Sharon Lovejoy is the children’s
gardening guru we all know and love from her many books, including Sunflower Houses and Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots. Join
me in learning more about her latest book, Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars: Grandma's Bag of Tricks which is aimed at grandmas, but is perfectly
wonderful for parents as well.
***Note: Readers will have a chance to win a signed and inscribed copy of Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars at the end of this interview.***
I love the warmth and caring that shines
throughout, love all the ideas, love your illustrations and the photos of your
grandchildren. Every grandmother (and mother) should read this! Did you say
that you had to redo all of the illustrations? Incredible! What a job that
must have been!
SHARON: Well, it ended up that the custodian [at the publishers] threw away 238 of them. The 13 pound box of originals went to the crusher and ended up in the dump. I stayed in bed and mourned them for a few days and then got up and thought, “If I don’t start over, I’ll never finish this book.” So it was up to ME to get going, and I finally did.
JEAN: I understand that your own grandmothers played an important role in your life as a child. What do you think they would say about your new book?
SHARON: I think they would
be very happy to see many of their traditions and projects carried on with
their great, great grandchildren. Simple things that are shared and carried on
like a never ending chain.
JEAN: What made you write a book focused on grandparents and grandchildren?
SHARON: I didn’t have much interaction with my parents and felt that I could better write for grandparents and grandchildren. When I raised my son Noah (I was a single mom for a long time), I was so busy working and scrabbling along I didn’t get to do lots of these things with him. But we did garden, have nature experiences, bake bread and cookies and other things, and we did art projects, but not to the extent of what I do with my grandchildren now.
JEAN: What would you say is the best thing a grandma can do to connect with her grandkids?
SHARON: JUST BE WITH THEM! Go on walks, explore the five senses, cook up some simple recipes, LOVE their art creations and give them a place of honor. Just do simple things and they are memorable to children.
You should hear my grandchildren reminiscing about our traditions. It shows me that they’re firmly planted in their minds and in their souls. It reinforces the value of time spent together.
We make a point of taking them on small trips to art galleries and festivals and asking them what they like, why they like it, and if they would do something similar. We value their answers, and they love to be questioned.
JEAN: I just love the magic and sense of wonder that comes through in your books! How is it that you still have access to that? And why do you think it’s important for children to experience magic and wonder?
SHARON: Childhood is the time to root wonder firmly. If it hadn’t been for my Grandmother Lovejoy, well, I can’t imagine where I would be today.
I love this quote by D. H. Lawrence:
“There is a sixth sense, the natural religious sense, the sense of wonder.”
I believe that if you have and nurture a sense of wonder, every day will be a magical adventure filled with simple things that become meaningful and precious.
We all need sweet simplicity. We all need to be in touch with what is important: family, friends, beliefs, nature, love of all sorts, but NOT what we can purchase. That is not the important thing in life.
JEAN: Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars is full of wonderful activities, from nature memory cards to potato faces. I’ve already marked so many that I want to do with Maia! What are your favorite activities in the book?
SHARON: Oh my gosh Jean, that is a tough question because I love so many of them.
I love all the nature experiences ESPECIALLY the Andy Goldsworthy outdoor ephemeral art projects. When I was an artist-in-residence at Leila Arboretum in Battle Creek, Michigan, we provided sticks, stones, cones, leaves, pieces of plants, etc., and a broad swath of ground for children’s masterpieces, and believe me, they did create masterpieces.
The children became totally absorbed by their creations, and they turned out beautifully.
I also love learning to really listen to the “Bird Words” with children. I just read a book that explained that there are “sonic niches” and “soundscapes” in nature. Naturalist Bernie Krause, who records animal sounds, said that, “Birds, mammals, and amphibians in healthy habitats occupy sonic niches that allow each creature to express its voice without competition from others.”
I think it would be great to go outdoors with a child both day and night and record the sounds around them.
I loved making the leaf stained glass windows. They are really exquisite and children adore them. Also, if you noticed the leaf boy and girl on page 193, that was a fun project and so easy to do with the proper small scissors. I tried doing the people with child-safe scissors, but they’re not exact enough. You need real adult ones for the cutting.
Another project I loved was doing “Learning from Leftovers” or gardens from garbage. What an eye-opener to children to see how much life is contained in a piece of leftover vegetable, or some shriveled beans from the cupboard. Especially wonderful was the project of growing peanuts in moist white yarn.
JEAN: Sometimes it’s hard for us mamas to distance ourselves from the day-to-day routine. Grandmas have a little more distance and leeway, as well as years of experience under the belt. If you could share just one or two tips with us parents in the trenches, what would they be?
SHARON: Oh how well I remember being a parent in the trenches. I think I would encourage you to think twice before saying too many NOs. Also, step back and watch the play-work your child does and then praise, praise, praise. Even the most reluctant child blossoms with praise.
Take time for yourself and your child and step outside, both day and night, and revel in the glories around you. Just a five minute break together outdoors can help restore your cabin fever and encroaching insanity.
But most of all, enjoy every second. My Noah is a grown up now, and I think back fondly on his “cities” on our living room rug, the cities I tripped over and stepped on, and griped about. I wish I could re live those days, and in some ways, I guess I do now with my grandchildren. I’m much easier going now and feel much more childlike myself. And it feels GOOD!
JEAN: Thank you, Sharon! What a wonderful gift you are giving families around the world through your books and your work!
Readers, friends -- Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars is an excellent book that I urge you to seek out. Please spread the word and pass on this interview to as many grandmas as you can! Mamas, too. And remember than you can follow Sharon on her blog as well.
Readers who leave a comment by Thursday, February 18th at 8am EST will be entered into a random drawing for a signed copy of Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars with a personal inscription of your choice.