PB Author Vivian Kirkfield Presents:Unsolved Mysteries: Three Questions About Sarah E. Goode.

Thank you so much, Darlene, for inviting me to chat again on your wonderful blog. I wanted to share some details of the process I went through as I researched my non-fiction picture book SWEET DREAMS, SARAH. (Creston 2019)

Sarah cover

When I decided to write a nonfiction picture book story about Sarah E. Goode, I had no idea how difficult it would be to find information about her. I mean, you’d think, a person who was one of the first African American women to receive a U.S. patent would have a lot written about her, right? Especially since she’d been a slave when she was a child. Just think about that…from owned to ownership. Those words actually spurred me on as I dug deeper, trying to unearth more information.

I turned to my local librarian and she reached out to some of the larger libraries in the country. We were sure that the Chicago Public Library would have loads of stuff – after all – Sarah lived and worked and died in Chicago. But, when the librarian at the Harsh Research Collection answered our plea, here is what she said:

Wow! Your author seems to have amassed much more information than we ever dreamed there would be. We have nothing in our files on Goode and her name only comes up every Black History Month when some unlucky child has her name assigned for a report. All we’ve ever been able to lead them to is a photo of the patent and a brief blurb in a “Black Inventors” book. Essentially nothing more than can be found on the internet.

When I read her reply, I knew that I had to pursue this story because Sarah had obviously not received the recognition in life or in death that she deserved. She was a trailblazing courageous young woman who could inspire the children of today to build their own dreams.

But even though I searched high and low, there were three things I was not able to track down and verify.


Searching around the internet, I found two or three sentences repeated on just about every website that had a bit of information (often untrue) about Sarah E. Goode. Several of the websites had her photo.


There is no known photo of Sarah E. Goode. The photo that appears on several websites? I don’t know who it is, but it is definitely not Sarah.


Some websites say Toledo, Ohio. Some websites say Toledo, Spain. What?

I can totally understand the confusion. On the 1870 Chicago census, Sarah was 15 years old and her parents listed her place of birth as Toledo, Ohio. However, in the 1880 Chicago census, when Sarah is a married woman of 25, she listed her place of birth as Toledo, Spain.


From all the research I’ve done, I surmise that Sarah might have been born in Northern Virginia…a slave state in 1855, the year of her birth. The border of Northern Virginia runs along the southern border of Ohio…a free state in 1855. It might have made sense for Sarah’s father, a freeman, to claim that his daughter was born in Ohio where she would be considered free. And, as for Sarah claiming she was born in Toledo, Spain, again, we can only guess. Perhaps she thought if she said Spain, that would grant a bit of the exotic to her existence. I doubt we will ever know the true story.


By 1883, a time when most women didn’t own anything, Sarah owned a furniture store in downtown Chicago. She built the innovative cabinet bed and applied for a patent. A year later, her application was returned – DENIED. Other similar inventions had already been patented. Sarah could have given up. But she didn’t.

Carefully she changed a word here and a sentence there, explaining more about her unique mechanism, the idea that had come to her so long ago. Slipping the paperwork and a bit of her heart into the envelope, Sarah sealed her fate and sent it off.

A year later, on July 14, 1885, Sarah’s patent was granted. In 1886, her business appears in Chicago’s city listing. But sadly, by May of 1887, an advertisement in the Chicago Daily Inter-Ocean newspaper shows another vendor selling cabinet beds that look just like Sarah’s. “Manufacturer of these beds went bust and we are now the exclusive distributors.” We may never know why Sarah lost her business – illness, bad luck, or jealousy and possibly violence from business competitors—I did discover that her mother and one of her children had died the year before. She had lost two of the people she had loved the most. But there is one thing Sarah will never lose: her place in history. Sarah E. Goode will always be one of the first African American women in U.S. history to be recorded as earning a patent for her invention.

And now, the next time young students are given the name of Sarah E. Goode as a Black History Month or Women’s History Month project, there will be a book they can take out from the library, Sweet Dreams, Sarah. The author’s note, timeline of Sarah’s life and list of African American women patent holders in the back matter add rich STEM content to the book.

picture-130-bw viv sitting

BIO: Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found




Winner of PB Critique From Vivian Kirkfield.

On January 28, I had the pleasure of hosting PB Author Vivian Kirkfield as she talked about the collaboration that took place between author/illustrator for her upcoming picture books. Vivian was gracious enough to give away ONE critique to a random person who left a comment. SEVENTY-ONE  comments later (it has been the most popular post on my blog to date), I am happy to announce the winner:

Drum Roll Please……drums

Congratulations, JODIE PARACHINI. Please send Vivian your email address so she can be in touch with you.

Thank you Vivian, and all you wonderful writers out there who responded  with warmth and enthusiasm to Vivian’s success. She’s an inspiration to us all!

VIVIAN KIRKFIELD PRESENTS:#50 Precious Words For Kids Contest

A Children’s Book Week Activity:  #50PreciousWordsforKids

Celebrating Diversity in Imagination

A writing contest for kids from all over the world.  Writing a story in 50 words or fewer.  Contest runs from April 30 through May 6, 2018.


  • Each child, grade K-6, writes a story of 50 words or less.
  • Title not included in word count.
  • Story must have a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Happy or sad, silly or serious, true or make-believe.
  • Teachers/students choose one story to submit per class.
  • Homeschooling parents submit one story per child.
  • Please email story to: viviankirkfield@gmail.com by May 7 at 11:59pm EST. This challenge is INTERNATIONAL.
  • Stories post on my blog: viviankirkfield.com on May 11.
  • Teacher receives a certificate to copy and present to each child who wrote a story
  • Giveaway of seven mini-Skype author classroom visits.

