Book in progress...
I’m currently creating another kids’ book and want to share the process with you. This book is one by special request for a group that’s dear to me and I’d love your input along the way. I’ve been volunteering for the last couple of years at an early childhood centre which is part of an emergency housing facility. Some are refugees, some are families who through difficult circumstances have ended up homeless.
The ECC is a pretty amazing place filled with newborns through to 5 year-olds. Often it’s the first contact these kids have with such a social learning environment and it’s an important haven for them to prepare for school. And for these kids, some of which may have been living in cars or relatives’ garages, once they move into this facility, the early childhood centre is quite an eye opener.
The new ones often turn up shy and overwhelmed, clinging to mum’s leg. Very soon, they are running around from one thing to the next. It must seem like a wonderland to them. There’s so much to explore. It’s a bright, airy space full of toys, racks overflowing with dress ups, shelves stacked with puzzles and books. It has well-stocked play kitchens, dolls and prams, walls covered in brightly coloured artworks. There are rugs surrounded by sofas where mums can snuggle up and nurse their babies or watch them crawl and explore new toys. There are padded mats for children to pile up and slide down, there’s a playdough station and a big table with up to 20 little chairs which is set up with crafts and paints before it’s cleared so the kids can sit down for morning tea.
There’s an outside play area with slides, playhouses, a little basketball hoop, a sand pit and plenty of bikes and ride-ons. Out here are also some pots with flowers and swan plants. At certain times of the year, butterflies hover above them or perch to lay eggs while fat caterpillars munch the leaves.
Jo, one of the teachers who runs the preschool, asked me if I’d like to create a book about monarch butterflies – from egg to caterpillar to butterfly – to help the kids understand the lifecycle and pique their interest in nature. I’ve been sitting on another book I wrote years ago which I started to illustrate, but I’ve been struggling to find a reason to finish. My first book was for my kids - that was the motivation right there. This monarch one is special, too because I know the kids whom it will be read to, so I’m motivated to finish it for them.
I understand it needs to be very simple, as many of these children have English as a second language. They come from all over; the pacific islands, Myanmar, Africa and China to name a few countries. They are picking up new words and learning to sit and pay attention for a few minutes at a time (not easy sometimes). The pictures have to be bold and appeal to preschoolers. I wrote the story after I got home one afternoon, and have been in the process of illustrating it.
It’s rhyming (I tried not to, but couldn’t resist). Maybe it shouldn’t rhyme and needs to be simpler. Don’t be shy to comment. I’m always open to constructive criticism – a necessity when you publish anything! The main thing is, I want it to be perfect for them, so thank you in advance!