Catlyn, Mia, and Leonie have read many pictures to many different children of all ages over the years. At around the same time, they all got tired of the same things. Picture books lack ethnic diversity, perpetuate the idea that people are good or bad, and don’t show a diversity of family types or gender roles. Inspired by their work with children, they endeavored to write a story they could believe in- a story to inspire children to imagine a better world while at the same time seeing themselves in it. They created a book that reflects and teaches their values and the values in the communities around them. The Princess and the Sunflowers is:
Empowering- children of all colors can see people who look like them.
Respectful- all characters are good and doing the best they can.
Healing- this diverse, peaceful world is the one they want to believe is possible.
Encaptivating- the focus is on learning and discovery in the natural world.
The Princess and the Sunflowers is about a princess, Amara, who thinks the world revolves around her in part because she is an only child, in part because all kids do, but also because all of the sunflowers are staring at her every morning when she awakes.
One afternoon she looks out the window and realizes with shock that they are not staring at her. She becomes upset and she tries to do everything she can to get the sunflowers to turn around. Through her attempts she meets a friend, the son of a farmer, who teaches her a little bit about humility and the secret about why the sunflowers face different directions at different times of day. Princess Amara, thus, learns a little science, a lot of humility, and even makes her first true friend.
This story is exciting because adults everywhere can feel good about the messages- overt and subtle- that it promotes. The Princess and the Sunflowers:
- Features a healthy, multicultural kingdom where all people get along.
- Involves a princess who doesn’t wear a gown and tiara, but sports a colorful hijab.
- Features a king who is a single father, but this isn’t the main storyline. It just is. And it is fine.
- Depicts an esteemed female farmer.
- Shows a poor “uneducated” farmer boy offering wisdom to an “educated” princess.
In this science-driven story, all characters are shown as having dignity and being inherently good and kind. People are not either "good" or "bad." The struggles come from Amara fighting her own inexperience and pride, which all people periodically struggle with.
A History teacher in a Project Based Learning Junior High School, Leonie teaches history from the revisionist perspective- that is looking at it not from the perspective of the winners of wars and writers of history, but from the perspective of all people who lived in each time and place (emphasizing the experiences of the lower classes, women, minorities, etc.).
She infiltrates her teaching with a deep respect for multiculturalism, understanding of the world's religions and an insistence that people who grow up in the United States understand and respect the similarities and difference between Western culture and the rest of the world. Her favorite part of the job is getting to use stories of interesting and lesser known people in her classroom to bring other times and places to life for students.
I have been a lead guide in a Montessori classroom for 4 years going on 5. I have always been passionate about education, from babysitting as a teenager, to working with middle school youth groups, to assisting in classrooms, to running weekendlong programing at our Unitarian Universalist District assembly, to teaching the O.W.L. curriculum to children from kindergarten through 9th grade.
As a Montessorian I know the path to peace is through education and hope to reach beyond my classroom and beyond my community through books. I am excited to begin my journey as an author and know The Princess and the Sunflowers is the first book of many.
Growing up in a small town filled with a variety of supportive communities, Mia belonged to the UnitarianUniversalist church and attended a Montessori school from early childhood. Her mom supported and helped her artistic abilities for as far back as she can remember, and her dad instilled in her a love and respect for nature. Both parents taught Mia to try to take care of the world around her and inspired her to want to help children envision a better world of the future.
Illustrating the Princess and the Sunflowers allowed her to dream up what that world might be like. I chose to go to art school because of my love of art and I chose to switch paths because I missed nature. This project allows me to continue art while remaining on my path to being a teacher. It reflects the communities and support I grew up in with the principles I grew up with.