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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Learning should be fun says ‘How to Hug A Cactus’ children’s author

Albert Einstein said, ‘Having fun is the best way to learn’. 

Novocastrian children’s author Emily S. Smith says she couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to fostering a love of reading and learning in young children.

“Children don’t want to be hit over the head with important messages and morals,” Emily says.

“They know when they are being preached to. 

“That’s why I try to write books that are fun, ridiculous and entertaining, while still having important themes at their core.’

Emily’s latest picture book ‘How To Hug A Cactus’, published by Larrikin House, attempts to be just that –  funny, silly but with an important underlying message. 

Written in rhyming verse, the story follows a young girl’s often disastrous attempts to hug her favourite cactus. 

Filled with humorous moments and ridiculous scenarios, ‘How To Hug A Cactus’ promotes the importance of persistence, and continuing to try in the face of failure, something Emily feels strongly about.

“In my work as an early childhood teacher I’ve often observed children who are so afraid of getting it wrong or failing that they won’t even try,” she said.

“Heavens, I know a lot of adults who experience the same feelings. That’s why it’s so important that we foster a growth mindset in children, and picture books are a wonderful tool to do this, especially when they are fun and engaging.”

Emily launched ‘How To Hug A Cactus’ at the IF Maitland Indie Festival on May 29.

“It was so fun getting to show my book baby to the world at this fabulous local event,” she said.

“I was also lucky enough to have some young volunteers join me on-stage to recreate scenes from the book. 

“It was a ‘Cactus-hugging-fails’ tableau that got lots of laughs from children and adults alike, especially when I couldn’t get the masking tape to work – talk about walking the talk.”

Emily’s other Larrikin House title, ‘Garbage Guts’, focuses on environmental issues and the importance of recycling.

‘It’s another really important issue for children to be aware of,” she says.

“What better way to do that than to personify the North Pacific Garbage Patch and turn him into an awful trash monster who was threatening sea life.

“The children I have shared this with have responded so positively to its message, which is so heartening to see.”

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