Congratulations to a long-time friend, Sandra Cook, on the publication of her first children’s book, Lost In Wildcat Cove.
Having worked with children, birth through 6th grade, for 50 years, Ms. Cook is dedicated to the reading enjoyment of young children. As an early childhood educator and curriculum specialist, she has a passion for creating stories that partner well with all early childhood standards.
As teachers use this story in their classroom curriculum or parents sit and read this story to their children, Ms. Cook’s hope is that the children will learn the value of being kind. Plus, that kindness and tolerance are much better than bullying others because of their differences.
Most of your professional life has been spent working with and educating children, when and why did you make the transition from educator to author?
One of my graduate school professors made the following statement, “Everyone has a book inside of them; all they need to do is pull it out.” That statement gave me the confidence to venture out of my comfort zone and write the books that have been percolating in my mind for years. I decided to join my passions for reading and animals to create this book series.
Can you give us a summary of your first book? Where did you find the idea?
My main character is a brave little chipmunk named Chippy who lives with his mother and siblings in a quiet cove in the Lake of the Ozarks. The shoreline of the cove is surrounded by plenty of trees and lots of ground for the critters who live there to roam.
One day, Chippy left the safety of his burrow to explore the world outside, but lost his way and didn’t know how to get home. During his travels, Chippy comes across other critters that also live in the cove: a not very nice snake named Simon, a mother groundhog named Greta, and a turtle named Timmy.
Along the journey, Chippy learns the value of friendship and realizes that it’s sometimes necessary to stand up and face your fears in order to help a friend
The idea of the book came from joining my passions in life: reading, animals, and most importantly children. After many years of teaching, advanced degrees, and working with children, leaving teaching entirely was not an option.
By incorporating the standards as part of the author’s purpose, I was able to indirectly continue teaching. The ideas for the plots and characters in the book come from the Missouri early childhood standards: the use of alliteration in the names of the characters (ex: Chippy Chipmunk), and the author’s purpose. In the first book the standard is, “learning to empathize with others”.
Is this a stand-alone title or the first in a series?
Lost in Wildcat Cove is the first book in a series entitled, “The Critters of Wildcat Cove.” Book two, now in the works, addresses the early childhood standard of, ‘developing the ability to look at another person’s perspective’.
When Mikey the Monkey escapes the circus train, he finds himself in unfamiliar territory where he meets some very unusual critters. That’s when, Chippy and his friends struggle to understand why Mikey behaves so differently; especially when the little monkey causes mischief in the cove.
Can you tell us a little about your writing method? Did you draw from personal experience or was research necessary?
I really haven’t thought much about the method. I did combine my knowledge as an educational curriculum specialist with personal experiences at the lake (Lake of the Ozarks) and personified the animal characters with those experiences. Some research needed to take place in order to get the details correct.
How would you classify your book: preschool, first reader, lower elementary, upper elementary, picture?
The book was designed to be a read-aloud book for preschool through lower elementary students to support various reading skills. The reading level for independent reading would fall in the lower elementary grades, first through third. Lost in Wildcat Cove was additionally written to couple nicely with a balanced literacy program.
Where will your book be available for purchase? Cost?
Any upcoming marketing plans: author’s reading at local library?
I will be doing library story time and meet the author at the Lake of the Ozarks and hopefully in St. Louis. Currently, we are trying to set up a story time at Chick-fil-A. Lost in Wildcat Cove will also be featured at the Book Expo of America on May 11-13 in Chicago, IL. I will also be attending the Expo and look forward to meeting people.
Anything the reader should know about the book’s illustrator?
Accomplished artist and graphics designer, Laura Merris, is the illustrator of the series. More importantly than her professional accomplishments, Ms. Merris is a long, long, time personal family friend.
Laura made use of pastels to capture the characters and scenes of the story beautifully with her hand-drawn illustrations. I am very proud to have her artwork included in my books.
Book #2 in the “The Critters of Wildcat Cove” series is in the works. In A Home for Mikey, the reader will follow Chippy on his journey around the cove where he meets a mischievous monkey named Mikey.