UNIVERSAL CONNECTIONS by Janet Lawler, author of If Kisses Were Colors and many other picture books

I have come to believe that connecting kids with nature not only encourages them to preserve the environment, but, more importantly, helps them preserve humanity in its broadest sense. Those truly connecting with the natural world sense and respect its peace and order (even the order of natural chaos).  Who does not feel more peaceful for having spent time in the natural world?

My love of nature has found its way into much of my writing, although not always on a conscious level.  The author revision letter on my first picture book, If Kisses Were Colors, pointed out that I had developed a theme of comparing a mother’s love to the vastness and wonders of the natural world. “If kisses were raindrops, a sea would appear, created by showers that fall far and near.” I had included another couplet using a piggy bank image, and the editor noted that that this didn’t fit with my theme. As I worked on revisions, I realized that all my images, save that one, were nature based. I confess that I had not done this intentionally. But I was happy to replace those problematic lines with a more universal sentiment, “If kisses were comets, the sky would be bright, with flashes of fire that streak through the night.”

Artwork from If Kisses Were Colors. Alison Jay, illustration © 2003

As I have continued to hone my craft and publish other books, I have deliberately mined the natural world for subject matter and inspiration. I want to encourage children to make and share these universal connections.

I had a “Yes!” moment at a recent school visit when discussing the amazing objects one can find on a nature walk. I asked my audience if any of them collected rocks, and several hands waved affirmatively. Then I asked if those collectors had a favorite rock. (From here I usually go on to elicit descriptions and story possibilities). A little boy sitting right in front of me reached into his pocket, drew out his favorite rock, and held it up for me and everyone to see. It was as if I’d planted him in the audience!

If only we all would carry a bit of nature in our pockets every day. It might make us pause a moment. It might connect us. It might help preserve humanity. At least, I like to think so.

Janet Lawler and her family family share their home in Connecticut with a dog, a lizard, and assorted wildlife visiting the backyard.  She has authored several picture books including the popular seasonal titles Snowzilla, Tyrannoclaus and Silly Ghosts. Her first non-fiction book, Ocean Counting, will be released by National Geographic in May, 2013. Visit her website at www.JanetLawler.com.

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