Closer Look

Fourth in children’s book series out

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Deena Bouknight

Focused on the philosophy of “sharing family stories and adventures with children to help fuel their love of learning,” books published locally by Suminski Family Books include the Cowee Sam series as well as the more recent Animal Stories series. Just in time for Christmas, the fourth installment in the Animal Stories series was released at Cowee Christmas on Dec. 2.

The publication of the Animal Stories’ series is also an avenue for assisting the community. A portion of the sales from each new addition to the series is allocated to a local nonprofit. So far, Appalachian Animal Rescue, KIDS’ Place, and Macon County School’s STEM/STEAM program have benefitted from the first three books in the series. 

The first $500 of the fourth in the series – subtitled The Farm Edition – will help fund landscaping around Wesley Wofford’s “Sowing Seeds for the Future” sculpture commissioned by the Women’s History Trail of Folk Heritage Association of Macon County. The sculpture is being presented to the Town of Franklin at the unveiling ceremony on March 23, 2024.

Although the densely illustrated Animal Stories books are intended for elementary-school-aged children, writer and editor Claire Suminski noted that they are for all ages – anyone who enjoys true, heartwarming narratives about animals.

“Some were actually written by contributors, while others are told to me and then I form them into stories,” said Suminski. “Children and people in general love stories about animals. By sharing these stories, I hope to inspire children to not only read more, but to love to read and to express themselves through writing. It is so much fun to work with the story contributors and illustrators. When everything comes together, it is very exciting for everyone involved.”

Main illustrators are local artists Susan Swedlund and Pat Menninger. Macon Sense’s contributing writer, Henrietta Haithcock, assisted Suminski on the editing and production of Animal Stories 4.

Suminski pointed to two main reasons why Suminski Family Books is committed to publishing children’s books.

“Both of my grandmothers passed on stories to their grandchildren,” she said, “and storytelling has been a very valuable tool in many cultures to teach and pass on practical wisdom. Also, we homeschooled our four children, who are all grown now. And during some of those years we did foster care. In all of those situations I have seen how important it is to not only understand the mechanics of reading, but to learn to love to read.”

Always with the intention of informing and educating, as well as entertaining, Suminski Family Books also published an English/Spanish sign-language-oriented pre-school-age book called “Farm Animals: Los Animals de Granja.” Illustrations show general farm animals, the name of the animal in both English and Spanish, and then a corresponding page presenting a child signing the word.