In her new children’s book, “The Barnyard Buddies Meet a Newcomer,” author Julie Penshorn tells a touching story of rejection and belonging that prepares families and classrooms to make smart, compassionate choices as they face a community with more newcomers, particularly people in transition and immigrants.
This is a picture book for all ages, but especially children ages 3 to 8. It’s available now from the author for holiday gift-giving, and is slated for its official release in hardcover and softcover in February. This wonderfully illustrated picture book tells the story of an abandoned dog who wanders into a small farmyard where the pig, goat, donkey, and horse characters tell him he’s not welcome because, “Farmer Jim doesn’t like strangers.”
The story shows each animal portraying a common prejudice about others, thus encouraging thought provoking discussions. The story is told as an exciting adventure, where the dog gets to show how he can contribute to the community and children are reminded that we all have special gifts and talents to offer a community.
Penshorn, Executive Director of Growing Communities for Peace and its project, Smart Tools for Life, points out one of her goals in writing this book was simply to guide children in today’s conflicted, climate-challenged, and polarized world, to communicate respectfully, with consideration and compassion for all.
“People are much more mobile than they were when I was a kid,” she said. “I don’t remember ever having a new child in my elementary school! Today, families move more often due to economic opportunities or challenges. It’s not uncommon to have newcomers in a classroom. In order to provide a safe place for all, children need to think deeply and practice how they will treat these newcomers.”
Though she’s the executive director of the non-profit, Penshorn spends much of her day training horses and teaching riding at Sunborn Stables, where she gets her inspiration for The Barnyard Buddies series.
“I love working with horses in dressage. It keeps me fit, and is an art form. Much like this children’s book, it lets me explore how we can move forward in our ways of communicating with others. I like seeing both horses and children reach their full potential,” said Penshorn.
“Recently, a local mother told me she wanted to change her child to a different school, but couldn’t get the child to agree. Her seven-year-old didn’t want to leave her friends. This is just a simple example of the importance of belonging. Research has shown it is our number one human need. Without that feeling children can turn to gangs and drugs seeking relief from their pain, their loneliness. I want to make sure every parent, grandparent, and teacher has this book to share with children so they can experience the emotions and lessons in this story and learn from the Parent and Educator Guide that’s included.”
Penshorn will be available for book signing and sales at Ecumen Point Pleasant Heights’ Holiday sale, 28600 Fairway Lane, Chisago City, on December 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. She also is seeking volunteers to read her children’s books to kids in classrooms, Sunday schools, and libraries. For books, visit http://www.GrowingCommunitiesForPeace.org or https://www.smarttoolsforlife.com to make a donation to this non-profit.