Retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page uses real life in his children’s books, but he’d prefer not to use his real life.
“I’m not sure I’m all that excited about that,” Page said when we met to talk about his third book. All have been inspired by family experiences. “Grandpa Alan’s Sugar Shack” grew out of the bonds created making maple syrup with his grandkids Up North.
I was puzzled not to find his books at Barnes & Noble. Justice Page explained that every dime of these books goes to support his Page Education Foundation. When your book is at B & N, you don’t see as many of those dimes. Best if you order off the foundation website.
Page enjoys visiting kids at the newly renamed Justice Page Middle School in Minneapolis, where he gets a kick out of hearing the youngsters enthuse, There’s Alan Page. But he limits his appearances; he doesn’t want to be a pest. I told him if there was a school named after me I’d be there all the time talking life lessons and reading to kids. Page said I sounded like his daughter and co-author Kamie Page, an elementary schoolteacher.
Of course, I talked football with the Hall of Famer and member of the Vikings’ famed “Purple People Eaters.” That will be in Part 2.
Q: Where do you get the ideas for your books?
A: The first book, the idea came up just before our 25th anniversary. Diane [his wife] said, You’re all about education; you should write a children’s book. So I enlisted my daughter, who is a second-grade teacher. We talked about five or six ideas over a three- or four-month period, kept coming back to the pinky: “Alan and His Perfectly Pointy Impossibly Perpendicular Pinky.” The story is about the pinky but it’s really about the kid who always asks the wrong question at the wrong time. We went back and forth on that first draft 70, 80, 90 times. A local artist by the name of David Geister was willing to try something else. The second book, “The Invisible You,” Kamie wanted. It’s a book appreciating the differences in others and ourselves and celebrating them and at the same time recognizing we have commonalities. ...
“In late February, early March, Diane and I — we have a cabin Up North — for the last three, four years have gone up and made maple syrup. It’s something very new, something different for us. We thought that would be a good story to show the warmth that families can have, the warmth in this case between a grandfather and a granddaughter. This one — “Grandpa Alan’s Sugar Shack” — is hot off the press.
Q: My taskmaster ex wrote a book with his minister mother, and the process was not pretty. How did you work with your daughter?
A: She still loves me [smile]. She would say she likes to be flowery; I like to be direct. The combination of the two works really well. If it were just me, [the books] would be a little too curt. I drive her crazy a little. I’m one of those people who thinks it can always be better. I’m concerned about word placement and usage. It’s been a special treat to be able to work with her. To work with your children on something you love is pretty special.
Q: Your books are a lot more clear and concise than court opinions. My retired colleague, Marg Zack, a lawyer, had to interpret the legalese for me. Maybe I never read one of your opinions.
A: One of the things I tried to accomplish was to write my opinions in a way that a high school junior or senior could pick it up and understand what the issue was, who the parties were and what the facts were, and what decision we made and the reasoning behind that decision.
Q: I think Amelia, the grandchild who reminds you she has not gotten her due in books, should be in your fourth book — which should be about a little boy growing up to be a judge.
A: We’re working on a book. We are talking about ideas [one of which] is autobiographical/ biographical. I’m not sure I’m all that excited about that one. The writing is something I’ve enjoyed for a long time. It’s one of the things I enjoyed about being on the court; using words in a way that helps people understand what you are saying. Doing that in these children’s books has been a real plus.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject.