Posts Categorized: News

Meet “Finding Winnie” Author Lindsay Mattick

Do you know the true story of Winnie-the-Pooh? Long before Winnie and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood came to life in A.A. Milne’s classic stories, Winnie was a real bear who journeyed from Winnipeg to London with a young soldier named Harry Colebourn. Author Lindsay Mattick—the great-grandaughter of Harry Colebourn—tells the full tale in the New York Times bestselling and Caldecott award winning children’s book, Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear. Lindsay will read and sign copies of her book at Fairytale Town on September 16 and 17 at the ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival.

What was your inspiration for writing Finding Winnie?

This story has inspired me ever since I was a kid. The idea that a small gesture on the part of my great-grandfather would go on to have such a huge ripple effect is powerful. I always imagined telling my own child this story one day and when I found out I was pregnant with my son Cole, that was the motivation I needed.

What did you enjoy most about writing Finding Winnie?

I loved the process of watching the text come to life through my illustrator’s (Sophie Blackall) incredible illustrations. It was a very personal and moving journey to watch the story come to life in such a powerful way.

Winnie-the-Pooh is beloved by children and adults the world over. For you, though, Winnie is part of your family history. What was it like growing up knowing about the real Winnie?

I have been proudly sharing this remarkable story since I can remember and have always felt grateful to have it as part of our family history. I have delighted in the fact that one of the world’s most beloved fictional stories came about in small part, because of a true story—a love story—between my veterinarian great-grandfather and his pet bear.

What was your favorite book to read as a child?

I loved many books but a few standouts would be The Giving Tree, The Velveteen Rabbit, and The Little Mermaid.


We Need Your Help to Build a New Playset

Entering a place called Fairytale Town just has to be a magical experience. We work hard to make sure that once children and families cross under the Humpty Dumpty gate, they enter an enchanted realm where stories come to life and children can play to their heart’s content. These days, after hearing the initial “Oohs!” and “Ahhs!” upon entering the park, the next comment we often hear is, “What is that supposed to be?” when children see the drought-stricken waterways throughout the park. One frequent guest hit the nail on the head when she said, “Fairytale Town has done such a great job of upgrading and refreshing the grounds and playsets. It’s a shame the moats are such an eyesore.”

The Board and Staff of Fairytale Town are committed to keeping the historical integrity of our storybook park. We can easily justify maintaining and improving the moat around King Arthur’s Castle and the waterways close to the Pirate Ship and the Water Wheel. But, after many years of drought, it has become difficult to rationalize the use of water as a decorative element and costly to fill the non-thematic waterways in the park. For these reasons, we began to look at ways to repurpose the non-thematic waterways in the park.

Thanks to a grant from Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, we are in the process of creating a new playset! The grant allows Fairytale Town to request proposals from artists and arts organizations to create a new playset to replace the waterway between the Tipi playset and the Mary’s Little Lamb exhibit. Like all the structures at Fairytale Town, the new playset will be story-based, interactive, and powered by the imagination rather than electricity.

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The grant requires a one-to-one match, and we need your help to raise the $100,000 match! We invite you to join us in making this exciting and collaborative project come to life.

Donate Today

While all of us at Fairytale Town are committed to keeping the historical integrity of the park, we also recognize that we must ensure the facility remains relevant to the present and sustainable in the future.

We hope our community will support of this new project by providing donations to match our grant! Make a contribution online, or please contact Kathy Fleming at (916) 808-7060.


Meet Author Barbara Jean Hicks

Acclaimed author, storyteller, speaker and educator Barbara Jean Hicks has published seven picture books, including Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli, The Secret Life of Walter Kitty, and the multi-award-wining Jitterbug Jam. Her two most recent titles are A Sister More Like Me and An Amazing Snowman, both commissioned by Disney Studios as tie-ins to their Oscar-winning animated feature film, Frozen. She currently makes her home in Northwest Washington state. Barbara will headline this year’s ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival the weekend of September 24 and 25. She’ll read A Sister More Like Me plus her newest book, Once Upon A Parsnip, and sign copies of her books.

BarbaraJeanHicksYou are known as “The Story Queen”? How did you acquire that title? 

Okay, you got me—I crowned myself! Here’s the thing: I’m an introvert. When I realized that being a published author wasn’t just about writing, that it was also about connecting with my audience on a personal level, I had to figure out a way to make that work for me. And putting on a costume did it. When I don my gown and tiara, I’m no longer the one hanging back in a crowd hoping no one will notice me. I’m an actor onstage. The weird thing is that the character I’m playing is actually me. Or at least an aspect of me, one that I’d never expressed before—and one that makes an immediate connection with kids, for whom I am anything but make-believe. I am the Story Queen. (And “queen” only because it rhymes with “Jean”—I could just as easily be “Claire the Story Bear” and dress up in a furry suit, if Claire were my name!)

Frozen-ASisterMoreLikeMeWhat did you enjoy most about writing A Sister More Like Me, featuring Anna and Elsa from Frozen?

First, I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing an early screening of Frozen, more than a year before the movie was released. It was still in production—no music, not completely animated, pieces of the story not yet fleshed out—but still, I think everyone in the audience knew it was going to be something special.

I also enjoyed the story-building process—thinking about my own two sisters and me, and how we didn’t always understand each other because we were so different from one another. And I thought about how we sometimes depended on one another because of those very differences.

