Lesley master of special education Donna Burke Seim releases latest ‘middle reader’ book at Portsmouth, N.H., museum celebration
Monday, August 26, 2013
That book is “Charley,” a children’s historical novel set in 1910 about a boy, abandoned by his father, whose grit and spirit of adventure take him from the New England Home for Little Wanderers to rural Maine. The adventure yarn written by Seim — who received her master’s degree in special education from Lesley — and illustrated by Newburyport, Mass., artist Susan Spellman, officially launches Sept. 1 at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, N.H.
“I knew she could do multicultural children without making them look like stereotypes,” the author says about Spellman, who has illustrated Seim’s other books.
The tale is inspired by the life story of Seim’s friend’s father who, like the book’s protagonist, had to turn to the well-known Boston orphanage for shelter after he and his siblings were abandoned. Like Charley, Meade’s father fell in with a rough crew as a boy before finding his way out of the inner city — and into a life of grueling country labor — by singing in the Home for Little Wanderers’ choir.
Seim, who holds a bachelor’s of social work from Ohio State, said the book and its protagonist’s hardscrabble upbringing really spoke to her because of her teaching and social work background (which included a stint working in direct care at the New England Home for Little Wanderers).
“It was really quite a labor of love to write ‘Charley,’ she said. “The child that is unplace-able, without family … the universal theme that every child needs a home.”
Though she said the actual “writing flowed,” the project turned her and her husband, Martin, into “research sleuths.” The project also spurred Seim to learn about hand-cutting ice (one of Charley’s chores) and face down her fear of heights, as she clambered to the top of a neighbor’s Yankee barn to research a plot development.
“My Nancy Drew in me came out,” she said.
“Charley” follows a handful of other Seim-authored titles, including two picture books, a family memoir and the children’s novel “Hurricane Mia.” Seim said her next project will be a humorous travelogue from an African safari.
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