Author Rachel Bate writes children’s books that inspire readers to collaborate with nature and each other with respect, compassion, and kindness. Her first three books — Desert Bliss (2016), Turquoise Tail (2018), and Santa Fe Tom (2020) — were published by Mascot Books. Her newest release is Tierra Day (Mascot Kids, October 2022). You’ll find Rachel on Facebook, her SWW author page, and her Amazon author page.
Tell us about Tierra Day. What sparked the story idea?
I was inspired to write Tierra Day, which pertains to Earth Day, as a lesson for children about the importance of recycling and not littering. I really wanted children to ponder how keeping the Earth clean is a community effort. Organizing a Litter Clean Up Recycle Day as a community event involving the whole town — including humans and animal friends, the mayor and the governor — shows everyone is responsible for our Earth no matter what their position/title, to help keep our Earth trash-free and clean. Finally, in my humble opinion, I feel Earth Day should be Every day, as I care deeply for our planet and all its creatures.
How have the years you devoted to teaching as an elementary and special education teacher informed your writing?
My educational experience has played an instrumental role in my writing. Many times, throughout my teaching experience, I have come up with stories using puppets for my students to engage their curiosity and conversations about a particular event, emotions, behaviors, etc. I frequently smiled and thought to myself, one of these days I would like to have the time to write down the stories I come up with, especially when my students were extremely engaged and wanted to hear the same story repeatedly.
Did the illustrator’s interpretation capture what you had envisioned for Tierra Day?
For each of my books, I worked very closely in a collaborative approach with my sister, Rebecca Jacob, the illustrator. We both allow each other constructive feedback and independent thought through each of our book creations. She is an amazing artist and each book that we create with my stories and her art truly touches my heart and soul. It is always exhilarating to see and touch each finished book.
How and why did you chose the title for this book?
I chose Tierra Day as the title for this book because Tierra, as a girl’s name, is of Spanish origin that means Earth. Tierra, as the main human character in my story, symbolizes her compassion and caring relationship with others and the animals of our beautiful planet Earth, especially on Earth Day, April 22nd.
What fundamental roles do picture books play for young readers?
I feel pictures capture the written word and bring it to life for young readers. Illustrations allow the young reader to further comprehend what the story is about and provide a visual escape into the story. I feel my sister Rebecca’s artwork especially appeals to children with her vivid colors and character expressions throughout each of our books.
How does Tierra Day differ from your three previous picture books: Desert Bliss, Turquoise Tail, and Santa Fe Tom?
Tierra Day can be used as an instructional tool for teachers, families, outdoor instruction, etc., to familiarize children about Earth Day that occurs annually on April 22nd. At the end of my book is a fact sheet regarding Earth Day and a glossary to use as a lesson on Earth Day. It also aims at teaching children the importance of recycling and how taking care of the Earth impacts not just people, but also the critters we share the planet with.
Do you have a preference, verse or prose, when writing children’s books? What helps you make that determination?
I enjoy writing in both verse and prose depending upon my story’s theme and message. I added a song for children to sing in Tierra Day as another means of learning an important message using music to remember and especially having interactive fun with learning while cleaning up/recycling.
What typically comes first for you: A character? A story idea? Location?
I love getting many of my ideas when I am outside in my garden, hiking in the mountains, being inspired by everything I sense in nature. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I will visualize a story in my mind, and I must gradually creep out of bed and proceed to write down my thoughts in my journal. A story idea may also slowly evolve from my adventures and characters and quickly formulate in my mind based on my subconscious and conscious experiences.
Your stories focus on helping children to overcome their fears and to believe in themselves. Can you share any experiences that may have inspired you?
I was a very shy child and young adult. At times, I still experience this shyness in my adult life. In the past, I would seek situations to push me out of my comfort zone, for example trying out and getting a lead part in plays, track, cross-country, etc. As an educator, it has made me extra sensitive and insightful to the needs of my students and how each student that I taught over the years is unique and special. I learned so much through observing others, my students, nature, critters, and the responses of each in various situations. It has been a great asset in regard to my writing skills.
Su Lierz writes dark fiction, short story fiction, and personal essays. Her short story “Twelve Days in April,” written under the pen name Laney Payne, appeared in the 2018 SouthWest Writers Sage Anthology. Su was a finalist in the 2017 and 2018 Albuquerque Museum Authors Festival Writing Contest. She lives in Corrales, New Mexico, with her husband Dennis.