Friday, February 03, 2006

 

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine

_________________________________________________________________

Daily Chronicle
By Aracely Hernandez
January 30, 2006



Holding a copy of her recently “Secrets of a Civil
War Submarine,” local children’s book author Sally
Walker of DeKalb stands among the rows of children’s
books at the DeKalb Public Library on Friday.
Chronicle photo HOLLY LUNDH

DeKalb author wins prestigious award
DeKALB - Sally M. Walker scanned the shelves of the DeKalb Public Library on Friday for her award-winning book “Secrets of a Civil War Submarine.”

“I don't know if I've ever seen it on a library shelf,” she said as she looked at the spines of the thin books in the young-adult section.

“It's checked out,” one of the clerks called to Walker, a frequent library patron.

Walker smiled.

Since 1990, Walker, 51, of DeKalb has written more than 40 books for children. Last Monday, she received the Sibert Informational Book Award. It was announced at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in San Antonio. The award was established in 2001 and is presented to the writer of the most distinguished informational book for children published in the prior year.

Walker's book tells the story of the CSS H.L. Hunley. In 1864, it was the first submarine to sink a warship, although the Hunley also sank in the engagement. The Confederate submarine was discovered 131 years later on the ocean floor near Charleston, S.C. The first part of the book covers the history of the submarine, while the second tells the story of the search for and discovery of the vessel.

It took Walker a year to research the book and four months to write it.

She is ecstatic about the award.

“This is the Mount Everest of children's literature, and I just climbed it,” she said.

Her friends at the library are happy for her, too.

A poster at the library bears her photo and a photo of her book and announces her as the winner of the award. A display of her books, including titles such as “Volcanoes: Earth's Inner Fire” and “Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter,” sits on top of the card catalog in the children's section.

“We are so proud of her,” library circulation clerk Marge Dumstrof said and patted the back of Walker's hand.

Walker, who studied geology and archeology at Upsala College in East Orange, N.J., said she always wanted to be a writer of children's books, but was discouraged from doing so by a high school counselor.

She said she started writing in her 30s after she saw an ad in Writer's Digest magazine seeking someone to write a book on earth science. Her first published book is “Glaciers: Ice on the Move.”

It took the publishing company six months to decide it would publish the book and another year before it was printed.

“I love this,” she said about writing for children. “I want them to be readers. What I want them to do is love books.”

Walker, who came to DeKalb 20 years ago when husband James started teaching geology at Northern Illinois University, said the first place she visited - even before seeing her new home - was the library.

“I told them, ‘We need a library card. I haven't even gone to my home, yet,'” she recalls saying. “‘I need books.'”

She said the library is her home away from home and she reads just about everything she can. During childhood, her favorite fictional character was Nancy Drew.

One of the most important things any child can have is a library card, she said.

“I always emphasize that to kids,” she said. “The library is free and you own every (book).”

Her advice for people who want to write?

“Read. Read more books,” she said. “The more you read the better you write.”


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