Her first, What the Moon Said, was published in 2014. But Rosengren of Fitchburg is no newcomer to writing. Below are the Tofte-Wright judge’s comments about Cold War on Maplewood Street, Rosengren’s remarks and the excerpt of her winning book she read at the May 14, 2016, Awards Banquet. More about her career and writing experiences is at her website, http://www.gaylerosengren.com/
Here are the judge’s comments:
“A charming middle grade novel that blends everyday concerns, a young girl’s complicated relationship with her beloved military brother, and a unique backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This poignant historical read is both intriguing and relatable.”
When Rosengren was introduced at the Awards Banquet, she said:
Thank you Council of Wisconsin Writers, for honoring Cold War on Maplewood Street with the Tofte-Wright Children’s Literature Award. I learned that it had been chosen when I checked my email while sitting at a stop light I knew to be especially long, and I was so excited that I broke the speed limit all the way home so I could read the email again to make sure I hadn’t misread it, and to tell my husband, Don, the wonderful news. Thanks are due in large part to him as well, since he is not just my beta reader but my cheerleader, chief consoler and head celebrator for all the significant moments on my writing journey.
Cold War on Maplewood Street takes place in Chicago during the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962—a week in which the United States came closer to nuclear war than at any time before or since. I wrote it because I was stunned to discover how many people either didn’t know anything about the crisis, or else they viewed it as a kind of false alarm since, after all, nothing happened in the end, right? As far as I’m concerned, though, the fact that “nothing happened” is the most important takeaway from the event. President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev negotiated, and by using words instead of weapons, World War III was averted. How can this not be one of the core lessons taught in social studies classes? I wanted to make sure that even if today’s youngsters never heard about this life-changing week from their parents or in a history class, a few of them at least might learn about it by reading my book. I lived through that scary week as a 12 year-old girl; readers can share the experience as they read about how it impacted my main character, 12 year-old Joanna.
Following is the excerpt she read at the Banquet:
She hurried back to the living room, but the president wasn’t on the screen anymore. There were just newscasters talking about the speech and what it might mean for Americans. They wore worried frowns and talked in serious voices. They spoke of possible consequences to the president’s speech. The word war was mentioned many times.
Joanna sat on the scratchy rug so she could gather Dixie into her lap. “Don’t worry, Dix,” she whispered.. “Sam’ll be all right. And so will we, I promise.” The warmth of Dixie’s body helped ease some of the icy shivers that rippled through Joanna whenever she heard the word war.
She knew Russia—technically the Soviet Union—had been an enemy of the United States for a long time. People talked about the Cold War between them. That had confused Joanna. “What’s a cold war? Do they only fight in winter?” she’d asked Sam once.
His chipped tooth had flashed in a grin. “No, it means they don’t fight at all—at least not directly. They know that if they fought one another it might end in a nuclear war that would destroy both of them.”
“But if they’re not fighting, why do they call it a war?”
Sam had frowned. “It’s kind of hard to explain. But they fight in other ways, usually by supporting opposite sides in wars in smaller countries.”
“That sounds awfully sneaky,” Joanna had said.
“It is. But it’s better than fighting each other outright.” Sam had said this with such certainty that Joanna didn’t doubt that he was right.
Still, she had to say, “I don’t get it. Why can’t everybody just get along? Why do there have to be wars at all?”
“I don’t know, Jo,” he’d said, shaking his head. “It seems stupid, doesn’t it? But I guess it just comes down to people wanting different things and trying to force what they want on everyone else.”
Joanna remembered their conversation now with a shudder. Was Russia suddenly ready to end the Cold War and risk a nuclear one? She was still huddled on the floor with Dixie, trying to make sense out of what the news people on TV were saying, when a key turned in the lock and Mom came through the door with a whoosh of cool air.
Dixie ran to greet her and Joanna sprang up from the floor. “You’re home early! I’m so glad. Did you hear the president’s speech?”
Mom dropped her books and purse on the couch and went straight to Joanna to wrap her in a hug. “Yes, Jo, I heard.”
“Do-do you think there’s going to be a war?” It seemed impossible that Joanna was even asking such a question. War was something that happened in other countries, not here in the United States. Not in Chicago on Maplewood Street.