A love for local: Author explores local history in children’s books


Donna Griffin researched Hancock County and Indianapolis history when writing two new children’s books.

Submitted photo

GREENFIELD — Author Donna Griffin just published two new children’s books, hitting on topics close to her home and her heart.

“Super Cities! Indianapolis” highlights the history, people and culture of the city in a nonfiction book geared for ages 7 and up. “Kindred Spirits- J Whit and The Poetry Slam” takes a modern twist on poets James Whitcomb Riley and Paul Laurence Dunbar, placing them as characters in today’s age for students in grades 5-9.

“All of it is deeply rooted in history, but it’s a really fun book for middle schoolers – they’re not old poets in my book, they’re middle school or high school poets going for their dreams,” Griffin said.

Griffin, of Greenfield, has had careers in teaching and journalism, including ownership of The Times-Post from 1989 to 1996, and a later stint as general manager.

She also runs the nonprofit organization Dani’s Dreams Innovation in Education Corp., which connects children to nature through educational programs, and ran for state office, House District 88, which includes Ingalls and parts of western Madison County.

An independent author, Griffin’s latest books have taken what she’s called a lot of fun research in her own backyard during the past year.

She’s hoping to reverse the image that she and perhaps others have of Riley as not just a “kindly old poet who read his poems to children.”

“If you read his poems, they really speak to kids and people,” she said. “There’s so much kids can get, not just from his poems but from his connection to poets of that day and the legacy he left. I read a lot of his letters… and the Riley I read in his letters was a really cool dude.”

“Kindred Spirits” connects Riley to poet Paul Laurence Dunbar; set in today’s era, the teens plan a special show to celebrate their love of spirit raps. Racial division threatens their plans, but the friends’ mutual respect and common purpose in a social media poetry slam ends with a surprise twist.

The book includes excerpts from Riley and Dunbar’s poetry. She hopes the spin can help youth relate to Riley.

“He would be on social media if he was alive today, and Dunbar would be on social media and they would be connecting and they would be shaking things up,” she said, adding that she’s hoping to get feedback from both local teachers and Riley enthusiasts alike.

The book is printed through Amazon Publishing and can be found on the site.

While “Kindred Spirits” explores Greenfield’s famous son, “Super Cities! Indianapolis” explores the sites and people of the metro area to the west.

Griffin said she was approached by Arcadia Children’s Books to write the Indy version of their “Super Cities!” series, which explores the history, people and culture of several cities and national parks across the country. Griffin enjoyed learning more about the museums, zoo, state fairgrounds, and more that she’s visited with her children and grandchildren over the years and compiling facts into a 96-page paperback book.

“Super Cities! Indianapolis” can be read by any child who wants to know more about the city, she said, and is a guide for those who simply want to crack open a book and just read a few facts at a time.

Children will learn that it took 3.2 million bricks to build the first race track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for example, and the many nicknames of the city.

The book can also be found on websites like Amazon, and she hopes to get it in gift shops of Indianapolis landmarks as well.

“I’m having a lot of fun and love being a writer and I especially love connecting with the communities and kids,” she said. “I guess that comes from being a journalist first.”

For more on Griffin and her career, visit donnagriffinauthor.com. For more on the Super Cities! series, visit arcadiapublishing.com.


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