parents through every step of the challenging educational maze. There are a number of resources for different avenues of advocacy. It also helps parents discern what kind of social and emotional support their child needs and practical action points for providing that crucial aspect.

4) One of my favorite books of yours is Sir Kaye. What is happening with his most recent adventures?

Thank you! In book four, The Eldridge Conspiracy, there are some very poignant and powerful moments of growth for Kaye. Kaye has always missed being with his father, a knight of the realm who also serves as an envoy to another country, is gone for a major part of Kaye’s childhood. Kaye struggles with the meaning that he makes from that fact. (Meaning-making is a psychological term that describes our human need to strive to understand, or assign meaning, to life events and ourselves and our worth.) The story arc in The Eldridge Conspiracy depicts a series of challenges that Kaye chooses to face bravely, and, in the process, he discovers who he is, and has the added joy of making his father proud.

5) What is new on the horizon for next year?

I am happy to report that a prequel novella about Reggie, Kaye’s best friend (who also happens to be dyslexic) is in the works for 2022.

6) What have I neglected to ask?

Nothing, but there are a couple of thoughts I would like to add. These past couple of years have been a real trial for people all around the world. There have been many losses, and my heart goes out to all who have felt pain and anxiety due to this world’s circumstances. I invite your readers to use great books as a tool for comfort, inspiration, adventurous escape, and hitting their emotional “reset” button, and especially to keep their dreams alive and cultivate a sense of possibility. And I thank you for all you do to keep the benefits of literacy and reading in the public eye. You make a difference!

7) Where can you learn more about your books and how to purchase them?

My website/blog is https://donwinn.com/, and you’ll find lots of information about my books and resources for teachers and parents there. Here is a link to my Don Winn Amazon author page as well.

All of my chapter books are available in softcover, hardcover, eBook, and audio.

All of my books are also available for significant discounts to schools, libraries, non-profits, retailers, and vendors directly from Cardboard Box Adventures Publishing or Ingram/LSI.

I can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.

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