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.
Hi, Mom’s Choice readers! Thank you for joining us for another interview with one of our amazing honorees – we hope this finds you well! The honoree we were able to speak with today is Lavelle Carlson, author of the Mom’s Choice Award-winning book, Bee, Honey Bunny and Me! Bee, Honey Bunny and Me is a delightfully illustrated book that is sure to keep your little readers enthralled as they dream along with the main character, Leni, about the bunnies and the bees to see how Baby Bunny changes her mind about carrots. This book is a sweet story that teaches a big lesson about the importance of animals and the environment in a fun and entertaining way. Bee, Honey Bunny and Me is also the perfect book to add to your Easter reading collection! Keep reading to find out more about Lavelle Carlson and her award-winning book, Bee, Honey Bunny and Me.
MCA: Hi Lavelle, thank you so much for joining us today! We’re so happy we are able to get the opportunity to speak with you about your new MCA award-winning book, Bee, Honey Bunny and Me! I’d first like the interview by finding out a little bit about yourself.
Lavelle: I grew up in E. Texas. I was a very lucky lady in my choice of husband. Once we were married he took me over the world and introduced me to so many cultures of which I had never dreamed. We lived in England for one year and Norway for nine years. During that time we traveled extensively throughout Europe and other continents. When we returned to the States (Oklahoma) I went to graduate school in speech/language pathology. I researched this area and felt it would suit me well as I was always an avid reader and loved words. I worked in the field (mostly in the schools) for about 15 years before retiring. Once I retired we moved to Denton, TX to be closer to grandchildren in Dallas and an easier flight to grandchildren in Colorado. I started playing golf and still enjoy it. I also enjoy being a part of several organizations that give back to society by supporting schools and teachers.
MCA: You definitely have plenty of worldly experience that I’m sure has influenced you in your writing career. Speaking of your writing career, what was your path to becoming a writer like?
Lavelle: I had never truly thought of becoming a writer although I wrote for myself often sometimes just poetry to relieve stress. I do remember that as a child I loved to read and often had so many stories in my head. When I worked as a speech/language pathologist I discovered that so many of us used books for teaching our young children. Books are the gateway to learning so many skills – pitch and intonation of the language, pre-reading via perceiving the differences in speech sounds (speech sound discrimination), language and grammar skills, and even the pragmatics of conversation. I began writing stories and then books that fit my needs for some of my students. Then, once I retired I began venturing into my greatest pleasures – writing for my grandchildren. I began this to tell them of some of the adventures that I and their Poppies (grandfather) had enjoyed in our travels. For instance, I wanted to share with them the “trolldom” that their moms had enjoyed as children but in a fun way. So, I wrote a storybook called, Farting Four-Toed Troll, which was a funny take on the “real” Christmas troll in Norway that feeds the animals. It also included just a bit of a hint that we should not call him by that name. I had to do this because I had a conversation with a granddaughter who was about four at the time. She asked me when I would write her another book. When I told her I had almost finished it and it was called, Farting Four-Toed Troll, she became very serious and with quivering lips asked me if I had told Mommy yet. I also wrote another, Galapagos Rules! Postcards from Poppies, using my photos I took on a trip to the Galapagos to explain to them the importance of the rules for protecting the animals.
MCA: That is such a cute story about your granddaughter, thank you for sharing! Were your grandchildren also the inspiration behind your writing Bee, Honey Bunny and Me?
Lavelle: My youngest grandchild is now three. When she was two we referred to her as our “bunny whisperer” because she loved to play with the bunnies in her yard. And, the bunnies would run to her. This gave me the idea to write a story for her. Leni does not really hate carrots but I fictionalized the characteristic to give a different bent to the story. Also, as a speech/language pathologist, I am aware that many children have sensory issues that interfere with proper eating. I felt this story could be a conversation starter for the children who had eating issues.
As I did more research along with my illustrator I wanted to give more information on the bees and their importance to our food supplies. I must say that although this was not an inspiration, I discovered a new illustrator who fit well for this job. He is a portraitist and used my granddaughter as his model and did an outstanding job. It was moving to see the final print with my youngest and last grandchild. Also, the illustrator adds more to the story. He is from the UK (Manchester) and has always loved Beatrix Potter. He checked the copyright and was in touch with the Beatrix Potter Society to ensure that he could do a facsimile of Peter Rabbit as a poster on Leni’s wall above her bed.
MCA: The illustrations within Bee, Honey Bunny and Me definitely make the story come alive! You mentioned that this story came from a desire to start a conversation with children who have eating issues. Can you tell us more about some of the key lessons found in Bee, Honey Bunny and Me?
Lavelle: Children and parents can have a conversation about how to make foods more palatable.
Bees are very important to the food chain. And, there is more than one type of bee. The most prevalent is the honeybee that provides the honey. The bumblebee does not provide the honey but is a great pollinator thereby providing fruits and vegetables through pollination. My illustrator and I were able to provide factual information in an easy-to-read format at the end of the book on the importance and the life of bees.
MCA: Can you elaborate more on how you have evolved in your writing from “teaching speech and language skills” to writing fun books based on ideas generated by your grandchildren and family travels?
Lavelle: My writing has evolved and probably has become less pedantic and “teachy.” I have more fun with it as I am not trying to meet certain goals. However, I still cannot totally get away from thinking of a little rhyming and repeating specific sounds. I do think that my rhyming is less “forced” now that I do not have to do it as much to meet my speech goals.
MCA: Tell us the importance of teaching children from a young age about the importance of animals and the environment.
Lavelle: When I was growing up in East Texas Lady Bird Johnson it was important that Texas was kept beautiful. Our teachers stressed that every day. Then, as an adult, I read a lot of science. This tells me that
everything we do carelessly can affect our environment for our children and grandchildren. This has led me on a campaign to inform children in the same way that I was informed but with more scientific knowledge now than when I was young. Of course, my travels have also influenced my writing to the children. Visiting Galapagos and learning about the scientific efforts to protect the beautiful endangered species hit me hard. I was also greatly influenced by spending time in the rainforest of Peru and learning how the loss of the rainforests can affect people well beyond Peru. All of my learning of how to protect the animals and environment I would like to continue to convey to children in future books.
MCA: That is definitely a mission we at MCA can get behind! What kind of response from readers have you received?
Lavelle: I am part of an author group in the Dallas/Houston area that signs/sells books in grocery Kroger stores. I have been totally amazed at the number of people who want to talk about how their parents or grandparents had honeybees and their memories of growing up eating fresh honey.
MCA: That’s fantastic, congratulations! Thank you for a wonderful interview, Lavelle. We hope to hear more adventures from you soon!
You can learn more about Lavelle Carlson and her award-winning book, Bee, Honey Bunny and Me by visiting their MCA Shop pages.