This is the sixth and final post in the series. You can read the first post here.
It’s less than a week out from the Kickstarter launch to fund printing Falafel’s Garden on 100% recycled paper in the US, and I’m getting excited! For the last post on the making of Falafel’s Garden, I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the content of the book as well as where I got part of my inspiration.
In an earlier post, I introduced the characters —Falafel, a yoga-loving llama; Griswold, a sheep with social anxiety; and Baxter, an epicurean horse. In Part 4 and Part 5 of the blog series, I showed the first three pages of the book where the story opens with Falafel waking up to the arrival of his favorite season.
Falafel has been waiting for springtime to arrive so he can begin planting his garden. He looks to his friends, Griswold and Baxter, for assistance.
Falafel imagined his friends would help sow
the seeds for the veggies he wanted to grow.
Griswold the sheep was the first on his list.
He popped in to ask if he’d like to assist.
But Griswold’s anxiety stood in the way
of him helping his friend build a garden that day.
“I’m sorry, Falafel,” Griswold replied.
“But I think it is best if I stay here inside.”
Falafel is a kind-hearted, eternal optimist. He is understanding of Griswold’s needs and doesn’t let the fact that Griswold can’t join get him down. He instead heads on to Baxter the Horse’s house. Since Baxter is a foodie, Falafel is hopeful that he will be willing to help him with his garden.
Keeping his chin up, Falafel was sure
he could count on his horse-friend, the food connoisseur.
But Baxter was focused on watching TV
about chefs who cooked dishes competitively.
“Plant your own garden? That sounds like a chore.
If I need any food, I’ll just go to the store.”
I don’t want to give too much of the story away; but I can divulge that food plays a big role in the story.
When I decided to write a story for some of my plush characters, part of me wanted to write a children’s book about healthy eating. As a kid, I was very fortunate to have a mother who enjoyed cooking meals from scratch; but a large part of my diet was not as healthy as it could have been. I typically chose foods that were labelled as ‘low-fat’ or ‘diet’ because I thought that was healthy, but I now know that most of what I was eating was actually highly-processed with added sugar and chemicals. By the time I was 19, I was pre-diabetic. Over the next few years, I was diagnosed with a few auto-immune diseases; and in 2012, I had to resign from my job as an elementary art teacher due to my health.
After not seeing any improvement with conventional medicine, I got desperate and began trying anything I thought might help. I started seeing a naturopathic doctor, I replaced all of household and body care products with natural alternatives, and I started eating only unprocessed meals that I prepared from whole foods at home. Within a few months, I was able to discontinue some of the medications I had been on for years. My pre-diabetes vanished along with persistent rashes I hadn’t been able to get rid of even with steroid creams. I had more energy than I had ever experienced, and I was in a lot less pain. While I still struggle with some of my health problems today, I remain amazed at how much improvement I saw just by switching to a more natural lifestyle.
My realization of the connection between our health and the chemicals we ingest and put on our bodies was ultimately what led me to start using organic materials for making plush toys. I wish I had learned earlier on about the importance of eating whole foods and knowing the source of your food. So when I began writing Falafel’s Garden, I knew I wanted to incorporate some of that knowledge into the book.
I’m a big proponent of showing rather than telling, so I utilized the illustrations to present some of the characters making healthy food choices while engaging in activities related to their original storylines. Healthy eating is a central theme in Falafel’s Garden, but the book is also about the trials of friendship and forgiveness.
I’ve incorporated the healthy eating theme in the Kickstarter campaign for Falafel’s Garden by including rewards for one of Baxter’s recipes and organic basil seeds for kids to start their own garden! One of the stretch goals for the campaign, if funded, will cover the cost of season extension equipment for The Edible Schoolyard in Greensboro, NC. The stretch goal will allow The Edible Schoolyard to extend their growing season into the winter months and supply their cooking classes and after school program with more fresh food!
As a former teacher, I know how difficult it can be to sneak topics like nutrition into the curriculum; so I wanted Falafel’s Garden to be a book that could easily be integrated in the classroom. I’ve included reward tiers with K-3 Lesson plans for reading, math, and science for cross-curricular use of the book!
I’ll be posting the campaign for Falafel’s Garden at 10 am EST on Tuesday, September 6th, and I’ll be hosting a Kickstarter Launch Party and Giveaway on Facebook! The launch party is an online event, so anyone can attend from anywhere in the world!
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