Parents are constantly looking for books that are not only fun and entertaining for children but also full of good lessons, morals and values. When thebabyspot.ca found Pumpkinheads, a series of books with just that, we had to interview Karen Kilpatrick, the creator of this adorable series. We sat down with Karen to find out how she created this adorable series.
Karen, How did the adorable Pumpkinheads series of books get started?
It was a long road! I had my first child, a son, in the summer of 2002. I think from the day he was born I started telling him stories! As he got older, we started making these stories into “books” made of construction paper, and illustrating them with magazine pictures and crayons! Four years later, I gave birth to my first daughter, and seventeen months after that, my second. By this time, my son and I had stacks and stacks of books! Meanwhile, I was working a ton of hours as an attorney and really wanted to spend more time at home with my kids but had no idea what else to do. I felt stuck until one day, my husband came in as we were reading some of our homemade books and asked, “Why don’t you do this?” To which I responded, “What?” I had no idea that he was talking about actually writing real books – the thought just had never crossed my mind. I didn’t think it was possible, but I kept writing, and over time, developed the idea for Pumpkinheads.
We love that Pumpkinheads comes with self esteem building, life lessons and tolerance. How important are these traits for children to grasp at a young age?
I don’t think it’s ever too early to begin teaching these concepts to young children. Children have varying levels of understanding, but it is amazing how much they learn and absorb from watching and listening. The messages that we share with our young children are important, and serve as an early foundation for character and emotional development. Just like learning to read, it’s a process! The older a child gets, the more subtle and deep his or her understanding of a complex concept becomes, but when these concepts are taught in a relatable and fun manner, kids begin to pick up the messages early. Just as parents want to plant the seeds and lay the foundation for early academic learning, it is the same with emotional learning and character education. To me, it’s not only what my children know, but who they are that’s important!
How did you meet the Pumpkinheads Team?
An-Lon Chen was the first person to join Pumpkinheads, and I had known An-Lon in high school. Our families were close, and we were in a lot of the same classes. After high school, I heard updates about her from my family, but we really didn’t connect again until Facebook! I reached out to her to let her know what I was doing, and to ask her opinions about my books. I was secretly hoping she would think the project was good enough to jump on board! Thankfully, she had just finished up her work at Dreamworks, and decided to join me. She brings a lot of talent and experience to our team. I met Matthew and Tara through various illustrator and animator sites. It took meeting a lot of people to find them and I’m so glad I did – they are both amazing artists.
How important is social media to promote Pumpkinheads?
It’s definitely important. It’s a great way to connect with other moms, dads, caregivers and grandparents, and spread the word about our books, eBooks, and website (www.pumpkinheads.com). More than that though, social media is a community that we really enjoy being a part of. We get to hear from people, host contests, provide useful information… it’s really fun!
What can we expect in the next year?
So far two of our books have been released and are available in book and eBook format on Amazon.com (Carmin Cares and Ella’s Toys and will soon be available through other online retailers (including Barnes & Noble along with in various retail and book stores). We will be releasing three more titles this summer, Danza’s Message, Love Monster Lulu, and Sage’s Song. We are also working on our fall 2013 books, which will include a Halloween story, a story featuring Peanut (Carmin’s dog), and perhaps even our first boy Pumpkinhead! Beyond books, we are working on developing other products, more online activities and learning tools for our website, and animated shorts (you can find our current read aloud and animated stories on YouTube).
How did you create each character?
I tried to give each character her own distinct personality and strengths. Danza is confident and imaginative, Carmin is a caring activist, Sage is a quirky musician, Lulu is a super silly family girl, and Ella has a kind and gentle spirit. Their stories are largely based on situations I have witnessed in my house, at play dates, in school, at the park… though I did have a specific child in mind when designing each character!
Do you think Ella will learn to share?
I think Ella solves her sharing issue beautifully! She, like many children, isn’t too keen on allowing other kids to touch her stuff! But I think the concept of “sharing” is better taught in terms of generosity, friendship, community and kindness. It’s not about making one child give another child a toy, but fostering awareness of how not sharing makes a friend feel, and maybe some consequences of keeping everything to yourself. Ella experiences this in Ella’s Toys, and comes up with a creative solution in the end!
How does Danza teach young children to love themselves?
Danza appreciates herself, and her enthusiasm is contagious! Danza’s Message is a simple story about enjoying what you see when you look in the mirror. While beauty is much more than skin deep, it’s also important for children to like the outside of themselves. I can’t say it better than Danza does: You are beautiful, the very best you yet!
How important is it for toddlers and children to have positive role models?
Critically important. I love so many of the books that are out there that contain positive messages conveyed through incredibly imaginative stories that include animals, fairies, construction trucks…you name it! But I wanted to create books with realistic characters in realistic situations so that kids would readily and easily identify with the stories and how they relate to them. I think people, whatever the age, can always benefit and learn from positive role models, although at such a formative and impressionable time, it’s that much more important to surround our young kids with positive messages.
Will we see the Pumpkinheads grow up slowly in their books?
I don’t know the answer to this question yet! Right now, I’m really enjoying creating and establishing the Pumpkinheads universe (and feel like I communicate best with toddlers and preschoolers!) Maybe this will change as my own children grow older, but I think this is such a fun age group to write for. They are so open and impressionable , and I love that.
***Visit the adorable Pumpkinheads at www.pumpkinheads.com****