Kate Klise

Children’s author and screenwriter Kate Klise will deliver the Charles D. Tenney Distinguished Lecture and also discuss a documentary film she wrote and narrated as a part of her visit to campus, Oct. 19-21. (Photo provided)

October 14, 2021

Tenney Lecture to host noted children’s author, screenwriter Kate Klise

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Noted children’s author and screenwriter Kate Klise will deliver the University Honors Program Charles D. Tenney Distinguished Lecture next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The author of more than 30 children’s books, Klise will present a book reading and reception at Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 21. “Borderland: The Life and Times of Blanche Ames,” a one-hour documentary on the 20th century suffragist which Klise wrote and narrated, will be screened Tuesday, Oct. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m., also in Guyon Auditorium.

Admission is free and the public is invited to the documentary and book reading. The events will be compliant with the Restore Illinois Plan. The university is committed to protecting the community, and all those attending must follow current campus and state pandemic safety protocols and wear masks in shared indoor spaces.

In addition to the film screening and book reading, Klise will also visit an honors seminar class, “Exploring Children’s Literature,” on Oct. 20. The student-generated class is taught by Jane Elizabeth Dougherty, an assistant professor in English. In the honors program, students have the ability to propose a class and find a professor or team of professors to teach it. This class originated with an English majors honors student, Anna Wingert, suggesting a children’s literature class.

Klise, who frequently collaborates with her sister, Sarah, an illustrator, has published “a wide array of children’s literature, including “‘based on a true story’ books and wholly imagined books for a variety of age groups,” Dougherty said. She added that students in her class are writing their own children’s books and Klise will be helping them work on their projects.

Discussions will appeal to different audiences

The Oct. 19 film screening and discussion will appeal to an audience “who are interested in a story about people who are overlooked,” Klise said. Ames, a leader of the suffrage movement in Massachusetts, was also among the “unsung heroes of the reproductive rights movement and more progressive than Margaret Sanger,” Klise said. The two eventually split over Sanger’s thoughts on eugenics.

Ames “was an early example of an influencer,” Klise said. “She used social media of the day, which was political cartoons, to advance women’s rights.”

The Tenney lecture discussion on Oct. 21 will appeal to people interested in children’s literature and those who have appreciation of it. Klise will discuss how she developed her love of reading and early days of being an author while growing up as a child in Peoria. She will also discuss her career, which included working as a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and writing for People Magazine before becoming a children’s author writing for young readers.

Even in a digital age, Klise finds that children “still want to read books on paper. They don’t want to read on devices.”

Klise added that she is excited to again be “back in the world where we can talk in real life about books.”

“During the pandemic, a lot of people rediscovered the love of reading and writing,” she said. “A lot of people used the time to write books.”

Lecture series honors former SIU provost

Klise’s appearance is part of the Tenney lecture series. Tenney’s 42-year history with SIU included duties as a coach, professor and administrator. He served as the university’s provost and vice president from 1952 to 1971 before retiring in 1973. He was instrumental in university organizing and planning and transforming SIU from a teacher’s college.

Event co-sponsors are Morris Library, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, the School of Education, and the Women Gender and Sexuality Studies program.