Sue Pyatt is the owner of two children's businesses in Arlington, Virginia. She began Kinder Haus Toys and Children's Clothes in 1982 and Imagination Station Children's Bookstore in 1985. Call Me Madame President is Sue's first book, and she freely admits it was somewhat inspired by one of her own childhood favorites, Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans. "Spunky little girls are interesting to read and write about," she says. "I thought of the idea for my book while I was out walking my dog. This is often a time when my imagination seems to swing into gear." Sue graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. degree in Language Arts. She has three grown children and lives with her husband, Everett, in Arlington.

If you are interested in buying or learning more about Sue Pyatt's other book, check out D.C. Daniel Washtington Superhero website: dcdaniel.com

 

Questions and Answers a Interview with the Author

What is your picture book about?

This is a story of Amanda, a delightful, imaginative eight-year-old girl, who hasn't any trouble envisioning herself as President of the United States and longs to show her older brother a thing or two.


Where does the story take place?

The story is told against the backdrop of Washington, D.C. with all of the splendor and charm of the famous places. Among the sites shown are the Smithsonian, the Capitol Building, the Kennedy Center, Pennsylvania Ave., and the statue of Einstein in the garden of the National Academy of Sciences. Also in the illustrations are the Jefferson Memorial and the Tidal Basin, the Lincoln Memorial, Lafayette Park and, of course the White House.


Why did you decide to write about a little girl who likes to pretend she is President of the United States?

I wanted to write a Washington, D.C. story. It's an old cliché that any little boy can grow up to be President. The time is now for little girls to be encouraged to have very big ideas about their own abilities to lead. Also, I wanted a story with broad appeal.


What would you say is the theme of your picture book?

The theme is that little girls can and should have big dreams and should not be deterred in pursing them.


Who is your target audience?

Little girls from five to eight years, but I think adults will enjoy the book too.

Are you near a convergence of fantasy and reality in regard to women president?

Yes, I believe so. For Call Me Madame President's main character, Amanda, being president is fantasy role-play. But in real life we see an increasing number of women assuming important roles in government, and there is now an announced female candidate for president and speculation that we may soon have others.

How did you get the idea for the book?

I got the idea while out walking my dog in the Washington area. I felt that Washington with all the famous places was a beautiful backdrop for a child's picture book. I believed that Washington should have its own special little girl in children's literature just as Paris has Madeline.


Who gave you the impetus to go forward with this book?

My husband. He said it was good, and I believed him. I've always trusted his judgment.


What is your background in children's literature?

I am the owner of Imagination Station Children's Bookstore that I opened in 1985. I also own Kinder Haus Toys and Children's Clothes that I started in 1982.


Where are your stores located?

In the same block in Arlington, VA.


Where did you grow up?

I've lived most of my life in Northern Virginia; first in Alexandria, then in Fairfax and now in Arlington.


How long did it take you to do the book?

About five years, I tinkered around with the text for quite a while. Then I spent time researching the famous places in Washington in books, and I also photographed many places. I made a dummy of my book with my own drawings so I could show the artist what I wanted on every page.


How did you meet Keith Gaston who is the illustrator for your story?

Keith is an art teacher at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia where I live. He supervised the creation of a beautiful fairytale mural by some of his art students for my bookstore. Keith lives in Centerville, VA.


Is this little girl in Call Me Madame President anything like you were when you were a child?

I didn't dream of being president, but I was a dreamer. My mother used to mention it all the time. I was an imaginative little girl who loved to read. Since I grow up in the forties and fifties and fifties my consciousness wasn't raised until much later. The few working women that I knew as a child were teachers and secretaries.


What were some of your own favorite books as a child?

I loved A Little Princess by Burnett in which the main character shows enormous strength of character in adversity and relies on her own inner self to help her adjust to bleak circumstances until she is rescued in a magnificent turn of events. The Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers about magical, prim nanny who leads her little charges into an amazing fantasy world was a series I treasured. I relished The Shoes books by Streatfield about little girls who are able to have wonderful jobs such as movie actress, dancer and circus performer. An early favorite of mine was the picture book, The Take of Corally Crothers, by Gay in which a little girl prepares for trip and then jumps surreally into a book and comes to the reader. Another picture book I adored was Madeline by Bernelmans. I enjoyed books with strong, imaginative female characters who engage in the fantastic.


Which children's author most influenced you in the writing of this book?

I think I was influenced by Bernelmans who did the Madeline books. Madeline is a feisty little girl whose story is shown against the backdrop of Paris. She is brave and has great self-confidence. I wanted my story to be about a strong little girl in Washington. I believe that Call Me Madame President is unique in its story line, but in developing my main character, Amanda, I was probably influenced by all the writers I mentioned above who wrote about intriguing females.