The New School News

"America’s Dreaming" tackles issues related to belonging and isolation, while also highlighting the positive effects of reading and community-building

Bob McKinnon, Parsons Faculty Member, Debuts New Children’s Book

At the age of eleven, Bob McKinnon moved from Chelsea, Massachusetts to York, Pennsylvania with his family, as his mother attempted to escape poverty, and seek a better life for herself and her children. McKinnon quickly found himself starting at a new school in the middle of the academic year, where he struggled to fit in and make friends, but was supported by a teacher, who also encouraged his love of reading.

That experience helped inspire his new children’s book, America’s Dreaming, which tackles issues related to belonging and isolation, while also highlighting the positive effects of reading and community-building.

“While my personal experience was the inspiration for America’s Dreaming, it is one that is all too common,” shares McKinnon. “Every year, approximately five million children will enter a new school in the US. There are long-term implications when a child does not feel welcomed in school. It has been correlated with increased depression, mental health issues, and dropout rates. The book is not only a mirror and a window for children, but a love letter to teachers, and a reminder of our nation’s history – one that is rooted in the idea that we are stronger when we welcome others with open arms and hearts.”

McKinnon’s new book was illustrated by Thai My Phuong, and puts readers in the unique perspective to connect with the experiences of the narrator, even as the narrator is never shown, which helps highlight the universal feelings explored in the book.

“When I first read America’s Dreaming, tears rolled down my cheeks,” shares Thai. “This story reminds me of my many firsts and all of those important moments and important people in my life. I hope that this book can be a best friend to anyone who experiences challenging moments in life.”

The collaboration process between McKinnon and Thai required considerable trust between the two, where they would send edits to their editor, and see the changes materialize in the next version that was shared. 

“In some ways it is a magical kind of mediated creative experience,” explains McKinnon. “Phuong’s ability to meet the challenge of illustrating a book so that we feel deeply for a character that we never get to see is just so impressive. It’s a masterclass in perspective taking through illustration. Now that the book is finished we’ve met and connected directly often as we share ways to get America’s story out into the world and in the hands of young readers. She is just so generous with her work and ideas.”

In addition to his work as an author and writer, McKinnon is a faculty member at Parsons School of Design, where he is often inspired by the wider Parsons community. On occasion, students will develop children’s books as part of their capstone projects, where McKinnon is able to provide expert advice and guidance.

“Seeing the creativity in our faculty and students and the urgency they have to put good stuff out into the world compels you to want to do the same,” he says.

Next up for McKinnon is a new picture book, America Gives Thanks, which will again be illustrated by Thai.He has also completed his first screenplay, and is at work on a book of essays based on his substack, Moving Up Mondays.

Take The Next Step

Submit your application


To apply to any of our Bachelor's programs (Except the Bachelor's Program for Adult Transfer Students) complete and submit the Common App online.

Graduates and Adult Learners

To apply to any of our Master's, Doctural, Professional Studies Diploma, Graduates Certificate, or Associate's programs, or to apply to the Bachelor's Program for Adult and Transfer Students, complete and submit the New School Online Application.