With so much of our community focused on major changes that will affect our sense of place, we must take time and learn more about the many long threads, the people and their histories, that weave this community together into an exciting and vibrant whole.
Twenty-five years ago, Carole Lexa Schaefer started The Little Friend's Pre-School (www.LFPS.org) here on Queen Anne. She has a master's degree in early childhood education from the University of Washington. Before starting the school, she taught in Taiwan, Switzerland, Micronesia, Missouri and Washington. Now she has been settled for more than 25 years in the Queen Anne community where, as she says, "I live here, I work here, I write here." I must add that she also gardens here!
I first met Carole at a book-signing party celebrating National Children's Book Week at Queen Anne Books. I have no idea why I stopped at the bookstore that day, except, of course, I always love to go there. I was slowly browsing in the corner when I noticed that the line was gone at her signing table. I have always loved the magic of children's books and went to investigate. What a rich experience - and once again I felt like celebrating, out loud, our little community that is filled with a grand assortment of talent.
Carole has had 18 books published, many of them winning prestigious awards. "The Biggest Soap," with illustrations by Stacey Dressen-McQueen, was the winner of the 2005 Peace Corps Writers Best Book for Children, as well as a Charlotte Zolotow Book Award. "Down in the Woods at Sleepy Time" won the Washington Center for the Book Top Ten Book Award in 2001. Do check out her website (www.clshaefer.com) to find out more about the numerous awards her writing has received over the years.
The range of her subject matter is broad and intriguing. Her historic fiction picture book, "Two Scarlet Songbirds," is a blending of historical fact and imagination. Anton Dvorak, the Czech composer, heard the song of the scarlet tanager while spending the summer in Iowa in 1893 and was inspired to write the third movement of the American Quartet, a string quartet in F major. After reading this magical book you will find yourself straining to hear all of the birds' songs whenever you are out walking or gardening. And you meditate on that elusive concept called creativity - where it can come from if your ears or eyes are sufficiently open.
Her book "Cool Time Song" is a paean to stewardship of our planet, told with very few, but precise, words. The illustrations by Pierr Morgan perfectly celebrate Carole's carefully crafted writing. The great animals of the plains - lions, hyenas, elephants, and giraffes - make their song in the cool of eventide: "Care for the water." "Tend the land." "Laugh together." "Hear the animals' peaceful cool time song." "And, people, oh people - sing along."
These are not preachy books. Instead, she guides you along in a joyful and thought-provoking course toward her themes. Her most recent book, "The Bora-Bora Dress," could be seen as a plea to get a little tomboy into a dress, just for once. But that would completely miss the theme of strong-mindedness being gently bent towards broadening dreams. It is good to know that this book is now ready to go into its third printing, for that means it is deeply resonating for many children, parents and teachers.
Perhaps the quiet power of this book lies in the fact that there was a real Lindsay, who came to the preschool one day in February, announcing that her sundress had been brought back from Bora-Bora. Carole writes: "This story was inspired by a strong-minded little friend of mine who loved to read so much, she began when she was 3." The book is dedicated to her memory.