Sticks and Stones


by Nancy Stewart Lenz

  • 5.83″ x 8.27″  Juvenile Fiction
  • 94 pages with b/w illustrations
  • Published:  2021
  • ISBN:  978-1-952194-10-8


Summer of 1914 — Stevensville, Montana. School is out. Emma’s Dad and brothers are off to Oregon to earn money in a lumber camp. Emma is left behind with her pet cat Licorice, Grandpa, and a very strict Grandma. She promises Dad to be good. But that promise is hard to keep with her schoolmate Marvin playing tricks, spying and teasing her with silly rhymes. A war of words between Emma and Marvin leads to unforeseen trouble.

Children’s librarian and professional storyteller Nancy Stewart Lenz uses her mother’s tales of growing up in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley to create this story.

About the author

Much of Sticks and Stones came from my mother’s stories. She left Montana for California at the age of 15. She arrived in Los Angeles in the roaring 20’s. With barely a high school education she moved from job to job, then married a city boy from Chicago. I grew up listening to stories about her childhood adventures. As an only child, I was protected from venturing far from home. Instead of adventures, I had the “advantages” of piano lessons, ballet lessons and even elocution lessons. My adventures came secondhand from Mother’s stories of Montana. Twice we traveled back to Stevensville by train. When I was 18 the two of us took turns driving to Montana with my 6-year-old and 12-year-old cousins in the back seat. In Montana we found Mom’s brother living 5 miles outside of town raising chickens on a ranch with an outhouse on the hill and Kootenai Creek nearby. It was either fresh trout or fried chicken for dinner.

Years ago I was living in Berkeley working as a librarian at Head-Royce School when I started this book. There, library story time was often not reading but telling fables and fairy tales. I got together with a group of librarians and storytellers to produce the first Bay Area Storytelling Festival. We hired well known storytellers who told regularly at the annual National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. In my Berkeley home I hosted Donald Davies, who said he told true stories that may or may not have happened. Some of my mother’s stories may or may not have happened.

Now I live in Santa Cruz where I have done storytelling as a volunteer at UCSC’s Seymour Marine Discovery Center and the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. A year of sheltering-in-place because of COVID-19 gave me the time and space to complete this book.

My mother’s stories are meant to be a window looking into the past. Now, look through your windows and tell me a story.