Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sharing Sofia's Dream!

Sharing Sofia’s Dream

It’s been a big month for Little Pickle Press! Our 5th birthday celebration, Earth Day, and a host of green living discussions. To wrap up the festivities, we’d like to introduce a special guest. Please welcome Makayla Henry, who is here to share her thoughts on Sofia’s Dream, written by Land Wilson and illustrated by Sue Cornelison.

Sofia’s Dream is written by Land Wilson. It is about a little girl named Sofia and her friend the Moon. She dreams of leaping into the galaxy and talks to the Moon. When she asked the Moon why he was blue, he said that Earth was in despair and needed help. Sophia was to think of Earth and care for her. She also asked others to care for Earth too. I like Sofia’s Dream because it teaches me that it’s my responsibility to keep Earth clean. If I do my part, I may inspire someone to do their part. Some examples of helping Earth are to not litter, plant trees, recycle, and ride bikes.

Makayla Henry

Primary Years Academy, Stockton Ca

Second Grade

Thank you, Makayla! You’re exactly right. If we each do our part, we can inspire others to do the same. You heard the young lady, folks. How will you inspire someone today?

Gold Mom's Choice Award

A Bird on Water Street: Awards and Reviews

In case you’re wondering about our latest title, A Bird on Water Street by Elizabeth O. Dulemba, we’ve created a handy guide of awards and reviews right here all in one place. We just have SO much to celebrate with this title. To begin with, A Bird on Water Street has been honored as an Okra Pick from the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Association, it was submitted to the Library of Congress as one of the choices as a highlighted book at the 2014 National Book Festival in Georgia,  and it has also been named a GOLD Mom’s Choice Award in the Juvenile Books category.

A Bird to sing about!

ForeWord Book Reviews wrote a perfect short synopsis about it: “A one-company town falters, and amid the human drama, nature begins to reclaim what had been lost.”

Also the author and illustrator of numerous children’s books, Dulemba ably captures the scarred community in grief and celebration. The languid, episodic plot includes a mining accident, mass layoffs, a bluegrass gathering, holidays, weather events, a funeral, and other moments that underscore the close-knit nature of a place dominated by one employer. Tensions between employees and management are briefly touched on, as well.

A Bird On Water Street eBook

Anne Broyles wrote a review of the book and shared it on Amazon which we have shared here as well.

Jack loves his home. Why would anyone want to live anywhere other than Coppertown, a safe, warm place where he is surrounded by family and friends? Sure, there’s illness that some people blame on the mine’s dumping of chemicals, fear of mining accidents, and no one has seen a bird for years, but it’s home. A Bird on Water Street explores the changes Jack and Coppertown undergo when the miners strike after an accident and big layoff.

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 Author Elizabeth O. Dulemba

 

Lynn Cullen, the Bestselling Author of Mrs. Poe, had this to say:

“As big-hearted and joyful as it is sobering, this book should be required reading for students studying the impact of man upon the environment and how nature can make a comeback when given a chance. I will never take a sparrow—or bugs—for granted again.”

You can also download a FREE Discussion Points Guide (designed for parents and educators) who would like to use it to accompany A Bird on Water Street. The Discussion Point Guide was written by our very own Lesson Plan Developer, Meredith Moran.

To read more reviews on GoodReads, click here.

To purchase the e-book version, click here.

To purchase the Kindle version, click here.

To purchase a paperback version, click here.

Click here to listen to Katie Davis’ Brain Burps on Books interview with Elizabeth O. Dulemba.

To learn more about author Elizabeth O. Dulemba, visit her interactive blog.

Don’t forget that our birthday is coming up, but we’re giving YOU the presents! Our contest is open until April 30.

5th Birthday Photo Contest

Kids who are making the world green!

