Kimberly Poulton of Westport, Massachusetts published her children’s book Hello, Willow in October 2000. Along with vivid illustrations by Jennifer O’Keefe, it tells the story of a young girl, her favorite willow tree, and the adventures the two share. Poulton says, “Hello Willow is based on my childhood while I lived in Connecticut.  My family lived in an apartment building with a beautiful willow tree in the backyard.  I had many fond experiences with that tree and the story grew out of that.”

Hello Willow promotes imagination, but it is also an excellent resource to teach important values to a younger audience. Poulton says, “It is a very simple story that encourages imagination in a young child.  The illustrations wonderfully bring the text to life.  I think of it also as a great teaching tool for talking with children about the basics of living – be kind to others, play nicely, have good manners, have fun dreaming, simple games are the best, enjoy learning, clean up after yourself, and rest.  In this society where we continue to rush, tend to forget our manners, live for ourselves, think it’s okay to be loud and say whatever we want, Hello Willow offers an important message for children.”

Poulton has a background in primary education, and she and O’Keefe wrote a teacher’s guide for Hello Willow. Poulton has also spoken to older children about writing books. I asked her what advice she would give to this population, and she answered, “I think an active imagination definitely influences writing, as well as keen observation of your world.  This is what I often share with older children about writing. There are many interesting story lines that can be created just by observing others.  I encourage them to carry small notebooks so that when they are inspired by an idea, they can write it down.”

As she is a busy mom, Poulton is currently taking a small hiatus from writing, but she says, “I have many ideas and stories started.”

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Duxbury resident Brian Lies, author of Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library, and Bats at the Ballgame, among other

Author Brian Lies

titles, admits he never started out to write about the winged nocturnal creatures, but was inspired by his second grader.

Lies, a native of Princeton, New Jersey, says, “the idea for Bats at the Beach was inspired by my daughter when she was in second grade.  We were trying to get her ready for school and things weren’t going especially well, and she dragged me into the guest room, pointed at a frost pattern in the window and said, ‘look Daddy–it’s a bat, with sea foam!’  The bumpy shape DID look kind of like a happy bat, waist deep in the water.  Once she was on the bus, I thought,  ’that sounds like a story!’”

I had the opportunity to read Bats at the Library. It tells the story of a group of bats, both old and young, who visit their local public library, after hours, of course. The bats not only explore the stacks, but also the film projector and the copy machine. Lies was motivated to write this bat book by a librarian friend. He says, “for Bats at the Library, the inspiration came from one of my local librarians, Amy Tull.  I was talking with her at a library benefit, and she said, ‘I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but we had a bat in the library HERE once.’  Lightbulb moment:  my bats would LOVE reading, and the opportunity to spend an unbothered night in the library!  Since I’m a huge fan of library architecture and of libraries themselves, this one was a lot of fun to do.”

Front cover of "Bats at the Library"

My favorite part of the book was the illustrations, also done by Lies. In a few parts of the book, the bats are imagining themselves as characters in classic titles such as Alice in Wonderland. Lies says, “I have four pages in which the bats imagine themselves inside their favorite stories.  There are characters like Pippi Longstocking, Old Pew from Treasure Island, and many more all depicted as bats.  The choices for those stories and characters were more complicated than I would have expected.  I had lots of favorite books when I was younger which wouldn’t lend themselves to the imagery.  How many kids would recognize a bat in a hollowed-out tree as My Side of the Mountain?  So the blend in the end became some of my favorites (Barbara and Ed Emberley’s Drummer Hoff), and some iconic stories which even younger readers would recognize (Peter RabBAT, Little Red Riding BAT).

 

Lies has written and illustrated 23 books for children. All of his bat books have been on the NY Times Best-Sellers’List for Children’s Books. You can learn more about him at his website: www.brianlies.com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

Front cover of "Bats at the Beach"

Front cover of "Bats at the Ballgame"