Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
We were fortunate enough to speak with Debbie Wideroe, author of the Mom’s Choice Award-winning children’s book series, The Adventures of Camellia N. Debbie has a Master’s Degree from Harvard University and studied under the co-creator of Sesame Street, Gerry Lesser. She has been both on and off-air; written, produced and directed award winning children’s programs; directed the global marketing efforts for Baby Looney Tunes, Looney Tunes, Pinky & the Brain and Tiny Toon Adventures; has written for several magazines, including having had her own column in KidScreen. Outside of being a children’s book author, she is a Visiting Professor of Communication at Pepperdine University, marketing consultant and the recipient of numerous civic, professional and education awards, including the global Charles H. Sandage Excellence in Teaching Award.
We loved hearing about her inspiration behind writing The Adventures of Camellia N. and her current initiatives that encourage children to become environmental stewards. The full interview is published below.
MCA: You have had quite the career, and we thank you passing along your knowledge and experience to younger generations in such a fascinating way. The Adventures of Camellia N. is not only a series that educates and entertains, but also encourages children to become global ambassadors. Why write a children’s book about this?
Debbie Wideroe: I am dedicated to education and have been writing stories since I was six. I have a deep interest and passion to educate the world’s children and have no doubt that children are the ones who will make changes in our world.
I have spent nearly twenty years visiting the Arctic region (my husband is Norwegian and we have extensive family living there.) I have been captivated by the sheer beauty of this region and its significance in the world environment. When most children think of the Arctic, they conjure images of magical lights, polar bears and fairy tales. Although the Arctic seems very remote and so very far away, its unique ecosystem is intricately tied to life on the rest of our planet, making it the ideal starting point for my environmentally-focused educational series.
MCA: You’re making me want to travel there right now! Were you environmentally focused or aware when you were a child?
Debbie Wideroe: Growing up in Southern California, my father was an early pioneer in sustainability. We grew up recycling, taking care of all wildlife surrounding us (including taking in a stray duck, wild birds, squirrels and deer). We grew up planting succulents before it was in vogue and reusing rain water and recycling plastic before anyone had ever heard of the concept. Authentic ideas come to us when we least expect it. The Adventures of Camellia N. came to me in a dream.
“Authentic ideas come to us when we least expect it.” – Debbie Wideroe
MCA: I love that! And you have successfully transformed your dream into a strong message for thousands of children all over the world. Why do you think your series connects so well with your readers? What makes The Adventures of Camellia N. so unique?
Debbie Wideroe: I love what one reviewer said about my series. “Wideroe’s tale introduces the undersea environment, demystifies the dreaded shark, and explains the importance of the coral reef to earth’s ecosystem, and it teaches without ever letting on that there is some real learning going on along with the excitement and adventure.”
What else sets it apart is that it’s become more than a book series through my global pen-pal program and community based projects. I love seeing Camellia jump off the page and into people’s hearts.
I am also very honored to have the world’s leading environmentalists supporting my efforts and cheerleading for me. This also makes The Adventures of Camellia N. series unique.
Debbie Wideroe: Besides my book series, I have created the Camellia Kids Care program and Global Pen-Pal program. The teachers participating in the “Global Pen-Pal” Program get paired with a partnering school across the globe. Most students write to each other comparing their environments, wildlife, ecology, lifestyles, a “day in the life” …sometimes through Google Docs and even regular mail! They send class photos… and have become true friends and global ambassadors! Students tend to discuss their environment, but in the process, they are learning to appreciate our differences and understand how connected the world really is.
MCA: So, once your readers are aware of the problem, your program provides a way for them to act on that knowledge to be environmental stewards. What is your advice to parents wanting to instill an environmentally conscious mindset in their children?
Debbie Wideroe: My goal is to encourage young children (5-9) to take better care of the environment, natural resources and wildlife through positive messaging or what I refer to as “messaging that matters.” There are many threats to our environment including climate change, water scarcity, pollution and deforestation. My books highlight animals that are endangered, critically endangered and those of concern. Many of the species I cover may not be in existence throughout these children’s lives unless changes are made.
What I want parents and children to understand most is that even one simple change can make a difference in our planet! Every child (and family) can do their part to take care of our world.
Debbie Wideroe: In Camellia N’s next eco-adventure, she awakens deep in the jungle in the Amazon, guided by a peculiar giant otter. She discovers that the rainforest is home to half of the species of plants and wildlife on our planet… and learns the critical role that rainforests play in our planet’s climate.
Thanks to Debbie Wideroe for taking the time to chat with us! You can visit The Adventures of Camellia N. website here.