College of Arts and Humanities undergrads Kelsi Stieler, Kaylee Gutierrez, and Kristin Bonillas have utilized their talents and collaborated to write, illustrate and publish a children’s book. “The Tree Tales” book, which is available on Amazon, centers around the importance of environmental conservation and teaches kids what they can do to help.
“A large part of the book was the children decided to take action. Rather than the tree calling for them to make a change, they noticed that something was wrong so they took the motivation to go and make a change,” said Gutierrez. “That’s the message we want to inspire in our younger generation as well, to be proactive about effectively being able to contribute to helping the environment.”
The book is intended for children at first through third-grade reading levels and can be utilized as both a learning tool by teachers in the classroom, as well as for personal character development by parents.
“I love this project, because Kelsi, Kaylee, and Kristin clearly manifest the power of our disciplines: Artistry and storytelling fuse to tell a compelling story that conveys our symbiotic relationship with nature, and one another,” said Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, Dean, College of Arts and Humanities.
Authors Stieler and Gutierrez said they were inspired to create the book while taking lecturer Tanya Nichols’ creative writing course. Both Stieler and Gutierrez were a part of the Smittcamp Family Honors College and proposed the book for their Smittcamp scholarship project. Their friend and roommate Bonillas, a graphic design major, came aboard as the illustrator. Bonillas has been recognized with both the Adolf Odorfer Art Scholarship and the Martha Hagen Scholarship in Fine Arts in support of her education.
“It was really awesome to write it and then be a part of it together all year. It’s such an awesome experience,” said Stieler.
Tanya introduced the two Smittcamp students to Dan Dunklee at Clovis Book Barn, who mentored all three in the revision process.
“He helped a lot with giving suggestions for my illustrations, like making sure I was aware of where I was placing different objects on the page and making sure that I had the best experience with it,” said Bonillas.
“It was fun,” said Dunklee. “They were very inspiring. They brought a lot of laughter in. They brought a lot of questions and understanding. It really shows me that they are going to keep with it and work with writing and work with children.”
Stieler, Gutierrez, and Bonillas were adamant about highlighting the importance of calling awareness to the future generation of these environmental issues through the book. They have thought about possibly extending “The Tree Tales” into a series that could address issues across a broader scope that are currently challenging environmental health; however, they have other immediate priorities.
“We are definitely going to focus on education right now,” said Stieler. “But, it’s definitely not off the table for later in life.”
When scholars of different disciplines collaborate to produce a work that allows each individual contribution to shine, the resulting product becomes a passionate projection of professionalism and creativity. This dedication is an integral part of these multi-dimensional works that enriches the experience of those that consume them.
“They took their experience with working with children and their love of nature and they created a book that teaches next generation to be good stewards of the land,” said Tanya. “I just think it’s a wonderful accomplishment for not only Kelsee, Kaylee and Kristen… but I think it’s something Fresno State should be proud of. This came out of the Smittcamp Family Honor’s College and they had the work ethic, and they had the guidance through the university and knew how to make this all come together. I think it’s just amazing, I’m proud of them.”