Ruth Ann Smalley, Ph.D.
Beloved children’s books often twinkle in our mind’s eye, glowing as subtle or not-so-subtle reference points in our lives. Because we are introduced to them at such a formative time, our favorite characters, scenes, themes, and even catch phrases, stay with us long into adulthood.
Stories help children navigate the unknown territories in their lives: friendship, love, conflict, loss, illness, family issues, and just growing up in general! They also fortify children’s capacities for awe and wonder, reverence and resilience. In these times of global challenge, we all need to boost these capacities!
Our stories matter to our future.
As a holistic educator, I am fascinated by the way stories help us create, participate in, and heal our world. I’m a homeschooling mom, literature professor, and member of the Transition Towns movement. I believe in writing for social transformation.
I wrote my picture book, Sheila Says We’re Weird, to offer a light-hearted approach to understanding earth stewardship and simple living. My illustrator, Jennifer Emery, brought the family to life with her gorgeous, detailed paintings. The book received a Moonbeam Award, and was named an Honor book by both Skipping Stones Magazine and the Society of School Librarians International (see tilburyhouse.com).
But the most rewarding is when parents tell me, “my three year old asked to read Sheila every night last week,” or, “we’ve been reading the book every day, and I mean 5 or 10 times a day!”
Defender of Dirt: The book with the Earth Day Birthday.
My latest book, Defender of Dirt, is a children’s eco-adventure novel. It takes up where Sheila Says We’re Weird left off, with kids making discoveries about gardening, local food, community, and their own power to make a difference. The story features tweens and teens who find their voices by getting involved in their neighborhoods in an inter-generational, multi-cultural way.
My quest to get these important themes out to families in a timely, eco-friendly manner took me into new territory. I decided to partner with a local business, The Troy Bookmakers, to publish Defender of Dirt, and then I created a Kickstarter Campaign to invite backers to come on board. It was a wonderful adventure, and a fresh experience in finding my own voice. I’m grateful to the fantastic show of support: it let me know for sure that people are hungry for these kinds of nurturing stories!
Please visit the Defender of Dirt page to find out more about how the novel itself grew into a community-supported publishing project, released the week of Earth Day, 2013.