Kids Who Are Making the World Green

We Do Not Inherit the Earth from Our Ancestors; We Borrow It from Our Children

It’s no surprise that kids today are far more interested in living a “green” lifestyle than when I was a kid. I didn’t start recycling paper or plastic until the late 1990s and we didn’t even consider energy-efficient ways to live a greener life. That all changed when I became an adult and tried to reuse, reduce, recycle, and repurpose as much as possible. It helped that tsociety encouraged me to monitor my carbon footprint, but I certainly wasn’t as conscious as I could have been. Today, we celebrate three kids who are making the world green with their own inventions.

1. Eesha Khare of Saratoga, California invented a device that could help charge cell phone batteries when she did research for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair last year. She invented a supercapacitor that will charge a cell phone in about 20 seconds! Her research won her a $50,000 prize as the Young Scientist Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Her experiment title is quite a mouthful:  “Design and Synthesis of Hydrogenated TiO2-Polyaniline Nanorods for Flexible High-Performance Supercapacitors” but we just think she is doing something helpful to the world around her. You can see this well-poised kid who is making the world greener in an interview with Conan O’Brien.

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Stratageme.com via photopin cc

2. 19 year old Taylor Wilson is a nuclear scientist. You read that right: he is a nuclear scientist. Taylor designed a fission reactor that will work for 30 years so that developing countries could use it. Wilson’s invention heats up gas that increases a molten salt reactor by 50%. Since the reactor operates at a much higher temperature (700 degrees Celsius), it increases the efficiency for developing nations is a brilliant addition since it will generate up to 100 megawatts of electricity.  Taylor’s invention needs to be refueled every 30 years making this design a leader in the new carbon-free energy generation.

Be sure to check out his website, Taylor’s Nuke Site.

Taylor, photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Photo credit to Deanne Fitzmaurice of National Geographic

3. Azza Abdel Hamid isn’t your typical teenager unless you’re comparing her to the other kids on this list making the world a greener place. Plastic waste is a problem all over the world and Azza created a catalyst that could break down the plastic waste while also producing gaseous products (the good kind!) that can then be made into ethanol, her invention could be an inexpensive way to help the economy to make money from the recycled plastic. The plastic consumption of a country Egypt’s size is roughly one million tons each year so Azza’s catalyst could actually help make the world greener while also bolstering the economy in Egypt by creating $78 million for her country.

I have to repeat that: Azza’s invention could help create $78 million worth of biofuel.

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This “green teen” won an award for her findings at the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists and she hopes to get her idea patented through the Egyptian Patent Office. Azza’s catalyst takes non-biodegradable plastic and turns it into a clean-burning biofuel.

Photo of plastic waste by Snemann via photopin cc

These are just three of the amazing youthful inventors that are helping to change the face of green living. With examples like these, we can surely expect to hear more great news from kids who are making the world green.

Green living starts with me!

Top 10 Pinterest Boards for Green Living

Being dedicated to spreading the message of green living means that Little Pickle Press is always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to spark interest. Green living means different things to different people, so we’ve gathered some of our favorite green Pinterest boards here to expand your ideas.

10. Homesteading: Alternative Energy ‒ Becky Turner: Living “off the grid” is a dream of many families, especially as utility bills creep higher and higher. With suggestions for building your own hydroelectric generator and DIY solar panels, this board will help bring you closer to realizing that dream.

9. Clean Water Project ‒ Gina Hughes: Green rhymes with clean, and few things are as important to life as clean water. Pollution awareness projects for kids and build-your-own water filter plans can be found on this board.

8. Composting ‒ Gardenerd: Nothing says green living like having your own garden, and one secret to gardening success is a compost heap. This board will show you just how easy (and important) it is to put yourself at the top of the heap.

7. Green Craft Ideas for Kids ‒ Land Wilson: All work and no play makes green living very dull, indeed. Luckily, our good friend Land Wilson (award-winning author of Sofia’s Dream) has a whole board full of fun projects that will have you and your kids seeing green in no time.

6. Green Dream Home ‒ Angelique: Going chemical-free takes a lot of planning and effort, and this board offers a visual reference and starting point for your own journey.

5. Green Reads ‒ GIDZ: When you’ve powered down the appliances for the night, it’s time to curl up with a good book. This board features green titles that cover topics from no-mow lawns and beekeeping to biophilic cities and ecological design.