I lost my eldest sister the day before Frozen was released in theaters. I’m sad she never got to see the movie, but glad she was able to hold the finished product in her hands before she died. The book is even more special to me because I associate it with Lindy. The last weekend we spent together, she had arranged for me to read and do a book signing for A Sister More Like Me at her favorite bookstore in Seattle, and many of her friends as well as her daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters were there. I have a picture of the two of us at the signing, me decked out in my royal finery, Lindy standing behind me with her hand at my back—a visual metaphor. Even now I feel she stands behind me, supports me, encourages me.

onceuponaparsnipTell us about your latest book, Once Upon a Parsnip?

A number of years ago I joined a children’s book writers’ group and met Kevin Wood—a man who is off-the-charts, in my opinion, when it comes to creativity. One day he brought a grocery list to the meeting–of items you might find in a fairytale grocery store, like poison apples, magic beans and pumpkins that turn into carriages. It was written in rhyme. He basically asked me if I could help him come up with characters and a plot to be used as a delivery system for his grocery list!

The Fairytale Grocery Store gained characters and a plot in a Little Red/Wolf rematch, with cameo appearances by the Three Pigs and other various fairytale folk. We had a publisher interested at one point, but it didn’t go anywhere. I continued to work on the story off and on; I’m a dog with a bone when it comes to a good story—if I think it has potential, I just don’t give up on it. Somewhere during that time, the title became Once Upon a Parsnip and parsnips were added to the plot.

Fast forward a dozen years…. I was doing a promotion for A Sister More Like Me at our local movie theatre the weekend Frozen was released. Ben Mann introduced himself as a local artist; we had a lovely chat and later developed a friendship. Meanwhile, I had met a group of “author-entrepreneurs,” women who had all published books independently, and I felt an immediate affinity with them. (I call them my “tribe”!) I had several manuscripts out to agents and editors but was getting no response, so I asked Ben if he might be interested in illustrating a book and self-publishing it with me. The timing was right. It was something he had wanted to do, and he felt our partnership and the manuscript were both a good fit. We met about every two weeks over the next six months, and I gave him feedback based on the things I’d learned paying attention to the editors and art directors on my previous books.

Six months after Ben finished the illustrations, we had Once Upon a Parsnip in hand. It was very exciting to open that first box of books! I had published a total of 20 books through traditional publishers, but this one felt different. For one thing, I loved acting as art director for the project. I pretty much let Ben do what he wanted to with the art, but I had a few suggestions about the relationship between the text and the illustrations in places, and he took them to heart. Later, I worked with the graphic designer at our publisher, Mascot Books, until we achieved the vision I had in my mind. I saw the art direction as another expression of my creativity, and I am so, so pleased with the look, color and movement of the text on the page and how it integrates with the artwork.

I also learned that I love the collaborative process. I have been fortunate to have had several amazing artists assigned to my previous books, but I wasn’t lucky enough to have actually worked with any of them. It was such a pleasure working with Kevin on the manuscript, with Ben on the illustrations and with the staff at Mascot Books on the editing and graphic design. I was very pleased when Kevin, who teaches English Language Learners in an elementary school, wrote a short easy reader about our three-way collaboration. Parsnip Partnership is designed for teachers to use in the classroom alongside Once Upon a Parsnip. Kevin has graciously given permission to other teachers (and parents!) to download and print this unique teaching guide.

And if you could be any fairytale character, who would you be? Why?

I’d like to be a fairy-godmother-at-large. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to right the wrongs of the world with the wave of a magic wand? I know what I’d do—I’d use my magic to make sure that every child everywhere had a chance to be a child–to laugh, to play, to imagine, to see light and beauty in the world. To feel safe. To be loved without reservation. In the meantime, I do what I can sans magic.


Farmer Brown’s Barn Reopens

The home of Eeyore, Charlotte, and Daisy, the Cow that Jumped Over the Moon, reopened on Saturday, October 11! The renovation of Farmer Brown’s Barn saw a number of improvements to this beloved part of our town, such as the expansion of Eeyore’s stall, new stall doors for both Eeyore and Daisy, repainting the interior and exterior, new exhibit spaces and more.

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Check out our exciting new exhibits during your next visit, including an observation beehive, beekeeping tool display, and a wall of amazing arachnids. An additional space will change with seasonal exhibits. Come springtime, this space will transform into Farmer Brown’s Hatchery.

A big thank you to our major sponsors who made the renovation possible: Sacramento County Supervisor, the Honorable Jimmie Yee, the Spencer Family, the Curry Family, and J. Steven Carrillo. Thanks also go to the Webber-Kozumplik Family for supporting the observation beehive, and to hundreds of additional donors for supporting the project.

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Learning About Play

I was excited to learn about Exploring Play: The Importance of Play in Everyday Life, a free online course offered by FutureLearn and the University of Sheffield. The seven-week course kicked off last week and is off to a roaring start. Learners from all over the world are participating. For the first week we learned about the many definitions of play, and were asked to share our play histories.

SacramentoPlaySummit2There were two common themes about people’s play histories. The first centered on outdoor play. I was amazed at how many people remembered playing outdoors without any supervision by adults. In reflecting on my own play history, I recalled spending a lot of time outside playing with friends and neighbors, and seldom within eyesight of any of our parents. By contrast, my children spent very little time outdoors in self-directed activities. While they spent a lot of time outside, it was usually in a supervised sporting activity. It is surprising how much things have changed in just one generation.

The other theme was that the play people gravitated toward in childhood often carried over into their adult careers. I participated in a lot of imaginative play and acted out stories as a child, and began my professional career by working in theater. Some who played with cars as children became mechanics; others who liked to play school with their stuffed animals became teachers. It was a little surprising to realize how much my play as a child links to my life as an adult.

Play can be difficult to define, but it is something that crosses cultures, contexts and lifespans. What do you remember about your play history, and how has it impacted your life as an adult?