Tales from Cloud Canyon
by Dr. Rachel Kowert PhD
Tales from Cloud Canyon is a series of character driven, topical short stories celebrating the everyday child, doing everyday things, with their everyday abilities designed for children aged 3+. Developed by a research psychologist and mom of 3, these stories were developed to be entertaining, educational, and celebrate the power of the everyday within our the beautiful, diverse world.
This Kickstarter collection features three topical short stories from the Cloud Canyon Universe: Here, There, & Everywhere, The Secret to Success, and Invisible Friends. Each of these titles are fully illustrated from artist Randall Hampton and are about 25 pages long.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE WRITING
The fictional characters in childhood stories are some of our earliest teachers. We learn a range of things through the observation of these symbolic models, such as what is right and wrong, a desirable and undesirable behavior, gender roles, norms, stereotypes, and more. The role of models is particularly influential in childhood as it can have a long lasting impact on development.
Each story in this collection was developed to not only be entertaining but educational as well, with the stories’ characters modeling a range of age-appropriate skills spanning four areas of human development: intellectual, social, emotional, and moral. The skills that are modeled within any particular story are displayed on the back cover of each book and explained in more detail on the last page of the book.
DIVERSITY, REPRESENTATION & INCLUSION
Tales from Cloud Canyon changes the narrative by reflecting and celebrating the beautiful and diverse reality of our world. The characters within the Cloud Canyon Universe were developed to represent a range of shapes, sizes, abilities and disabilities, and traditional and non-traditional families.
In the Cloud Canyon universe:
-More than half the characters are female
-More than half the characters come from an ethnic-minority background
-1 in 10 characters have a visible disability
-Characters come from traditional and non-traditional families
-Different body shapes are represented
-she/her, he/him, and they/them pronouns are represented
It was also equally important that these details were not the central theme of the stories themselves as our shape, level of ability, and what our family unit looks like are just some of the many parts of who we are and not necessarily the defining feature of our stories.
PRODUCTION AND RELEASE
All of the stories have been written and are currently being brought to life through the illustrative magic of Randall Hampton. The physical production of the books is expected to start in June 2022. Time from production to shipping is about 6 – 8 weeks (+/- 2-4 additional weeks due to COVID delays). Once Rachel receives the books, they will be shipped to backers. There is an expected arrival date of the books no later than November 2022.
Here, There, & Everywhere Is the story of Eli and Ophelia. Ophelia notices Eli isn’t at school one day only to find he is at home mourning the loss of his grandmother. This is a story about death, dying, and grief told in a child appropriate way from a faith-agnostic perspective. Meaning, it would be just as appropriate in a religious home as it would be in a non religious home.
“First we are kids, then grown ups, then wrinkly and old,
And life is a cycle that way, so I’ve been told.”
Eli paused and looked back up at his friend,
“But what about after? What happens in the end?”
“Well, that is a really big, difficult question,
There are a lot of ideas, superstition.
Some say you go up in to Heaven in the sky,
And reunite with everyone who passed you by.
Others say you come back here as something different,
A bird or butterfly, something significant.”
“But whatever happens, a part of them stays here,
Inside of all the people they’ve met and held dear.
We hold pieces of everyone we’ve loved, embraced,
Those who are still here and those in a different place.”
“Though she’s not here, your grandma is a part of you,
Who you are and the things that you think, say, and do.
The way your hair springs up, your encouraging gaze.
Those are just two of the many possible ways.
So really you two will always be together,
In your heart and your mind, today and forever.”
Introducing Tales From Cloud Canyon
An interview with Dr. Rachel Kowert
Tell us about your project! Tales from Cloud Canyon.
Cloud Canyon is a place where the everyday child is celebrated for doing everyday things, with their everyday abilities. It is a world where mistakes are learned from, diversity is celebrated, and every child gets to be the hero of their own story.
