I Hear You, Stories by Kallie George
I spent many hours daydreaming in the woods near by the home where I grew up. I thank the woods for helping me become a writer.
Story ideas arrive and develop in so many different ways. For the picture book series, Sounds of Nature, this is especially true. As a new mom, I spent time listening to different podcasts, and something that came up a few times in helping toddlers with their emotions by saying, “I hear you.” Even if you can’t quite understand what the baby or toddler is trying to say, by saying this and then listening, you are acknowledging their feelings. This makes a lot of sense to me. “I hear you” can let little babies and toddlers feel heard and respected. When I’m frustrated or otherwise, I really want to be heard. Everyone does, I think.
And why not nature too? Truly listening to anyone, or anything, helps build compassion and understanding. This phrase, combined with my early love and connection with the woods of the West Coast, were the inspiration behind this series of picture books about listening to nature, as well as my desire to write a book for my son in mind. “I hear you,” became the refrain throughout the book.
I grew up on the West Coast. Forests and oceans in all seasons, were a big part of my life. The first Sounds of Naturebook is set in the forest, while the second set by the ocean. Something quickly learned on the West Coast is that the ocean isn’t a place for just the summer, it is for visiting in all seasons. Rainy or sunny, cold or hot—the magic of the ocean calls. That’s why Carmen Mok, the amazing illustrator, and myself chose to set the second book not in the summertime but on a colder day, showing that you can explore the oceanside in all seasons.
To make a series different and yet similar is always a challenge of mine. I don’t want it to seem too much like what came before. Whereas the first book has one child exploring nature, the second has two siblings. One thing I thought important in this book was the two kids are teaching each other. As my son has grown older I’ve noticed how his relationship with his friends has often taken on a learning from each other aspect. “Listen to that!” “See that!” are common refrains. As well, although in the first book the journey ends as the child leaves the forest, in the ocean book, the sounds of the ocean put the children to sleep. Isn’t it fascinating how water sounds and ocean waves are some of the biggest tools we use to put young kids to sleep?
This is the very first book my son ever saw in manuscript form and connected with. I was so happy to share it with him and see that the beats of the story were working as I had hoped. He was just a baby when this idea was developing, and now he’s already four years old. I still say I hear you to him all the time, and I listen.
Kallie George is an author and picture book editor who has written numerous acclaimed books for children. She grew up on the Sunshine Coast in BC, where she spent her days roaming the forests and listening to all the sounds within. Now, she and her husband have made a home in the woods so that her son can do the same.