The children’s book, Molly and the Sword, tells of a young girl who, with the help of a mysterious horseman, overcomes obstacles on the road to success as a violinist. It has garnered rave reviews from music and education magazines. Here to talk about the book is author Robert Shlasko.
Thanks for this interview, Robert. I understand this is your first book.
Yes, but I’ve been a writer all my working life — science, international trade, business, speeches… pretty much any sort of writing where I could make a living.
Anything for children?
Some — when my own children were young. Fiction and non-fiction. For example, my articles on chess appeared in a leading children’s magazine.
So where did the idea for Molly and the Sword come from?
It started as an incident that had happened to my mother in the First World War. I moved the story back about a century. Then, to advance the plot, I added the violin since that was the instrument my son played. Curiously, after the book came out, I met a woman who told of a similar incident that happened to her grandmother.
Art imitating life and life imitating art.
That’s what I tell the students when I read in the schools.
Do you visit schools often?
Every chance I get. I’ve read in private and public schools, at a Montessori school, at a United Nations school. In two weeks I’m returning for my third visit to an elementary school in a multi-ethnic section of Queens, New York.
What ages are the students?
I’ve read in everything from the first to the fifth grade. As you can imagine, the discussions get a lot more sophisticated in the upper grades. But each level brings its own questions and its own pleasures for me. I say the book’s for ages 7-12 – although I know that’s a big range.
Yes, I read one reviewer who even stretched that age range a bit.
Both up and down. In fact, I get letters from adults who respond to the story. A 25-year-old violinist in the Iraqi National Symphony wrote that she uses the book as a defense against stage fright. And I’ve received notes from adult men who’ve admitted to shedding tears at the emotions raised in the story. Yet there’s nothing depressing or frightening in the plot. I find it surprising that, if anything, fathers seem to react more emotionally than anyone to the story.