I love to read and tell stories. My picture book biography of Galileo, Galileo's Journal: 1609-1610, was inspired by one of my book club reads—Dava Sobel’s Galileo's Daughter. There were many good books about Galileo for children at that time, but they were all written in the third person. I told Galileo’s story using journal entries he might have written while building his telescope and making some of the most exciting discoveries in history.

The Washington Post KidsPost named Galileo’ s Journal: 1609-1610, a “Book of the Week” shortly after publication. Since that time, I have visited schools, libraries, bookstores, and festivals, with an interactive presentation about Galileo based on my book. Because it is a favorite of students and teachers, Charlesbridge Publishing reissued Galileo's Journal last year.

Arturo Takes a Bow is also a picture book biography for children ages 7 to 12. On a visit to Parma, Italy in 2009, my daughter and I visited the Arturo Toscanini birthplace and museum in that lovely city. Toscanini was a child prodigy, the son of poor tailors with no musical training who won a full scholarship to Parma’s prestigious music conservatory. After graduation, Arturo was hired as a cellist and assistant chorus master with a traveling opera company headed for South America. When the conductor abandoned the company in the middle of its’ tour, Arturo was rushed onstage to fill that role. He was 19 years old. Newspapers in Rio de Janeiro the next day proclaimed Arturo the “beardless bambino” that saved the day! The Italian opera company’s reputation was restored and its South American tour ended successfully.

Toscanini's extraordinary memory and passion for music had prepared him to take the stage that night to conduct Aida in Rio de Janeiro. Years later, he demonstrated bravery in a different way by marching onto the battlefield to entertain troops during World War I. After the war, the Italian government awarded Toscanini a Silver Medal. In the 1930s, Toscanini stood up to fascist thugs when he refused to play “Giovinezza,” the fascist national anthem, before a memorial concert. The thugs beat him up and an outraged Toscanini left Italy to protest the brutal government. Only when the war was over did Toscanini go back to help rebuild his country.

I have a Masters in Italian language and literature from the Catholic University of America. My love of Italy comes from my Italian grandparents, who were born near Parma, not far from Toscanini's birthplace. When I'm doing research, I love to read the original sources in Italian.