I look at these faces!
We look forward to meeting many more!
Parents know how anxious children can be when school begins, and one of a child’s biggest worries is whether they will make friends.
Lauren and I heard this when we toured primary and nursery schools with our Myrtle the Purple Turtle books. When we visit children from 3 to 11 years old, we don’t just read the books to them: we also listen to their experiences.
Some children told us about being left out. No one wanted to play with them, or “be friends”. Some were made fun of, or bullied by others.
Of course, these things can happen at any time, not just in the first weeks of school. We also know that parents are looking out for their children, themselves anxious about how their child is faring each day.
But there is another thing parents (and other adults who care for children) can do:
Encourage or remind your children to be kind to others, and especially to children who seem to have no friends.
Just as they clearly recalled the painful times they were excluded, the 9, 10 and 11 year old children we met had uplifting stories. They had distinct memories of the classmates who noticed they were excluded and reached out to them.
Some remembered being told they couldn’t join in a game, but also happily remembered the time they were included. And they cherished their memories of the classmates who simply asked “Do you want to be friends?”
Out in the community, we’ve even met adults in their 80’s who remember those incidents from early childhood. Some today say they are still marked by those experiences of being excluded or being befriended.
Every child needs to be included and every child can be a friend to another.
The original Myrtle story was written for Lauren, after an incident at her school when she was almost five years old. But if you were to accompany us on a book tour in schools, you would understand why these issues are so present in our thoughts as we write every new book.
We are passionate about Myrtle’s messages of inclusion, kindness and self-esteem because we see the great need for them — and we see it often.
To order, or learn more about the Myrtle books, please visit: https://myrtlepurpleturtle.wordpress.com/
We are also grateful for this award recognizing Myrtle’s relevance to schools:
I remember the day when CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers and her colleagues Jacqueline and Erin came to interview me at our old farmhouse on the northern edge of Toronto.
It was summer 2014 and a day like the one pictured on the cover of Twigs in My Hair.
My first book, A Good Home, had been recently published, and I, who had interviewed hundreds of people on television, was terrified. Of forgetting, of stuttering, of other painful things resulting from a car accident.
Wise woman that she is, Shelagh asked me to stroll with her around the gardens before the interview.
My friend Marilyn Mirabelli prepared tea for everyone. “Everything goes better with a cup of tea,” she said, trying to calm my anxiety.
The interview complete, we sat outside and enjoyed ourselves. Marilyn regaled us with stories about the history of the afternoon tea tradition in Britain. We heard names like Queen Victoria and Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford.
I remember the tea party, but almost nothing of the interview.
Much later, I remembered this: Shelagh asked if I was writing a sequel. I said I was terrified of writing a sequel because I’d have to revisit my journals — and that was too painful.
No way. I’d come too far to go back.
Instead, I said, I was working on something fun — a gardening book! It was, in fact, almost complete.
But life went and did what life does.
Something unexpected happened. It led to the writing of An Honest House, the sequel I had dreaded.
It went on to win an award and much critical acclaim for its raw honesty. But writing it traumatized me. The gardening book was shelved and forgotten.
Now, five years after I first wrote that gardening memoir, I look at the cover and feel a bunch of differing emotions.
I see memories everywhere in this book cover. Most are good, a few are painful, and all in their own way, are precious.
Almost every object you see has meaning for us.
Look closely at the boxwood semi-circle behind the round garden bed.
Now look at the biggest of the boxwoods, given to us in the 1980’s by a revered gardening teacher, Donald Moore. You’ll meet him – and the boxwood — when you read Twigs in My Hair.
Of course, I should apologize to Shelagh Rogers for misleading her, and for the book being years late. But hey! We finally got it done!