Synesthesia is when a sense, such as sight triggers another sense, like smell, at the same time. Some people are born with this ability or trait… A person might experience blue as both a color and a particular taste. Everyone with this trait experiences it differently.

That’s what I learned this weekend at Building Bridges Art Exchange at Bergamot Station — an exhibit sponsored by the International Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists in partnership with UCLA ArtSci Gallery.  At the exhibit we met Jamie Smith- a sommelier who has synaesthesia.  He spoke and did a wine tasting and synaesthesia workshop with us.

As I listened to Jamie speak of his experiences –feeling colors in his skin, smelling the scent of music, seeing the taste of wine in colors — Suddenly my character “Hopper Smith” from my children’s book Master Davey and the Magic Tea House come to life!  Perhaps this is what Hopper experienced… When Hopper tastes the tea in the story he tastes an magic garden… he smells the scent of a tiger… he hears the chirping of birds. I wasn’t thinking of synaesthesia when I wrote the book or developed the character but having met Jamie and hearing him describe what he senses was an exciting revelation!

As part of the workshop Jamie gave us wine to taste then gave us crayons and drawing pads to draw what we tasted. Though most of us in the audience did not have synaesthesia, after tasting the first wine ( a white wine) the color yellow predominated in most of the drawings.  The second wine… the color purple and brown predominated.  The fourth wine–hit me immediately… PINK… all I could think of was PINK… and the word CANDY… and almost unanimously — pink was predominant in everyone’s drawing.

I promised Jamie Smith to send him a copy of Master Davey and the Magic Tea house. I am so excited to get his feedback on my character Hopper Smith… Does Hopper have synaesthesia?  Or is Hopper just a child with a great imagination who allows his senses to lead him to magical places?




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All reading is sensory.  You read words and the words evoke pictures in your brain.  The pictures evoke memories. The memories evoke colors, smells, tastes, textures that your mind has experienced in the past.  Words on the page bring new images to your mind using sensory knowledge you already know.  Then there are picture books.  Pictures evoke the senses.  You see a picture of apple pie and your memory of the scent of fresh baked dough and cinnamon makes your mouth salivate.  You feel the story with your senses.I use sensory stimulation games and activities in my author presentations and workshops.  I have discovered that the more I bring in the senses the more memorable it is for the children.  Here are a few examples of how I incorporate the senses into the reading experience.

My book Master Davey and the Magic Tea House, co-written with Tea Master David De Candia and illustrated by Kent Yoshimura, takes place in tea plantation in China and the Himalayas. In  the story we experience monsoon rains, an ancient tea forest, an scented tea garden, and swirls of steam from hot tea, among other sensory images.  After I read the story to the children, I re-enact a monsoon rain by having the children be the wind, the thunder and the hammering rain drops.  I divide the room into four sections. Group A is the thunder.  To re-create the thunder they stamp their feet.  Group B is the wind.  To recreate the wind they howl and whistle.  Group C is the light rain.  To recreate the light rain they hammer their fingers against the chair or desk.  Group D is the hard rain. To recreate this they clap their hands.  Then I orchestrate  — the beginning of the monsoon–slowly building from gentle rain to hard rain, to thunder, wind and then full out storm…. then slowly subside group by group until only a gently rain remains. The experience is exhilarating.  We all feel as if we are not only in the storm, but we ARE the storm and we empathize with the characters who have just risked their lives to protect the tea leaves during the monsoon. At other presentations we re-enact the Blue Tiger tea ceremony,  I teach the children how to taste and smell the tea and do what  tea masters do: slurp, taste and smell the essence of the tea and its leaves.  The story teaches that each tea tells a story and you can unlock the story by using the senses.  Through the tea ceremony they experience the magic and power of  using your senses to enhance an experience.

Too Many Visitors for One Little House illustrated by Veronica Walsh, is a story about a new family that moves in on the block and changes a quiet little neighborhood into a raucous street much to the chagrin of the crabby, lonely neighbors.  But the scent of apple strudel changes all.  And once the neighbors are included to the family festivity they too enjoy the music, laughter and the delicious apple strudel.  For presentations of Too Many Visitors I bring costumes and props for all the family and the kids become the characters.  We play musical instruments like the family in the story.  And we taste apple strudel and make apple snacks.  We invoke all the senses.

Wobegon and Mildred is a story of two monster that NO BODY LOVES because they give out parking tickets.  But they soon discover each other and their lives completely changes.  The story takes place in the city.  City sounds, cars, a county fair. Both Wobegon and Mildred share a love of Pizza. The book uses lots of sensory images from colors to shapes, to sounds, to textures both in the words and the images.  When I present Wobegon and Mildred at school I have the children re-create the sounds of the city.  I ask them to take an imaginary  walk around the neighbor hood and think of the things they hear.  Sometimes I make texture boxes and fill them with things we would find in the city street, n the park, at a county fair.  Kids get to touch the different props and identify what they are and come up with their own ideas for textures and sounds of their neighborhoods and streets.  I try to engage the full body in the experience.

