The Sapling: Q&A with Jessie Klassen

Jessie Klassen, author of <i>The Sapling</i>.

Jessie Klassen, author of The Sapling.

January 18, 2018 | by Raechel Wastesicoot

When a tiny maple seed becomes a Sapling, she discovers there’s much about life that she doesn’t know or understand. This fear stunts her growth, and she becomes too afraid to continue her life cycle — until she meets Big Tree.

Together, they embrace the idea that everything happens for a reason and that she, like each individual organism on Earth, has a very important purpose. In her newfound understanding, she begins to grow into a beautiful maple tree.

Author Jessie Klassen wrote The Sapling with the intention of inspiring children to overcome stigmas, societal pressures and their own fears, to stay true to their individuality.

Read my conservation with Jessie about her new book and how we can all learn a thing or two from nature, below:

Raechel Bonomo (RB): What inspired you to write The Sapling?

Jessie Klassen (JK): I’ve always lived close to nature and, fortunately, am now raising my own children in this way. Nature serves as a reflection for us to learn many lessons about our own lives. The Sapling is [based on] the lessons that I’ve learned from the trees. Growth is so important in becoming who we’re truly meant to be, but it often involves overcoming our fears. Because I have felt such a deep connection with nature, I felt inspired to share these lessons.

If we think about it, trees and people are perfectly made for one another. Trees breathe in what we breathe out, and vice versa, so our relationship is actually a symbiotic one.

The Sapling is the first book in the Nature Child children’s book series, which focuses on teaching the lessons that nature has to share. They encourage growth within children and empower them through a connection and relationship with nature.

RB: The visual components of this book are stunning. What is the story behind them and how do they help complement your writing?

<i>The Sapling</i> (Illustration by Emily MacDonald)

The Sapling (Illustration by Emily MacDonald)

JK: Children will love the vivid illustrations of nature by my dear friend and book partner, the talented Emily MacDonald. You can really feel Emily’s connection to nature in her artwork, as her pictures feel alive.

Within each illustration, Emily has also included a monarch butterfly for children to find. We felt that since monarchs are endangered and, as a pollinator, are an indicator species for the health of our planet, it was essential to bring awareness of them in the book.

RB: In addition to a narrative about The Sapling, you’ve included activities to encourage children to explore nature. Why is it important to you to get kids outside?

JK: All of the activities and exercises included are what I and my own three young children practice. In a world of so many artificial stimulations and distractions, it’s never been more important for children to be aware of nature.

These include activities such as, “Grow like a Tree,” a fun preschooler exercise; “Be a Tree,” a grounding exercise to feel stable, focused and calm; and “Amazing Tree Facts,” to develop an appreciation for trees. We’ve also included information and activities on how to help the pollinators, including monarchs, such as how to attract them to your yard.

The Sapling really is a story that is suitable for children of all ages, but the depth at which they will be able to perform the activities and exercises will increase with age. As they grow, they will develop a deeper connection with the lessons and will be capable of performing the exercises in greater depth, so it will grow with them, just like a tree!

RB: Why do you think an appreciation for nature is important, especially in children?

JK: Helping children to have an appreciation for nature is one of the single-most empowering things that we can teach them. They will realize that we are connected to everything, and that everything we do is felt on some level, and with this comes great responsibility.

There’s absolutely no way we can live our lives without nature. They will realize that everything within nature is important and has a purpose, including them. Children will develop a compassion and kindness within themselves that will flow into all areas of their life.

RB: Why have you chosen to donate a portion of the proceeds from The Sapling to help the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) conserve and protect Canadian landscapes?

JK: Canada is special, and many people have the misconception that our wild places are unlimited. Here in rural Manitoba, with the onset of mega farming, the landscape and the “feel” of my home are starting to change. With the onslaught of monoculture and the disappearance of trees, our wildlife and our incredibly important pollinators are suffering.

Wild places are disappearing rapidly, so it’s encouraging and comforting to know that there is an organization that will stand strong and bring awareness to others of the bigger picture and the importance of nature.

I’ve chosen to donate a portion of the proceeds from The Sapling because I have a deep respect for NCC. Their dedication and commitment to conserving nature and the vast amount that they have protected is amazing. I’ve noticed that NCC offers many ways for people to connect and interact with nature, too, as well as striving for solutions for people and nature to co-exist in harmony. This is of utmost importance.

For me, NCC is symbolic of our acknowledgement that we need nature, and that our relationship with nature is a symbiotic one.

Join author Jessie Klassen and illustrator Emily MacDonald at The Sapling’s book launch taking place on Sunday, January 21, 2018, at Grant Park in the Atrium, Winnipeg. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Tree Sisters. For more information on the event, click here >

Raechel Bonomo (Photo by Chase Wastesicoot)

About the Author

Raechel Wastesicoot Raechel s’est jointe à l’équipe de Conservation de la nature Canada en juillet 2015.

Read more about Raechel Wastesicoot.

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