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Beloved teacher becomes kids’ author in retirement

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Few of us have childhood memories fonder than that of our beloved Grade 1 teacher. My first grade teacher was Mrs. Michalow. She was the first teacher I can remember, and the first to teach me that talking out of turn was not acceptable, a life lesson I had to learn again when she taught me in Grade 4, but one for which I am forever grateful.


Now, 12 years into retirement after a 30-year teaching career, Erna Michalow has found a new calling as a children’s author and book illustrator.


Whose Trees Are These?, published by local children’s publishing company Peanut Butter Press, is a delightful and educational story about "the role of trees in nature and their relationship to the rest of the environment."


Inspired by a take-home assignment from the Fort Garry Palette Club, an art club that specializes in mostly watercolours, Michalow began the process of writing a story that would accompany her paintings. And just like that, a children’s story was born.


Well, not exactly. As Michalow explains, the Whose Trees Are These? book was not her first attempt at writing a children’s story.


"I started a rhyming book about mice," she explained to me, "it was awful!"

Thankfully, she didn’t stop at her first attempt.   


In telling me about the inspiration for her story, Michalow explains that she grew up on a farm north of Beausejour where there were always plenty of chores to do. One way she escaped from chores was by climbing trees and pretending not to hear her mother calling for her.


"These antics were successful for only a short while. But it did give me a good knowledge of trees, their bark, their leaves, the shapes of their trunks and their fruits. It also helped develop a sense of curiosity about the natural world."


That curiosity would serve her well in her later studies at the University of Manitoba and in earning a teaching degree.


These days, Michalow keeps busy with aquafit classes, art clubs, and of course reading and book clubs. When she’s not busy with all these activities, she loves spending her time with her two grandsons, Eric Allan Francis, 12, and Thomas Kiesman, 8.


Whose Trees Are These?, written and illustrated by Erna Michalow can be purchased at McNally Robinson or online from www.peanutbutterpress.ca. It’s a perfect read for February, which is I Love to Read! Month.


Heather Tiede is a community correspondent for Windsor Park. You can contact her at htiede@gmail.com.

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