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Leslie Helakoski is the children’s author/illustrator chosen for the 2013-2014 Children Literature Project. She will work with students in the schools; we are planning an exhibit of her art work; and three of her plays will be adapted for production by students. 

I grew up in Louisiana in the middle of six brothers and sisters.  Many of the things we did growing up come out in my stories.  Like smashing into tight places and running through cow pastures, for example.  Once, my sister convinced me that a nutria hole in the banks of the bayou would make a good camp and after I was is, wouldn’t let me out.  See, lots of material. 

I was very good at imagining that I was someone else doing something else and I loved to read and draw.  As a teen, I thought about writing a novel and made several attempts.  The words always sounded better in my head than they did on paper.  (This still happens.)

Growing up in a French speaking area increased my love for language in all forms. I loved how the way a word sounded could make me laugh and how arranging letters and words in a particular order could make them funny or interesting or bizarre. I think that it's possible to say anything or tell any story, as long as you phrase it in a certain way. Since my words don't always come out of my mouth the way I want them to or even when I want them to, I write. Because one of the things that delights me about writing is that I can come up with the right words later - - sometimes much later.

I spent years working in my parent's "Thinking School", a specialized pre-school, while I went to college and learned the importance of combining learning with fun. I received a degree in Advertising from the University of Louisiana and went on to work in several cities.

Eventually, I followed my heart to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where I got a degree in illustration from Northern Michigan University.  Raising my own children brought me back to picture books.  I heard how difficult it was to get published and chose not to listen.  (Something else I’m good at).  As a child, when I dreamed of doing something, I was told, “Of course you do it!”  This quote from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass is on my desk: “Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Now I live in southern Michigan near Kalamazoo with my husband and our three children.  And I still like to hang around with people who tell me “Of course you can do it,” now and then.

To learn more about Leslie and her books, visit her website

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