4. Living Green ‒ Easy Green Mom: Parents want the best for their kids, and Amber from Easy Green Mom helps take the stress out of going green with little ones. Paperless kitchens and sustainable laundry are just two of the many helpful ideas you’ll find here.

3. Earth (Day) Activities for Kids ‒ Multiple Contributors: Celebrate Earth Day every day with these fun projects for kids. Marnie from Carrots Are Orange is a contributor to this board, which features ideas such as earth crayons and a “plantable” paper Earth.

2. Good to Know! ‒ Multiple Contributors: GMO-free? Safe cooking temperatures? Healthy sleeping positions? These are things that are good to know! Covering a wide range of green topics, this board will answer a lot of questions you may have, while prompting you to ask more.

1. Explore the Natural World ‒ PBS: Just in case you need an extra reason to consider green living, here’s a whole board full of amazing animal pictures to inspire you to keep our planet healthy and safe. Bonus photo: a newborn snow monkey!

These are just a few of the many, many ideas available. Have a look, try some of them out, and let us know your favorite ways to go green.

Celebrate Earth Day with the Catalog Challenge!

Earth Day Every Day

We’ve all heard the saying, “Every day is Earth Day,” but how do we instill this idea in children in a way that inspires them to take action daily or at least regularly? Finding activities that build habits of good planetary housekeeping is a great place to start.

Here are three activities that we’ve been doing at my daughter’s elementary school that are fun, empowering, and impactful. These can be done on your own at home, but you can also be the parent or teacher that introduces (or runs) these initiatives at your school.

An easy way for kids to celebrate Earth Day!

Reduce plastic waste and pollution with Prang Power and ColorCycle:

In an effort to help keep hundreds of millions of spent markers from becoming waste and pollution in landfills, incinerators, and oceans, companies like Dixon Ticonderoga and Crayola now offer take-back programs in which kids and schools can participate. Crayola also accepts other brands along with dry erase markers and highlighters.

To get started, collect your families spent plastic markers and bring them to a collection box at a participating school. If you child’s school isn’t participating, be the parent volunteer who sets up a central drop box and ships it to Crayola or Dixonfree-of-charge. For best results, make sure each classroom has their own small collection bag. Have teachers put students in charge of emptying their bags into the central drop box.

Save trees with the Catalog Canceling Challenge:

Each year 19 billion sales catalogs are mailed in the USA. 53 million trees are used making these catalogs. This paper production also uses 53 billion gallons of water and generates billions of pounds of solid waste (311,000 fully-loaded garbage trucks). Producing this number of catalogs requires the same amount of energy as 1.2 million homes a year and creates the same amount of CO2 global warming pollution as 2 million cars annually.

In an effort to address this problem, a fourth grade teacher in Massachusetts, Ted Wells, started the Catalog Canceling Challenge. This is a simple project, done by schools and scout troops across the USA that gets students competing against each other to see which grade can cancel the most number of unwanted sales catalogues. To help children support their grade, the CCC guidelines encourage parents and teachers to do the following:

1. Start a pile of unwanted sales catalogs for your child to cancel.

2. Ask your child if they are aware that 53 million trees are cut down to make 19 billion catalogs each year at a rate of 600 per second. Then ask if they’d like to help reduce these numbers to help the planet and clean out your mailbox.

3. Ask your child to help cancel the catalogs in one of two ways: by calling the catalog companies directly, using the 1-800 number on the back of each catalog and the simple script provided in the CCC organizer pack, or by helping your child set up a free account at www.CatalogChoice.org and inputting the catalogs you wish to cancel.

Keep Plastic out of our oceans with The PUP Games™ (Pick-Up-Plastic):

When plastic litter is on the ground, rainwater can carry it into a gutter, then a creek, then a river, then a bay, and often to the ocean. Scientists say that 80% of ocean plastic originates as litter on the land. It is estimated that 315 billion lbs. of plastic are in our oceans, the equivalent weight of 40 million elephants! Fish that we eat are eating plastics directly or through the smaller animals they eat and tiny pieces of plastic are being found in the tissues of animals across our entire food chain.

