Aillaud, Cindy Lou 1955-

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Aillaud, Cindy Lou 1955-


Born May 10, 1955, in Renton, WA; daughter of Ronald (a teacher) and Lola May (a cake decorator) Petett; married Whit Aillaud (a teacher), June 11, 1976; children: Jason, Brian. Education: Washington State University, Pullman, B.A. (education), 1977; Central Washington University, special education endorsement, K-12, 1989. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, hiking, photography, reading.


Office—P.O. Box 1245, Delta Jct, AK 99737. E-mail—[email protected].


Delta/Greely School District, Delta Junction, AK, elementary school teacher, 1979-82, 1989—. Cub Scout master, 1992-95; Delta/Greely Arts Council, member and officer, 1979-82; member of community choir, 1989-2001; chair of Relay for Life Children's Games, 2006-07. Member, Alaska State Science Consortium and Alaska State Writing Consortium.


National Education Association (member of AK affiliate), American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, Alaska Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, Fairbanks Arts Association, Alaska Photography Center.

Awards, Honors

Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholar to Japan, 2000; DisneyHand Teacher honoree, 2004; Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People designation, and International Reading Association Selector's Choice, both 2005, both for Recess at 20 Below; named Alaska Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year, 2006; named to USA Today Teacher Team, 2006.


Recess at 20 Below, Alaska Northwest Books, 2005.


Cindy Lou Aillaud grew up in western Washington, where the winters were rainy. Longing to play in the snow, she headed north after graduating from Washington State University, and has worked as a teacher in the region near the Arctic Circle since 1979. Aillaud has taught elementary students at almost every grade, including children with special-education needs. In her current job as a physical education teacher in Delta Junction, Alaska, she can claim every child enrolled in her school as one of her students.

Supervising a group of kindergarten students outside during recess one November inspired Aillaud's picture book Recess at 20 Below. Creating the photographs for the book tap into another of Aillaud's passions, and by including scenes from an actual school, both Aillaud and her students are able to illustrate for readers what life is like in the frozen north. At twenty degrees below zero, playing outside is an adventure that starts with bundling into numerous layers of clothing. The face still needs to be exposed to the cold, however, and one's breath freezes instantly and makes crystallized patterns on eyebrows, bangs, and eyelashes. With only three hours of daylight during the winter months, outside playtime is limited, and walks too and from school are made in the dark.

As Robin Smith wrote in her Horn Book review of Recess at 20 Below, the author's humorous photographs of snow-covered children are "sure to elicit a gasp of surprise and delight" from readers who are unfamiliar with living in such cold. Her "straightforward text misses no interesting detail," Smith added, and School Library Journal contributor Cassandra A. Lopez praised the book's "colorful, clear photographs" and engaging narrative. Writing in Booklist, Connie Fletcher concluded that in Recess at 20 Below Aillaud "gives a familiar school-day activity a whole new meaning in delightful, intriguing fashion."

A nationally respected teacher, Aillaud was selected from among 150,000 nominees as one of thirty-nine DisneyHand teachers of the year in 2004. As a Fulbright Memorial Fund scholar, she visited Japan to learn about Japanese culture, then brought her new understanding back to her students in Alaska. "Through my book, Recess at 20 Below, I am hoping to encourage children of ALL ages to go outside and play," she told SATA. "I would advise any aspiring writer to look in their own backyard for inspiration."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, December 15, 2005, Connie Fletcher, review of Recess at 20 Below, p. 48.

Horn Book, January-February, 2006, Robin Smith, review of Recess at 20 Below, p. 96.

School Library Journal, March, 2006, Cassandra A. Lopez, review of Recess at 20 Below, p. 206.


USA Today Online, (January 9, 2007), Abbie Stillie, "Alaska Gym Teacher Doesn't Let Elements Stop Exercise."