ABOUT NORMA KING GREEN
Although Norma King Green has been living in Fairfield, California, for thirty-seven years, she has traveled a lot. An army daughter and an air force wife, originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, she has lived in twelve states and two foreign countries.
In addition to raising her four children, she was a substitute teacher for fourteen years, and a longtime scout leader—all of which has spurred her interest in writing for kids.
She now enjoys spending time with her five young grandchildren, her dog Nora, and she plans to get another little blue parakeet.
THE STORY OF THE STORYLike many fiction stories, this book is a composite of numerous divergent elements. The parts, though different, come together into a cohesion that creates a logical cause and effect sequence.
It would come as no surprise that Tutu, the protagonist, is our parakeet, Smurf (now deceased). I wanted to feature a small animal that, to my knowledge, had never been used in a complex story before.
The nucleus of the plot developed when my daughter, her classmates, and some of their parents manned a ship in the San Francisco harbor for a weekend, as a fifth grade project. The parents at home were told to write letters to their children on the ship. As I composed my letter, I got the inspiration to tell my daughter that her parakeet wanted to go to sea with them, like a parrot. Since he was small, he was the right size to accompany children “sailors.” I may have even made the letter to be from our parakeet, Smurf.
Strangely, the setting is a place I hadn’t seen until the book was written. No, it is not a universally known, romantic city, such as Paris or Rome—but Perth Amboy, New Jersey, a quaint, historic little town, just across the estuary from New York City. I found out about Perth Amboy when my husband was stationed at McGuire Air Force Base, and we lived in Wrightstown, New Jersey. We saw signs to Perth Amboy, and the interesting name stuck with me. The name itself has significance in the book, and I needed a seaside location with a marina. Perth Amboy was the perfect place for my story.
Unbelievably, when I finally went to Perth Amboy, I found everything I was looking for. It once had a pet shop on the main street, although it had just closed down. The affluent residential and the old industrial sides of the shore by the marina were just as if they had been placed there for the story. The pigeon park we found there—with its cobblestone walk—was an unexpected bonus, which I incorporated into the plot.
Even the smaller details come from a variety of origins. The mention of ballet comes from remembering my sister’s ballet classes. With some modifications, the pigeon park scene was drawn from seeing my sister feeding the very tame pigeons there. Joyella is patterned after a young African American woman, working her way through college, who babysat my sister. Floyd is the saucy cockatiel we had for six years, who is now deceased. Some of Tutu’s antics come from remembering my grandmother’s parakeet. The idea for the Barbie doll play comes from raising two daughters; the idea for the action figure play comes from raising two sons. Elissa’s home is a mixed Jewish and Gentile one, as was my marriage. I think this is relevant today because so many children have mixed heritages. The explanations of the details and the divergence of their origins could go on and on.
I don’t know or don’t remember where some of the facets in the writing come from. It is perhaps these unknown elements more than anything else that give a story its mystique.