The PUP Games is a competition created by The Earth View Society that was inspired by Ted Wells’ Catalog Canceling Challenge. In an effort to help clean our communities, save the lives of animals, and protect our food chain, students compete against each other to see which grade can pick up the most plastic litter. Parents and teachers can help build the fun, education, and effectiveness of this initiative by stressing how a child’s actions make a difference with points such as:

1. If we do a better job at not littering and picking litter up, we can help our oceans.

2. Every single person can help with this problem.

3. Picking up one piece of plastic won’t clean up the whole ocean, but YOU keep that piece out of the ocean.

4. The plastic you pick up may save the life of a fish, a bird, a turtle, or a dolphin.

5. Over time, plastics can break into countless tiny pieces. You could say that picking up one piece is like picking up hundreds or thousands of pieces or more!

6. By picking up plastic you are helping to protect our food supply!

I hope some of these suggestions are useful to you for instilling the Earth Day Every Day spirit in children. I leave you with this African proverb that always reminds me of the power behind teaching children simple acts of anything: “If many little people in many little places do many little deeds, they can change the face of the earth.”

Let Sofia help you celebrate Earth Day!

Land Wilson’s dedication to protecting our planet led him to write the award-winning Sofia’s Dream. You can learn more about him by visiting his website; be sure to tell him that Little Pickle Press sent you!

STAR Education

Featured Customer of the Month:

STAR Education

April’s Featured Customer of the Month, STAR Education, has so much going on that it is hard to focus on just one aspect of their wonderful, community-based offerings. STAR Education is a charitable non-profit serving students, families, schools, and the community. They have provided interactive educational programming for students since 1986, servicing over 60 districts throughout the state of California.

They offer classes in Art and Humanities, Critical Thinking, Technology, and Science to identified gifted students and those students who wish to rise to the challenge of a college-level curriculum. Their classes include a continually evolving selection of disciplines that have been developed in collaboration with principals, teachers, district coordinators, parents, and students. In each of their project-based programs they incorporate California State Standards and provide materials, handouts, and lesson plans that extend the learning into the classroom, thereby enhancing school day learning.

STAR Education not only hosts educational events at their facilities, they travel to conferences and hold workshops throughout California and run supplemental school day programs and camps for children. STAR doesn’t stop there, though. Their program reaches out not only to children but to the people who are responsible for teaching them, focusing on professional development programs for classroom instructors teaching Kindergarten through eighth grade. Teachers and administrators can select topics from an extensive catalogue of workshops and customize a day of experiential, brain-blitzing activities that will challenge the unique needs and talents of their students.

STAR Education has a lot of new programs in the works as well. They are planning on opening a preschool in September. They were recipients of a grant from the Braitmayer Foundation to create a curriculum for classroom teachers to teach children about their brain, and they continue to work in schools with our hands-on curriculum, with teachers, students, and parents in the greater LA area and beyond.

STAR Education truly lives up to its motto of “Passion Based Education!”

The Tyrant's Daughter

The Tyrant’s Daughter:

A Global Perspective

The following is a review of J. C. Carleson’s The Tyrant’s Daughter, a remarkable new novel that blends personal and political aspects into a spellbinding story.

Here is a unique, compelling narrative that exposes what an immigrant thinks and feels and wants. Laila is the precocious 15-year-old daughter of the ruler an Arab Spring country, whether despot or benign ruler we don’t know. What we do know is that Laila, once a member of a royal family, now lives in the Washington DC suburbs with her mother and brother. Her father is dead and the family has run for its life. Through Laila’s eyes we see the struggles of a young woman of a different race and culture plopped down into a typical American suburb and typical American high school. And we glimpse sideways the politics of a war-torn country from whence she comes. Her six-year-old brother, Bastien, still dreams of becoming king one day. Her mother believes she can find a way to return to her former position as Queen.

