CHARLOTTETOWN – A new children’s book, “The Turnip Tune Up,” promoting the lowly vegetable, is being launched at the Confederation Centre Library in Charlottetown Feb. 3 at 2 p.m.
With 10 books behind her, including a novel, Island author Kathy Birt says she had no plans to do a children’s book until 2015 when she read a rhyming poem about the turnip to her writers’ group.
“TWiG (The Writer’s in Group) members were enthusiastic about the poem and agreed that it would make a great children’s book with the right illustrations,” said the author.
She had no problem finding the right person to do the illustrations. Fellow writer and children’s author Carl McNally had his children’s book illustrated by Duncan Brooks and Birt liked his book so much she obtained permission to copy the design and contracted the talents of Brooks to get the right illustrations.
“Duncan and I met on a few occasions, first to discuss the book and what I was looking for, then for me to have a look at the beginnings of the illustrations,” said Birt.
Once the illustrations were ready, she called upon Kelly Gray, a graphic design student at Holland College, to design and complete the book.
“I’ve joined forces with Kelly in the past for my Valentine book and the cover of my novel,” added Birt.
Doing a book about eating turnip, for Birt, was essential at some point in her life.
“I wrote the rhyming poem about turnip back in the late ‘90s at a time when I was interviewing turnip growers. I simply stored it in my Word files with many other pieces of work.
“Pulling it out in 2015 was simply to provide something to read at my weekly meeting with TWiG. But as I read this poem over and over to myself, the notion of using it in a children’s book took form.”
Birt said she approached Brooks and Gray in July 2017 and, while there were a few hiccups along the way, the book, which is aimed at ages 2 to 5 years, is now ready and the launch date set.
“My plan is a little unusual. I’m rewarding each child who buys a book on the day of the launch, with a turnip, donated by Brookfield Gardens.”
Some memories Birt has about turnip is making Jack-o-lanterns from them in the 1950s for school Halloween parties.
“There were not a lot of pumpkins around and turnips were used for (Jack-o-lanterns) and we’d sit them on the window ledge on Halloween night with a candle in them.”
Birt also had her day at hoeing turnips as a youngster.
“Personally, I still love turnip, raw or cooked and can’t imagine a chicken or turkey dinner (without turnip),” she said.