Children Travel the World in Ann Stalcup’s Books

Many people in Topanga remember Mrs. Stalcup, who taught at Topanga Elementary School for 13 years..

Ann Stalcup, a nonfiction writer and teacher, grew up in England where she intended to make either ballet or art her career. At some point she realized that neither career was practical. As an elementary teacher, she could integrate both her passion for dance and art into her curriculum, so she obtained teaching credentials and a bachelor’s degree from Goldsmiths’ College (London University) with a major in ceramics and education. It was a sensible choice; her parents had both been teachers.

Besides teaching general subjects, her program has always placed a strong emphasis on multicultural subjects, including music, art, and dance, and has focused on the Hispanic culture.

Stalcup took her teaching credentials to Canada, where she taught for two years and saved her money so she could travel the world for a year. Traveling became her passion and to date she has visited more than 184 countries.

She met her husband, Ed, also a teacher, at a bus stop in Greece, and in 1963, she moved to Los Angeles, where they were married. They lived in the Rodeo Grounds in Lower Topanga for six years behind the Malibu Feed Bin, where they experienced five floods. They moved to higher grounds but lost their home in the 1993 Topanga/Malibu fire.

In the long school holidays, they were both able to indulge their passion for travel. When her husband took a one-year sabbatical, they traveled all over Europe. He started painting and Stalcup started writing during a visit to Spain.

As a teacher she spent ten years as the Young Authors Chair of one school, organized multicultural dance festivals, as well as holiday programs throughout most of her teaching career, and spent ten years as a member of a School Leadership Council. 

She was nominated for the Bravo Award for her contributions to the arts at her inner-city school and was also nominated for Teacher of the Year Award three times at Topanga Elementary, where she taught for 13 years. In 1985, her fifth-grade class was one of five winners in a citywide mural contest, “Multiculturalism in Los Angeles,” organized by the Los Angeles Music Center. 

While teaching part-time in order to pursue her writing career, Stalcup spent three years working as a mentor teacher for California State University, Northridge.

As a writer, Stalcup’s publishing credits include sixteen nonfiction books for children and more than 100 magazine articles for Faces and other multicultural magazines, all for children.

Her first book, On the Home Front: Growing Up in Wartime England (1998), was selected by the Children’s Book Council as a Notable Children’s Book in the Field of Social Studies (1998), and by the National Council of Teachers of English as an Outstanding Nonfiction Choice (1998).

Stalcup’s love of Olvera Street and Hispanic culture, plus her many visits to Mexico, led to her book, The Day of the Dead, a handbook for teachers. It was in Olvera Street that she met and became a lifelong friend of Leo Politi, an artist who is also considered a “true innovator of children’s books.” Stalcup’s, Leo Politi: Artist of the Angels, published in 2004, has remained her most popular book and is consistently in demand.

Politi discovered Olvera Street at the age of 21 and from then on, he could often be found painting and drawing, there and in Chinatown, which were also the settings for his picture book stories. He died in 1996 at age 87. His mural, “Blessing of the Animals” decorates the front of Olvera Street’s Biscaluz Building.

Stalcup is retired from teaching and continues to write children’s picture books, her greatest passion, next to travel. The two most recent are set in Mexico. The Yellow Flower, published in 2016, is based on a true story about a village in Mexico where a volcano suddenly rose up through the ground and buried everything except the church spire, where a little boy is inspired by a little yellow flower growing out of the remains of a wall.

Stalcup continues to write and revise at least 21 picture books, many based on true stories, that she hopes to publish soon.

 

Flavia Potenza
Flavia Potenza

Flavia Potenza is executive editor of the Messenger Mountain News. She is also a founding member of the 40-year old Topanga Messenger that closed its doors in 2016. She can be reached at editor@messengermountainnews.com

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