Picture 158 B 2

Picture 158 B 2

Here’s the link from last year’s contest: https://viviankirkfield.com/2017/05/11/50preciouswordsforkids-international-writing-challenge-stories-are-here/

Questions? Contact Vivian Kirkfield at:  Viviankirkfield@gmail.com

Traveling with Toddlers – Tips, Tools and Tactics to Keep Them Smiling…and Keep You Sane. By Vivian Kirkfield.

Author Vivian Kirkfield is back this month with  some wonderful tips on safe and fun travel with toddlers.  PLUS…there’s a chance to win a free copy of her fabulous book SHOW ME HOW:  Build Your Child’s Self Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking.

Thank you, Darlene…I’m thrilled to be here. With summer upon us, I’d like to share a couple of thoughts about traveling with toddlers. As a mom, I know how difficult it is to pack up and take off…even for a day-trip, it used to feel like I was carting enough stuff for a month. I hope my tips, tools and tactics will be helpful.                DSCN0819
The kids are jumping up and down. The whole family is about to leave on vacation. Maybe you are flying to a famous amusement park. Perhaps you are driving several hours or days to visit with Grandma and Grandpa.
Traveling with young children is HARD…nearly impossible some might say. Two-year old Jake gets hungry when there is no food around, but when you get to the restaurant…he’s fussy and throws his food around. Three-year old Sarah won’t sleep on the plane, but when you arrive at your destination, she demands to be carried and your arms feel numb as you lug the weight of a sleeping child and try to juggle baggage claim and car rental.

Here are seven simple tips to make any trip go more smoothly:

1. If your kids are old enough to understand, tell them about the trip…kids appreciate being told ahead of time so they know what to expect.
2. Organize all of your travel documents and have them easily accessible…picture ID, rental car papers, hotel reservations, shuttle info, important phone numbers, etc. If you can find what you need in a hurry, there will be tons less stress.
3. Encourage kids to get rid of that excess energy before boarding…many airport terminals have special kid-friendly areas where little ones can run and play…check out your airport before you go. If you are driving, make frequent stops to stretch, snack and play.
4. In a handy carry-on (or in a small cooler if you are driving), have appropriate food, bottles, drinks and non-sugary snacks (cheese and crackers, peanut butter and crackers, dried fruit, oranges that can be peeled and sectioned, zip-lock bags with dry cereals).
5. KEEP THE KIDS BUSY, as needed. Some children will be happy looking out of the window or just talking.
a. Bring their favorite toys, ‘lovies’, books and electronics to keep them engaged, calm and happy.
b. A box of crayons and a pad of blank paper can provide an hour of quiet bliss as you and your child tell stories and draw pictures for them. I actually began my picture book writing career this way.
c. A surprise bag with small gaily-wrapped packages can provide a welcome distraction. And remember not to give the kids everything at once…bring out different items to amuse them as the trip progresses.
6. When you leave the plane or take a break from driving at a restaurant or hotel, make sure to check for all of your possessions…kids may have dropped a beloved toy or favorite book that wouldn’t be missed until it was too late.
7. Last, but not least, be positive, upbeat and calm, even when the situation may be difficult…kids take their cues from the adults around them…with your words and your body language, you communicate how you are feeling…and if you stay calm, they may also.

DSCN0867Kids are learning every minute – they are like sponges, soaking up what they see and hear. Why not take advantage of the close quarters in the plane or car or bus or train…and play some fun games that will build a young child’s phonemic awareness.

What is phonemic awareness, you ask?
• The understanding that words are made up of sounds
• The ability to pick out and manipulate sounds in spoken words
And why are these skills so important? Along with alphabet recognition, it is a key to early reading success. A child can build phonemic awareness by listening to rhymes, poetry, songs and wordplay.

Here are seven simple games you can play in the car or on the plane:
• Read poetry and enjoy lots of rhyming stories. When you reread the stories, pause when you come to the matching rhymes and see if your child can fill in the blanks…my grandson LOVES doing this.
• Play Hink Pink – A Hink Pink is a pair of rhyming words that answer a riddle. For example, a large hog is a Big Pig. For older kids you can play Hinky Pinky (using two syllable words as the answer) a fight over a baby’s toy is a Rattle Battle or Hinkity Pinkity (using three syllable words) such as something frozen in the shape of a riding toy is a bicycle icicle.
• Twist Your Tongue – Have fun with tongue twisters like Silly Sally Skates and Slides and Somersaults or Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers! Help your child to make up silly alliterative sentences.
• Make up an unusual list – ‘I’m going camping and I’m going to pack a bat, a cat, a rat.’ OR ‘I’m going camping and I’m going to pack a sock, a sleeping bag, a soccer ball, and a sandwich. Do you think I will want a sweater or a jacket?’ Ask your child to suggest some more things for your list. Can your child hear how your words work together?
• Play I spy with my little eye, something that begins with /s/ (use the letter sound rather than the letter name)
• Clap to the beat of songs and poems
• Make up word riddles – what starts with /b/ and rhymes with red?
And guess what? These simple word games are dynamite for older kids as well. You don’t have to use them only for traveling…they will help keep your little ones entertained while you wait in the doctor’s office or shop at the supermarket.               Picture 158 B 2

Now, if you sign up for Vivian’s newsletter    http://eepurl.com/8pglH     and leave a comment on this post that says you did, your name gets entered into the proverbial hat. 🙂 to win a copy of  her wonderful book.

Vivian Kirkfield, BA, MS
Writer For Children – Reader Forever
Read my Blog   http://www.viviankirkfield.com
Follow on Twitter  http://www.twitter.com/viviankirkfield   SHOW ME HOW KINDLE Cover 01