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Where do writers get their ideas? In this case, from a three-clawed lobster

How a real-life catch led to a whimsical tale for kids

PORTLAND, Maine — Writing a book for children is easy, right? They’re not literary critics, after all, and pay no attention to themes or symbols or metaphors.

Well, yes. But don’t fool yourself for a moment. Kids love stories, and they can tell the difference immediately between one that soars and one that never takes flight.

“I love making rhymes and jokes and things that just kind of flow together,” says Emily Coye, a Maine author who has happily packed fun wordplay into her two books for children, “Thumbs Up For All” and “Annette Full of Friends.” Her works also have a message, one that came out of her experience as an elementary school teacher. She wanted to tell stories “about accepting each other and being nice to each other.” In the classroom she’s seen kindness and cruelty, and she knows the importance of encouraging children to “get along and make friends and be happy.”

How did Coye convey those sentiments in her first book, “Thumbs Up For All”? By writing about a lobster that was shunned by other lobsters because he didn’t look like them: he had a third claw. The idea came to her after she and her father pulled a three-clawed lobster out of one their traps off Pine Point in Scarborough.

As you listen to Coye talk about writing for kids, it’s obvious how much she loves telling stories that inspire. Her aim now is straightforward: “To continue spreading nice messages,” she says, “in ways that are fun for kids and really engaging.”

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