Karen George Aukema Author Interview is here. Before we dive into Karen’s interview, let’s talk about her books Ashel’s Spring and Ashel’s Christmas.
Ashel’s Christmas centers around a six-year-old Ashel. He is very intrigued with cowboys. More importantly, the one riding through town whom Ashel’s mother lets him join to round up cattle. The cowboy works hard on something for Ashel on Christmas Eve, and when he drifts off to sleep, he dreams of the first Bethlehem Christmas. Find out what Ashel gets for Christmas when you read this book!
Ashel’s Spring centers around eight-year-old Ashel. He and his mother try and rescue a baby raccoon that Ashel heard while coon hunting. But then Ashel wonders if the baby coon will get along with a puppy that shows up at his doorstep. Then, there is his friendship with the Seminole girl, Cusseta. She gets bullied by others at school, and Ashel must decide the meaning of friendship. Will he stand up for Cusseta? It’s the second book in the series.
Now, I’m excited to welcome Karen to the site! She joins us to chat about each of these books!
Welcome, Karen! Let’s talk about the first book first, Ashel’s Christmas! What can readers expect?
Readers can expect to learn about Ashel, a young farm boy of the 1930s who is befriended by a cowboy who rides into town. As the story develops, a friendship is forged between the two, and they have many experiences together, herding cattle in north central Florida in the 1930s. The reader will enjoy learning about Florida’s history throughout the conversations between the cowboy and Ashel. This little chapter book is filled with cowboy action and is also a heartwarming story, as the cowboy is inspired to work throughout Christmas Eve on a gift for Ashel.
Ashel’s Christmas takes place in the 1930s. Was it hard to capture that time period?
My parents were both children of the 1930s, so I heard a lot of stories about the great depression while growing up. Depicting the setting was not very difficult for me since I had so much background knowledge about the 1930s and about ranches in Florida because I grew up on a farm/ranch in Florida.
Did you always want to write a Christmas novel?
Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and I love children’s books, so I naturally wanted to write a children’s Christmas book. I also wanted it to be a good classroom book for 1st -3rd-grade students because of my experience as a teacher, so I included discussion questions for parents & teachers, along with vocabulary words that the students might need to be defined.
The illustrations are great in Ashel’s Christmas. Were you involved with the design process?
My illustrator, Brian C. Hailes, is a very talented artist and illustrator. I was very involved in the design process of the illustrations because of my background of living on a ranch. I often sent ideas and online photos to Brian about the illustrations in order for him to understand what I was envisioning for each illustration. He came up with the placing of the illustrations and would send me rough sketches of his ideas, then I would help him tweak the illustrations to what I had in mind. It was a fun process.
Do you have a favorite part of Ashel’s Christmas?
My favorite part of the book is where the cowboy dreams about that very first Christmas in Bethlehem because it is a tender part of the book which inspires the cowboy to give more love and service to Ashel and his mom.
Now let’s talk about book 2, Ashel’s Spring. Share with readers more about it.
In Ashel’s Spring, the friendship of Ashel and the cowboy continues, but in a different way. There is a new character, a little native American Seminole girl, Cusseta, who eventually becomes a friend to Ashel. Cusseta presents a new challenge for Ashel in that this is the first time he has met a child from another culture.
The book focuses on the importance of friendship and diversity. Ashel also acquires a Bluetick puppy and a raccoon during this 2nd little chapter book. The unlikely relationship between the Bluetick puppy and the raccoon mirrors the relationship between Ashel and Cusseta. Near the end of the book, Cusseta suffers some bullying. Then, Ashel has to decide whether or not to act on his friendship with Cusseta or stay quiet.
This story deals a lot with the theme of friendship. Did you always want to bring that theme into this story?
As an educator, I have always tried to teach the importance of friendship and choosing not to bully others who are different than ourselves. I chose this platform of a children’s book to illustrate this important theme so that parents and teachers could easily pull from this book the experience of Ashel and Cusseta. I hope this book opens up conversations about this topic for parents and teachers with their children or students.
Walk us through a day in your life when writing. Do you have to write at a certain time of day? Have music playing, or do you need quiet to write?
Since I am a people person, I like being surrounded by people and books when I am in writing mode. I enjoy spending time at Barnes & Noble while I write and as I research. I like the buzz in the store as my background noise. Sometimes, I need real quiet, and I need to really concentrate on writing at home, but most of the time, I enjoy writing around people who are buzzing around and talking about books.
Before I let you go, share with readers what you hope they take away from this book.
Ultimately, I would love for students, parents, and teachers to be able to relate to this story. Even though it is written in a different time period, students, parents, and teachers can use this little book to help students navigate issues surrounding developing relationships with others who have a different culture than themselves and help them befriend others instead of bullying them.
There you have it. You heard all about Karen and book two books out now! Comment any questions you have!