The concept of sensory reading developed after researching and consulting with experts in the field of brain science.  I discovered that the more you invoke the senses, the more brain paths you make. More brain pathways leads to  increased memory, capacity for learning and creative thinking.  We live in exciting times.  Brain science and art crossing thresholds.   As frequent presenter at schools and children’s events, I am constantly exploring new ideas of how to incorporate the sound, taste, smell, touch and movement  into my reading presentations.  I wish you much joy exploring your path to sensory reading!




Sweetness of Reading Campaign

The Sweetness of Reading

Summer time reading creates important memories.  We often mark time by the books we read at different ages and stages of our lives. Summer vacations from school are important growth moments, important gateway to rites of passage, provide “ah ha” moments and self-discovery.  That’s why summer reading is so important in a child’s life.

Here are some ideas to incorporate books into summer time play:

  1. Create a recipe that fits with the THEME, STORY or CHARACTER of the book-

    Every book has a food, drink, holiday, family moment, outdoor adventure… or something that can remind you of a food, beverage or recipe.  Discover what that is in the story and make it!
  2. Act out a chapter, a page or an entire picture book with costumes, props and live action.    
    Find a fun, adventurous, scary, sad, or humorous book or section of a book and give out the parts.  Make your own costumes with household items and PUT ON  A SHOW for the family, for friends, at a birthday party, or summer eve.
  3. Paint a story
    Pick a character, scene, prop or costume from a story and make it, paint it, draw it, color it.
  4. Create a Sensory Box
    Every book activates your senses in some way.  Does your book take place in the forest?  Make a sensory SMELL BOX with things that may remind you of the forest.
    Do your characters wear unique clothing? Have funny hair? Live in interesting placed?  Make a TEXTURE BOX with things you find in and around your house that remind you of your story, character, setting.  Does your story have unique food? Make a TASTE BOX with things that remind you of the country, city, home your characters come from.
  5. Create a GAME to play based on your book .
    Any book or story can be turned into a board game, a physical game, or a card game.
  6. Brain storm on a White board 
    White boards are GREAT for brain storming.  Brain storm names for your character’s pets, parents, friends, or places your characters would go on vacation!   I love my new white board which I got from bootstrapboards.  It is light weight, easy to use, and adhesive on any wall or closet.  Turn your kids room, closet or bedroom door into a creative brainstorming WHITE BOARD writing and doodle surface.

Reading is a great solitary and quiet time activity.  Important for everyone.  But in today’s fast paced digital world getting kids to read has MUCH COMPETITION.  Make reading ACTIVE and EXCITING.  Share your thoughts with me about your ideas. Happy Summer Reading!

Booksical ibook with songs and narration

     For centuries theater was the most powerful a way to reach the masses, engage the people, tell a story and even bring political change.  A simple stage, a curtain, a set, costumes, make-up, lights and action— has a power greater than most other medium because of the intimacy of it.  That’s what excited me so much about theater and why I think children love puppet shows, marionette shows, and theater in general.    And that is what inspired me to create a new kind of reading experience…
     Booksicals are more than books, more than ebooks and more than narrated  ebooks with music underscore.
     Booksicals are ebook musicals.  And just like on Broadway the music in a  Booksical  reveals character, gives back story, moves the story a long and when the emotion is heightened, just like on Broadway, a character breaks into song.  With a Booksical– kids can read , hear ,watch and perform the book — Reading is no longer passive… but an active sensory mind-body experience.
      And I am thrilled to share that this year we’ve just released our books in Spanish. Now a child can read, hear, watch and perform our ebook musicals  in both languages.  I hope this will serve as a great tool for helping kids learn English or Spanish as a second language.



Many people ask me… where do I get my inspiration for my picture books.  “Do you think like a kid?” “Do you write in simple ways for kids to understand?”  “Do you have to go back in time and imagine your self as a child?  My answer is simple.. I don’t write for kids.  I write for me.  Everything I write about is things I would find funny, inspiring, exciting, silly, magical, philosophical, spiritual, enchanting.  If I laugh, cry or sigh, then I imagine a kid will too.

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My journey into the magic of tea began when I met the tea master David De Candia.  It was serendipity… and magic and it all came together.  I have been intrigued by tea for a long time and thought about writing a book about it for children.  Then I met David de Candia, world re known tea master and discovered he too wanted to write a book about the magic of tea for children.  And so began my journey.

What is in a cup of tea?  Flavors, aromas, exotic places, stories of the gentle hands that pluck it….

Drink a cup of tea and you can almost sea the snow crested mountains that embrace the sky in the tea plantations of the Himalayan mountains.

Observe the color of its light liquer… golden, emerald, amber, shades of pink.  Tea is a full sensory experience andif  your mind and soul align — you can experience its magic.

With David’s help I learned to taste and smell the the tea and engage my senses fully…  I learned to taste its metaphors.

And then came the story…

Master Davey and the Magic Tea house was born of my research into tea and the sensory and cultural awakening that comes with its exploration…

In collaboration with David DeCandia we developed the story and with artist Kent Yoshimura the magnificent illustrations.  I am so excited about this book and hope to introduce children to the wonder and magic of tea and the cultures in which tea is grown.

Look forward to your feedback!


Susan Chodakiewitz is the author of Too Many Visitors for One Little House,  Wobegon and Mildred, Mr. Snoozle’s Exquisite Eggs.  (available on  She is the founder of Booksicals Books, Encouraging Reading Through the Arts  and Sensory Reading  (