Tales from Cloud Canyon is a storybook collection that features a series of male and female centered stories as well as topical short stories. The first book in the collection, Pragmatic Princess: 26 Superb Stories of Self-Sufficiency was successfully kickstarted in 2019. This project raised more than $25,000 in 30 days and earned an INDIES award for educational children’s picture books. Over the last few years, I have continued to write and expand the Cloud Canyon universe and am excited to announce that I am launching a second Kickstarter June 4 for a BRAND NEW collection of three topical short stories: Here, There, & Everywhere, Invisible Friends, and The Secret to Success.
What inspired you to create Tales from Cloud Canyon and why is it so important to you?
As a psychologist, I know that the characters in our childhood stories are some of our earliest teachers. As a mom, I wanted books for my daughter that celebrated the powers and abilities of the everyday child. However, when I went to find those kinds of books, they were few and far between. I wanted my children to have stories where characters that looked like them and reflected the world around her, while also showing them that they are capable of doing with the skills and abilities they have right here and right now.
How did you decide what topics to cover in your new series of topical short stories?
The stories in this new collection are the ones that I felt were still missing from my children’s library.
Here, There, & Everywhere is a story about death, dying and grief told in a child appropriate way from a faith-agnostic perspective. Meaning, it would be just as appropriate in a religious home as it would be in a non religious home.
Invisible Friends is a story about the how’s and why’s of navigating online stranger danger.
The Secret to Success highlights the importance of persisting through frustration and failure and the power of friendly encouragement (and is very much based on my own personal challenges with learning to ski)!
How does your background as a research psychologist inform your work?
I drew from my background to develop stories that would be fun, entertaining, but also maximize learning. Childhood stories provide an incredible opportunity to teach children a range of skills and behaviors across various categories of human development – intellectual, social, emotional, and moral. I wanted to make sure to take advantage of this opportunity by enlisting diverse characters and storylines that reflect everyday situations. My educational background also allowed me to develop characters to model effective skills and strategies to navigate some of the more difficult situations in childhood – such as fear of missing out, feeling left out, and constructive confrontation.
We know some of your past work has more of a parental audience; how was your process different when writing for children? Did anything surprise you?
It is definitely more fun writing for children! I was surprised at how much I was really able to integrate what I know about human psychology within the stories themselves. Being able to integrate a lesson or skill that I have picked up throughout my education and research career was a fantastic experience in walking the line between creative and technical writing.
Can you explain to us the science behind this book and the research that went into it?
The science behind the writing is a mix of media studies and learning theory. There is a lot of research that has found that the stories we are told as children through the media, whether it be television, movies, or books, have a long-lasting impact on our development. Knowing this, I wanted to create stories that demonstrate self-reliance but also maximize the potential for the transfer of learning through social modeling. The diverse cast of characters makes it more likely that readers will relate to any particular character and research has found that people are more likely to emulate role models of the same sex, ethnicity, and skill level of any particular activity. The book also rhymes, which helps make the content easier to memorize for younger children, which can help transition them into the pre-reading stage of development. Rhyming has also been found to encourage the development of writing skills.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Rachel Kowert is a research psychologist, award-winning author and mom of three. In 2019, she launched her first Kickstarter project from the Cloud Canyon universe was a collection of female centered stories entitled Pragmatic Princess: 26 stories of self sufficiency and raised more than $25,000 in 30 days and won an INDIES award for educational children’s picture book.
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR
Randall Hampton is an author, illustrator, husband and father of 3. He is the Creator of “The Little Game Master” series of books and considers himself a story teller above all else. When he is not spending time with family and friends, Randall enjoys reading, video games, music, and table top games of all sorts.
Author’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Friends-Stories-Cloud-Canyon/dp/0578862433/ref=sr_1_1
Kickstart Campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pragmaticprincess/tales-from-cloud-canyon
Book video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCTQ0ZgA14Q
Dr. Rachel Kowert PhD will be awarding a $75 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC or 1 copy each of the 3 Cloud Canyon books (available in November) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.