Stuck at home? Plant some seeds.

A page from Farmer Bear’s Garden, where Farmer Bear and Little Bear begin to plant their garden together.

It’s been about a month since I released Farmer Bear’s Garden. When I revealed the book to the world in early March, I had a lot of ideas about how to get the word out. I was going to get libraries to carry the book. I wanted to check with local bookstores and see how to get it on the shelf. I even thought of some in-person author events. And then the world suddenly came to a halt.

Coronavirus changed everything. Libraries, bookstores, schools and daycares were shut down indefinitely. Millions of people were out of work or found themselves working from home for the first time, often trying to meet the demands of their jobs while also trying to raise, educate and entertain their children. This was not the environment I saw myself launching a book in.

In a way it can seem petty trying to sell a book when many people are just trying to get by. But on the other hand, those millions of parents suddenly need to fill entire days for their children who are used to going to school, parks, playing with friends, going to stores and libraries and movies – they need books right now. They need new activities to do with their children. Farmer Bear isn’t the answer to all of their problems, but I truly believe it can help.

A good book works on multiple levels and has many messages. If you just want to be entertained it does that, but a children’s book usually also has a lesson, or several of them. One message I wanted to get across in the book was to inspire children to get interested in growing things. Planting seeds, taking care of them, spending time with their parents digging in the dirt and paying attention to how the plants grow and the bugs that live around them, and maybe later eating something for dinner that they watched grow from a small seed. Of course it doesn’t need to be vegetables – flowers are fun too, and kids like to see the different colors and watch the bees buzz on them.

A co-worker who bought the book for her niece told me that the girl was now telling her parents she wanted to plant a garden. That makes me feel good, both because I know I reached her and because I inspired her to do something she may have never done otherwise.

An interest in growing plants can lead to an interest in nature, animals, spending time outside, the environment, and a host of other things. I want people to appreciate things that many of us take for granted. If Farmer Bear can help get some kids to spend less time in front of screens and more time outdoors, I consider that a success. And maybe it can inspire their parents to follow along and try something they never did before either. It’s never too late, after all.

Right now is the perfect time. Gardens are cheap and easy to start, and we’ll probably never have this kind of family time again. You can get seed packets at hardware stores, grocery stores and online. If you don’t have a yard you can get a few pots and put them on the patio. I hope Farmer Bear’s Garden gets some more kids excited about planting some seeds. And I’d love to hear anyone’s stories if they do!

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