The writer skillfully uses the minor issues and conflicts of school and family life to lead us ultimately into tribal tensions, global politics, and Machiavellian plot twists. The shadow side of America’s treatment of immigrants is vividly and graphically “outed” in this well-paced story. Don’t miss the postscript essay by Cheryl Benard, Ph.D., on “Truth in Fiction: A Commentary.” More than just a flight of fancy, this novel provides a window into serious geo-politics, women’s rights, and immigration policies. Strong story-telling, keen insights into intercultural relational dynamics, and very believable characters make The Tyrant’s Daughter a must-read for anyone who cares about modern racial and cultural conflicts.

Featured Library of the Month: Fort Garry Library

Featured Library of the Month

Fort Garry Library

Every writer has an ingrained love of books.

Most can remember which story hooked them, drew them in, and branded them a reader for life. Many writers also have someone integral to their writing journey. Often it is a parent, grandparent, or best friend who was an avid reader who introduced them to the world of make-believe. For writers, libraries are our second homes. Libraries provide easy and free entry to new worlds, adventures, and new friends both similar and dissimilar to us. As a child, that gateway to lands unknown was a two minute walk from my front door–30 seconds if you raced your brother to ensure you snagged the best reading nook.

The Fort Garry Public Library was my “home library” and it was my sanctuary. My brother and I would spend several week nights hunkered down amongst the stacks, or up in the loft with piles of books, and hours of time before us.

The Fort Garry Library emerged from humble beginnings.

In 1945, thanks to a generous collection of donated books, it found space in the Fort Garry Community Club. By 1956 the collection had grown and was moved to a rent-free room in the Municipal Hall. Within four years the library again required more room and in 1960 the current library was built. It was a brown and orange, flat, cubic shape with an open floor plan; a mid-century Modern masterpiece. This is the library of my childhood.

Much has changed over the past 50 years and the library needed to keep pace with the changing needs of its readers.  After an extensive six-month-long renovation, the library reopened and I had the pleasure of speaking with Anne Edwardsson, Fort Garry’s infamous Assistant Branch Head, about the recent improvements.

Anne has been with the Winnipeg Public Library since 1981, shifting back and forth between city branches, always adding her flair for drama and excitement to entice children to read, and drawing heavily on her theatre background. Since 2000, Anne has called Fort Garry home and has visited countless schools, encouraging kids to join the library’s summer reading program. She is wildly successful as she has no qualms dressing up to fit the reading theme of the year. Whether costumed as a spy in trench coat, fedora, and briefcase, or a unitard-wearing super hero with lightning bolt emblazoned flowing cape, she lights students’ imaginations on fire!

It is people like Anne who make libraries come alive for burgeoning readers.

The biggest change to the library’s physical appearance is in the children’s area. Gone are the computers, long desks, and librarian station. In its place is a world of interaction and creativity in a space that encourages families to stay longer and learn more. Now the community room has doubled in size and a Literacy Play Centre has been installed, with interchangeable play boards that meet the needs of children of all ages. For the staff it was a huge improvement as it frees up time to specialize, work more effectively, and directs all inquiries to a central hub.

The library of the future includes not only the current and changing collection of paper books, but the “unseen collection” of eBooks, magazines, databases of consumer report materials, and Tumble Books. Now entire magazine subscriptions can be downloaded through Zinio, and movies and TV shows through Hoopla. All you need is a library card!

“The Library is not a museum, or an archival institution. We are not fixed in the past. We need to update our materials and change with our readers.”  – Anne Edwardsson.

And they’re not done yet! Still to come are further updates to the loft to include a “bring your own device” (BYOD) counter and lounge space for teens to come study, work on projects, or merely hang out. The library has a long-established Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) and with membership, teens can earn volunteer credits towards high school graduation. The YAC has been given the green light to fully design the annex under the loft stairs as they see fit. Exciting times, indeed.

Fort Garry Library continues to grow beyond its brick and mortar walls into our community, our schools, and our festivals, to engage children in reading and enrich their experiences before they enter the front doors.

