Before her mother died, Carole G. Barton made a promise: She would publish her 20-year-old manuscript about an adventurous mouse who gets to see the famous cheese in England’s Wookey Hole Caves.
Virginia Goins was a librarian for Simpson County Schools and Sulphur Springs Baptist Church in Franklin, Kentucky. She died in 2015 at 95.
“That’s where I got my love of books,” Barton said of her mother. “She really taught me to love books as a child.”
Barton, a speech-language pathologist at Sunnyside Elementary School in Marysville, is the author of “The Friendship Adventure.” The book teaches kids about friendship, problem-solving, emotional intelligence, social skills and speech.
“Using reading to help kids with communication difficulties works,” she said. “It’s so meant to be.”
Her story — which is geared for kids 7 to 10 — follows an English mouse named Bruno who sets off on an adventure to make a new friend. In his backpack, Bruno brings with him his coping ax, inclusion glue and friendship rope.
“My book is about working together and problem solving,” said Barton, who has worked for the Marysville School District for 29 years. “It is a sweet book that encourages kids to keep going; to not give up.”
Her goal with “The Friendship Adventure” is to help 1 million students who struggle with reading in 2021.
She teamed up with a 12-year-old illustrator named Andre V. Ordonez on “The Friendship Adventure,” to bring Bruno’s adventures to life. Andre recently moved from Mukilteo to Lithia, Florida. Burton liked his style — and figured pictures make a chapter book more approachable.
“I love it; his line art is just fantastic,” Barton said. “Not only is he a great artist, but he captured exactly what I saw in my brain.”
Now 13, Andre digitally illustrated about a dozen book pages with an iPad. They’re now in the portfolio he’s building for when he applies to Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.
Andre’s known since the sixth grade that he wants to be an animator for Cartoon Network or Disney. He is inspired by Cartoon Network’s “Steven Universe” and Hayao Miyazaki of “My Neighbor Totoro” fame.
“I think it’s great — I struggled with reading, too,” Andre said of Barton’s book ideas. “When I was younger, very few books actually intrigued me. I really enjoyed books with pictures.”
In addition to adding pictures, Barton has developed a K-5 teachers guide for read-alouds of “The Friendship Adventure” so that she can reach 1 million kids.
Here’s the math: If one K-5 teacher reads Barton’s book aloud in class, then she is reaching an average of 24 students. Which means Barton needs to get her book into 41,666 classrooms this year. Since the average elementary school has 25 classrooms, that’s a total of 1,666 schools.
There are more than enough — or a total of 2,255 grade schools — in Washington.
The Marysville School District is at the top of her list.
“How am I going to reach 1 million struggling readers? Through Zoom!” Barton said. “With the pandemic, it’s given me the means to reach all my students that I work with in speech, so it’s a great platform to reach classes.”
Barton, 59, of Snohomish, has been mapping out a “Bruno’s Friendship Chronicles” series for decades. There will be at least three “Friendship” chapter books.
All of the books in the “Friendship” series — so far — are set in Europe. The first one has Bruno exploring Somerset, England. (Barton’s husband, Steve, is from Somerset.) Bruno backpacks around the River Axe, Wookey Hole Caves and the Mendip Hills.
The Wookey Hole Caves — a Somerset tourist attraction — do in fact have cheese from Ford Farm aging in them. The cheeses take on earthy and nutty flavors in the caves.
“Somerset is my favorite place in England,” Barton said. “I’ve traveled a lot in England.”
Her book’s setting was inspired by her mother’s motto: “You can travel anywhere in a good book.” Barton wants her readers to travel to Europe in their “brain pictures” with Bruno.
Though she retired as a librarian, Victoria Goins was hired back as a reading teacher and substitute teacher for Simpson County Schools. “She loved readers reading,” Barton said. “It was so important to her.”
Barton also named one of her series’ characters after her mother. Virginia’s namesake is a retired teacher who helps Bruno with his travels.
“I basically put my mom in the book,” she said. “She’s exactly my mom, although I don’t call her ‘Mom’ in it.”
Bruno calls Virginia’s character “Lady” because he can’t pronounce the R in Virginia. Are we surprised a speech-language pathologist gave her book’s protagonist a speech impediment? No, we are not.
Whenever Barton reads about Lady in “The Friendship Adventure,” she can’t help but tear up.
“My very last conversation with my mom … she made me promise that I would get my book published,” Barton said. “That was my key motivation. I was going to keep that promise.”
Are you a grade-school teacher? You can sign up at www.carolegbarton.com to receive a free “The Friendship Adventure Teacher’s Guide.” You’re also welcome to schedule a Zoom read-aloud with your classroom or a Q&A about the teacher’s guide with the author herself.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; @sarabruestle.
“The Friendship Adventure”
By Carole G. Barton
Storm Praise. 202 pages. $9.95.