When Olivia Polk ’14 was in kindergarten, she never thought she would grow up and write a book. Then in college, inspiration struck, and a story poured out into a children’s book, Millie the Magical Stone Skipper. Polk is now on the journey of introducing Millie to the world, and one of her first stops was the MICDS Lower School!
Polk visited with Senior Kindergarten and third-grade students, where she read the story of Millie. This Wild West tale empowers young readers to try new things and live purposeful and authentic lives. With the help of a wise frog, Millie harnesses her own power to persevere and help others.
Listening to the engaging story and learning about the book-writing process were fitting companions to our Senior Kindergarteners’ unit on making books about themselves. They are studying the different parts of books, what an author is, the art of illustrating books, and how authors and illustrators work together. They asked Polk questions about who created the illustrations, how the book was printed, how she “got the words to be so tiny,” and if she made the paper, and then tried guessing how many copies of the book she made.
Polk shared that her inspiration came from her personal experiences in the Tetons and wove her childhood memories and her Williams College studies in folk and fairytale storytelling into the fabric of this book. “I always loved reading and writing, and English was my favorite subject at MICDS,” she said. “I majored in English at Williams College, and during my junior year, I studied abroad in Copenhagen, studying folk and fairy tales. I learned all about the Brothers Grimm, and one of the assignments for a course was to write our own modern fairytale. That assignment was the original draft of Millie, a Wild West reimagining of the classic Grimm tale The Four Skillful Brothers.
Millie soon became the protagonist, the heroine, and the foundation for a female empowerment story that Polk decided to submit to Girl Friday Productions, an independent publisher in Seattle, a year after graduating from college, “Publishing was a completely unknown industry to me. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I had a great editor who managed the whole project from start to finish. Then, last summer, I took a publishing course at Columbia’s journalism school to learn more about the business of publishing. I feel so lucky to have gone through this process and learned so much along the way.”
Lower School Librarian Thomas Buffington was delighted to have Polk as a special guest. “Our students were thrilled to hear the story about Millie and learn about Ms. Polk’s perspective as an author,” he said. “Her visit connects wonderfully to our current unit of study, as the students have been learning about the roles of authors and illustrators in the writing process, alongside creating and illustrating their own ‘books.’ We hope to partner with Ms. Polk in the future to enhance the curriculum and experience of additional classes and grade levels!”
One of the perks of introducing Millie to a broader audience is getting to know young readers better and paying it forward. “Getting to know kids better and promoting reading and a love of learning is an important mission for me,” said Polk. “My former teachers—Lynn Mittler, Susan Good, and Tex Tourais—all inspired me to major in English, and now my biggest passion is storytelling. MICDS does an outstanding job of honing writing skills and instilling a love of reading and writing, and sharing Millie’s story, in addition to my own story, has been a great experience.”
Thank you, Ms. Polk, for sharing your love of storytelling with our students!
Millie the Magical Stone Skipper, written by Olivia Polk and illustrated by Vanya Liang, is available at all major booksellers and select independent bookstores in St. Louis. Follow Millie’s adventures on Instagram!