What will be the next brain child of Anne and her team at Fort Garry? Will it be an art, photography, or short story writing contest? Possibly.  Will there be another “I Spy” contest in the display case? Likely. Will Anne be in costume? Most definitely.

Come on down to Fort Garry and share in the wonders that await you, or find them online. You can also check the library’s online newsletter.

You don’t have to live in Fort Garry, Winnipeg, or even Manitoba to join in the Fort Garry Library’s summer reading program! It’s available Canada-wide and sponsored by TD Canada Trust.

And remember, peeps, an hour with a book is never an hour wasted.

Featured Young Writer of the Month: Why Do Kids Care About our Planet?

Each month at Little Pickle Press, we invite young writers to share a part of their world with us. As we celebrate and love our planet this April, we’ve invited an 8th grade student to share with us about why kids should care about our planet. Please help welcome young writer Sarah Marjorie as she shares this passion with our readers. 

By Sarah Marjorie

Why do kids care about our planet? We care because it’s our future. The planet Earth is our home. It supplies us with the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the nutrients that are necessary for us to survive. At my school, which is a three-year middle school, we spend each year focused on one part of the Earth. In sixth grade, we studied the global water crisis and raised money to build a well. In seventh grade, we studied land and how it is changing. This year, in eighth grade, we studied the air and atmosphere around us. Just yesterday, I finished my final project, an iBook about global warming. Every student that attends this school comes to care about the Earth in his/her own way.

Adolescents care about our world because we want to change it. Everyone dreams of it, from toddlers to teens. We want to make a difference for the better. Whether our impact is on one person’s world or an entire nation, kids care about the Earth because it is our home and we hold the power amend, modify, and redesign it the way we want. We need to live here and future generations do, too, but we’re responsible for taking care of it to live naturally and in harmony with nature.

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With all the talk of global warming and climate change, kids feel like the Earth is theirs to take care of, and it is. We are the Earth’s future, and if we don’t take care of it, everything we know and love could possibly be effected. Due to the fact that kids care about the planet, we have the power to change it and use our knowledge and technology to keep it safe. We know this and that’s why we care about the Earth.

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Earth Day isn’t the only day when the world can and should celebrate the planet we all share. We believe that Earth Day Every Day should be a way of life. With 5 days of fun and educational activities designed for grades K-2, this booklet will assist you in helping your students understand the cycles of life and how we must all be protectors of the Earth, water, and sky . . . because we are all connected. And if we take care of our environment, we can all live healthier, happier lives. 

  • Monday: Water
  • Tuesday: Fire
  • Wednesday: Earth
  • Thursday: Air
  • Friday: Spirit of Life

Don’t forget to download our Earth Day booklet to use with your children!

photopin cc NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via photopin cc

5th Birthday Photo Contest

Who Will Win Our 5th Birthday Photo Contest?

A picture is worth a thousand words, and it could be worth one of five $50 LPP gift certificates! We want to see how you make Little Pickle a part of your life. Post a picture of your kiddo enjoying an LPP title to our Facebook or Instagram pages (tagged with #LPPBDay), and you’ll be entered in our 5th Birthday Photo Contest. The contest ends on April 30th, so get those cameras ready.

Not sure how to spend that $50? How about on something for your older kids? We’re growing with our readers, and we have two chapter books and one middle-grade novel to prove it. Visit littlepicklepress.com today to see our entire award-winning line.

Andean Naturals

Featured B Corp of the Month: Andean Naturals

Andean Naturals

Little Pickle Press is proud of its continued certification as a B Corp. Not only does it tell the world about our commitment to environmental responsibility, it also makes us part of a growing community of small but mighty businesses that are dedicated to “B-ing” the change they seek in the world. One of our fellow B Corps, chosen along with LPP and others as “Best for the World 2014,” is Andean Naturals.

As consumers expand their culinary horizons, they’re looking for healthier choices for their diets. One of those choices is the use of quinoa, a grass seed that is gaining notoriety as a nutrient-rich grain replacement. Andean Naturals was created as a way to bring quinoa to North America via sustainable, Fair Trade practices. It now supplies a third of all the quinoa consumed in North America, helping to provide income and stability to more than four thousand family farmers in South America.

