The Cliff was Steep; and Treacherous

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to Mary, (the author of When The Camel Sneezed)
“When the Camel Sneezed is a delightful story about Zara and her adventure with zoo creatures who took over her chair.  Not only is this story filled with rhythmical language that will roll off the tongues of readers, but it will encourage children to engage in the crazy antics of these zoo animals.  In addition to having fun reading this story, children will learn some valuable lessons in life.  Zara helps the sneezing camel, who helps her find the strength to overcome her fears, and she learns how all creatures can flourish together in a community.  A great story about how to cross that divide, rather than make it wider.”  
Joyce Miller, Ph.D




Nothing in life is to be feared…it is only to be understood.“…Marie Curie



Where did this wonderful, beautiful book come from; Thin air? Not quite!



Despite the “earthquake” in When the Camel Sneezed, it was not a natural disaster prompting me to write the story. Rather, it was a chair — my daughter’s childhood rocker still covered in stuffed animals. While dusting it one day, I pondered the normalcy of someone my age hanging onto stuffed animals and making sure they looked comfortable, once rearranged.

Fearing the answer, I rolled out the yoga mat. Animals stalked into my mind with every cleansing breath. By the time the queen reposed, I had witnessed a little girl attempt sitting in her seat only to be jabbed by a beak. Zara “sprung to her feet and touched the sky, spun around, and landed nearby a bizarre surprise.” Enter the zoo fanfare.

Naturally, Zara’s chair glowed with eyes flickering like fireflies, because I was immersed in writing Goin’ Explorin’; and because I was immersed in writing Goin’ Explorin’, Zara and her chair “took a back seat.” No matter, these beasts kept breathing down my neck.

Being a self-published writer, not only are animals breathing down my neck, but also this pesky little thing called Social Online Networking,SON for short. It’s a mole: small with a big byte. I have braved tetanus (most days), reserving some time to read blogs, and, on occasion, responding. Not enough, however, to attract “buzzing bees” and the “Creature Creep.”

Although one should not mix metaphors, I must. SON is a cunning shapeshifter: one moment, an Animal; the next, a Mineral. I find it to be the “zigzag path as long as a jaw about to snap” that Zara has to climb. It requires courage; you can’t see around the next bend; balance, “The cliff is steep and treacherous”; focus. Hence, the yoga mat.

Of all the blogs I’ve read, the one that has enabled me to experience the cleansing of the mind — the Void — is: How to write children’s books that teach lessons, i.e., Lessons of Morality. Only one word flushes out on the exhale: Run!

Chances are the second children catch a whiff of a lesson, they’ll whirl around and “smack into the animal pack.” (Trust me: this observation comes from My Life as an Educator.) Please, don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting children’s (and adult’s) stories shouldn’t or don’t teach lessons; of course, they do and have been since — dare I say— the Age of Aquarius. But, lessons emerge as stories unfold — as characters live and breathe, act and react, to the events in their world.

Why, in heaven’s name, you may query, is she prattling on about stories that teach lessons when, from the start, she said When the Camel Sneezed originated with a chair? Has she been blinded by staring at the SON? Has that affected her focus?

Not at all, I respond. You see, it wasn’t until toiling over the summary that I discovered a lesson: only when Zara sets aside her fears that she can accept help from another and experience how making one friend can flourish into a community. Does she verbalize this? Of course not. She’s too young. But the event has changed her — from a child who screams, “Scram you creatures made of feathers and fur!” to one who chimes, “Calling all creatures to join us three!”

Mary Arete Moodey

MarMooWorks: Where Reading Takes Flight


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