I love books and I love reading to my young children so I get positively giddy when a new Baha’i-inspired book for children is made available. Chelsea Lee Smith, who we interviewed about her children’s album At First Light and who wrote a great Baha’i Blog article called What I Really Want for Mother’s Day, has authored a new book called Garden of Virtues. It’s a colourful and playful interactive book about virtues, all about gardening. Chelsea graciously took some time to tell us all about it:
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to create ‘Garden of Virtues‘?
I wanted to create an interactive book that would give kids a fun way to quiz themselves on how well they knew what virtues look like in real life situations. Garden of Virtues features ten scenarios with three virtues listed that the kids can guess from, and the answer for each scenario’s virtue comes on the next page. The concept came to me last year when our family took a road trip around Australia in our camper trailer. We stayed in a small town in Western Australia for a few weeks where they had a lovely community garden. Our whole family enjoyed the experience of contributing to the garden so much, and I noticed how many character building opportunities there were while working in the garden. That’s what gave me the idea of creating a virtues book with a garden theme.
Baha’i Blog: What was something you learned during the process of putting this book together?
Bringing Garden of Virtues to life really taught me to appreciate the technicalities of putting a story with illustrations together. I’ve co-written one other storybook before, Mason’s Greatest Gems, with the talented Elaheh Bos of PlantLoveGrow.com, but I wasn’t as involved with the illustration since that is her specialty. This time around, since I was self-publishing, I chose the illustrator myself and developed the ideas for what the pictures would look like. The illustrator of Garden of Virtues, Shimoné Mackay, was just lovely to work with. We are both very happy with the result, and it was definitely worth the huge amount of time and effort we put in.
Baha’i Blog: What was a challenge you overcame during the creation of this book?
The biggest challenge for me in publishing books is figuring out the technical side. I love the writing and creative aspects, so those parts are easy for me. The little details like international shipping and selling the book to retailers take a lot of time though, and I have to push myself to do those tasks as they are definitely not my favourite things to do in the small hours I’m not parenting or homeschooling my kids. Also many people requested hard copies of the book, and it was a mission to figure out the printing for those. They are absolutely beautiful though and I hope more people order them. You can get them from this website.
Baha’i Blog: How has the book been received so far?
I’m so grateful for the feedback I’ve gotten about the book so far, it has been terrific! People are saying they love the illustrations and appreciate the storyline where kids can get involved in guessing the virtue. I have had several parents tell me it’s their child’s favourite book! It was really exciting to hear so many stories about how the book was used to celebrate Ayyam-i-Ha and Naw-Ruz, too. I created a printable activity pack to go along with the book which can be used at home or in classrooms, and so parents would take the book in to read to their child’s class, do one or two of the activity pages with the kids, and then they would usually do an art project like a bulletin board where all the kids made a flower or added a leaf to a tree. The book was also given as a gift for a lot of teachers at the end of the year, which I think is a fabulous idea!
Baha’i Blog: What other projects are you working on?
I have a few other books that I’m working on, all in various stages of production and about different topics, which will eventually show up in my online shop. I’m also spending quite a bit of time preparing parenting courses for the Wilmette Institute. I’m currently serving as the Parenting and Family Section Coordinator and there are some really exciting resources coming up to support families who are trying to integrate the Baha’i teachings with positive parenting techniques.