In addition to their Facebook and Twitter feeds, Andean Naturals has a website that showcases their offerings. Although they aren’t currently geared for direct-to-consumer sales, they do offer a list of ways that you can support Fair Trade practices in your daily life. When you combine that kind of dedication with biodegradable and recycled packaging (and soy ink), you can see why Andean Naturals was certified as a B Corp, and why we chose them as our B Corp of the Month.

Every Turtle Counts

First Friday Book Review:

Every Turtle Counts

Mimi is like many little girls; she loves to run and play, has deep-seated interests, and sometimes makes choices that confuse the grownups in her life.

She also happens to have Autism.

In Sara Hoaglund Hunter’s Every Turtle Counts, when Mimi discovers a nearly-frozen sea turtle on the beach near her home, no one can understand her immediate devotion to her new friend. No one, that is, except Mr. Prescott from the Audubon Society. His explanation that Mimi has discovered one of the rarest creatures on earth sets off a chain of events that opens up Mimi’s world and the eyes of those around her.

As the mother of an amazing little boy who has been diagnosed with Autism, I can relate to this story. I’ve heard the exasperated comments, I’ve watched my son’s accomplishments with pride, and I’ve rejoiced with each new discovery that he’s made. Every Turtle Counts is a beautiful little time capsule, gathering snapshots of life in a spectrum family and using them to tell a story brimming with sweetness and wonder. The lively and lifelike illustrations by Susan Spellman bring the reader directly into Mimi’s world.

As perfectly suited for Earth Day as it is for Autism Awareness Month, the message in this wonderful children’s book is twofold: every turtle counts, and so does every person.

A Connection to the Environment.

A Connection to the Environment:

My Best Friends Are Trees

A friend recently read my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A Bird on Water Street, and said, “… one of my very, very favorite scenes was with the maple tree at Rock City and how Jack touches it and feels it hum and thinks the experience is holy. Simply beautiful! I love that scene.”

It reminded me of why I wrote it. When I was a kid, I used to claim my best friends were trees. I would lie underneath them and “talk” to them. I swore I could feel their spirits. At the very least, I felt they had a language; it was spoken by the wind gently blowing through their leaves. And I was plugged into that—I could hear it.

As an adult, I sadly lost the ability to hear the language of trees. I spent years hiking and living in the woods, trying to get that feeling back—that feeling of being connected to all things, to trees. Every now and then when I’m extremely relaxed, I can get a sense of it again, especially on a quiet and beautiful day. But mostly, I miss the sensation and I think it’s partly why A Bird on Water Street is so important to me.

A Bird On Water Street

It’s because I think most adults have lost that feeling of connection to the environment. As a result, people don’t respect our natural resources. They don’t recycle or they use too much electricity and water, or they produce too much garbage, because they don’t think one person can really make a difference or have a serious impact on the environment.

And yet, that is the path that led to the devastation of the environment in Copperhill, Tennessee. Over a century of miners using every tree in sight to fuel the smelting heaps, which separated the copper and chemicals from the mined ore, left 50-square-miles of the southern Appalachians completely denuded. There were no trees, no birds, no bugs; nothing was left except for the people who lived there. If the people had felt that connection to the environment, to the trees they cut down, perhaps they would have done things differently, in a more sustainable, less damaging way. I like to think so.

There is reason to believe man has it in him to be more mindful, because today, most of the denuded landscape of Copperhill and the surrounding areas has been reforested. Some of the most severely damaged areas have been turned into wetlands, where grasses and reeds act as nature’s filtration system to return the environment to a more natural ecosystem. Trees are back, and I like to believe that people are starting to listen to them.

Elizabeth O. Dulemba is an award-winning author/illustrator of two dozen titles, Illustrator Coordinator for the southern region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Board Member for the Georgia Center for the Book, and Visiting Associate Professor in the Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books program at Hollins University. A Bird on Water Street is her first novel. Visit www.dulemba.com or www.ABirdOnWaterStreet.com to learn more.