Molly McCluskey-Shipman understands children. In fact, a student once told her "You should change your name to Dr. Feel Better; every time I talk to you I feel better."
In addition to Festeva’s Holiday Cheer (2018), Molly is the author of Emma’s Dilemma (2015), The BIST Bunch, and various manuals/articles for nonprofit organizations. Being able to laugh and feel a sense of belonging is essential! Molly hopes that children can relate, identify, and see themselves within her books.
Molly is a Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker in Kansas/Missouri and is the Social Emotional Coordinator for Crossroads Quality Hill Charter School. Molly lives in Kansas City with her teenage daughter and their dog.
Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
A big thanks to SCBWI KS/MO for featuring me as their Pal Interview for November!
The "Why" of Emma's Dilemma
September 17, 2015
I don’t remember the exact circumstances or my age when we talked about the fact that I’m adopted. However, I know that I was young enough to be a bit fuzzy about the concept but old enough to know that others had made fun of the fact that I was adopted.
We were riding in the car when my dad offered, “My last traffic ticket happened when I was driving home to pick up your mom. I was so excited to get her and come pick you up that I was speeding.”
As you can imagine, I had many questions. “Why were you coming to pick me up? When was this? Was it just you and mom?” My parents patiently answered every question, offering up tidbits of that day. I was about a month old, dressed in pink and being held by the social worker. My older brothers were so excited to meet me. My Grandmother, Louise was with them as well and couldn’t wait to hold me.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word "adopted" as: “to take a child of other parents legally as your own child.” At face value this is true, but adoption is so much more! From a personal perspective, adoption is giving your heart to a chosen child, while creating a sense of belonging as a family unit. My parents have done a fantastic job of creating this sense of family and belonging. In fact, they have done this so well that there have been times that I’ve actually forgotten that I’m adopted.
I do recall school assignments that provided reminders of being adopted. It was certainly not the intention of those assigning the project but I experienced discomfort nonetheless. After having my own child I was asked for photographs of myself as a newborn and had to respond, “I’m sorry but I don’t have any.” This response was met with a sense of disbelief from the individuals asking, and provided me pause.
My personal experience, as well as working within the areas of social work and education has provided many opportunities to see the effects of what happens when children feel like they don’t belong. This lack of belonging has a profound effect on children and the adults working with them. In writing Emma’s Dilemma, my hope is that children and adults can identify with the character, story or some element to ask themselves who has had a significant impact on them? In what ways do they belong? How do they help others belong? It is within our hearts that we can offer belonging to others while we pursue our dreams and gain a sense of significance for ourselves.
My daughter and I have experienced both significance and belonging as we’ve volunteered for GPSPCA. During the training, there were many descriptors given of how volunteers impact the dogs; love, comfort, security etc. What we’ve found during the years that we’ve volunteered as dog walkers is we get back two-fold what we give! Being able to provide exercise, comfort and love to our four-legged friends has been a source of joy for my daughter and myself. Watching the staff and volunteers who are so committed to impacting the lives of GPSPCA pets is an inspiration. I’m thankful that we get to be a small part of it!
I sincerely hope that you enjoy Emma’s Dilemma!
"Emma’s Dilemma provides a simple story for ages 3-9, telling of a young school girl's dilemma over a school-assigned family tree project.
As she contemplates some fantastic solutions to her problem, Emma begins to get a real sense of what the project is actually all about - and an idea of how to handle it by applying some, simple out-of-the-box thinking.
A semi-rhyme structure juxtaposes colorful drawings with pages containing no words, breaking up the usual picture (or early chapter) book structure. Young readers receive all the possibilities in Emma's mind, from monkeys and spaceships to royalty: but no matter how much she muses, she still faces a predicament.
The answer to her problems lies not in a fertile imagination alone; but in the application of healthy dose of reality: a process that will delight young readers with good fantasy but, in the end, brings it all home - including vocabulary material, discussion questions, a Chinese symbolism game, and more."
--D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review
“Emma’s Dilemma is a book about a little girl who is asked to do a project about her family tree. The problem is, Emma is adopted and doesn’t know what to write about her family tree. The book does a wonderful job of showing how Emma works through this problem with her family and helps bring light to issues that children who are adopted can face. Ms. McCluskey-Shipman does a great job of writing with compassion. This book is great for families to read and discuss together. Emma’s Dilemma is a must have for teachers, administrators, or any families that are fortunate enough to have an adopted child. Ms. Mc-Cluskey- Shipman does a great job of bringing up a delicate issue.”
--Kathy Mason, Curriculum Coach
Shawnee Mission School District
Emma’s Dilemma is a book for elementary children who feel they don’t fit in. Emma felt she was different from her peers and didn’t fully understand this emotion. The book is well written and has great illustrations for helping visual learners understand Emma’s dilemma.
The psychological need to listen and share is an important component of the book. Emma looks at fantasy, real life situations, and guidance from her family to find solutions for her dilemma. Vocabulary materials, discussion questions, and games provide readers the opportunity to explore different options.
In the end, Emma has a better understanding of her family tree, her family and children who are adopted.
--Charles Jackard, ED.D. Educational Consultant
International Book Promotion (2017)
Purple Dragon Award (2016), Family Matters Honorable Mention
Human Relations Indie Book Awards (2016), Director's Choice Winner
Human Relations Indie Book Awards (2016), Silver Winner
Festeva's Holiday Cheer:
Purple Dragon Award (2019) Holiday