By C.L. Harmon
It’s a bond beyond explanation. One that revives a tired soul back into jubilation. In many ways it makes the old feel young again by magically building a bridge that leads to a playground where love and fun are the only rules. I believe whoever said, “A grandparent is old on the outside but young on the inside,” perfectly defined the definition of a grandparent.
Betty Stewart of Mannford definitely fits that meaning. However, for Stewart, feeling young while spending time with her grandchildren just wasn’t quite enough for her. She wanted to be a grandmother to as many children as she could. At 76, she had a lifetime of life lessons and stories that she wanted to share with everyone’s grandchildren.
Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Stewart never had aspirations to be a writer as she worked as a stay home mother raising her five children. Little did she realize during those days that inside her heart was a creative spark that would one day warm the smiles of her grandchildren…and those of others as well.
Stewart recently had her first book, ‘The Adventures of Milo & Pookie’, published.
The illustrated children’s book focuses on an unlikely friendship between a hamster and a goldfish. To avoid spoiler alerts, I won’t write about their adventures. However, I will convey that the book is an innocent and intelligent read that allows children to learn the value of friendship and working together.
Initially, she would use the traditional method of oral story-telling to her grandchildren to connect with them in a loving and learning way. However, influence from a friend several years ago, prompted her to put those stories on paper.
“I would start writing and the words would come so fast in my mind,” she said. Her friend convinced her to get copyrights and then to eventually consider publishing. But before the publishing came into play, she decided to visit the local schools dressed up in what most consider the typical grandmother image of old, or as she calls it, “a granny in the wagon wheeler days.” She would read her stories and the responses from her young audience told her she had a real knack for the art of story telling.
After her mother passed away, Stewart felt it was time to move to Oklahoma and be closer to her daughter and grandchildren who were living in the Round Mountain area. That has been ten years ago, she said. Before moving here, she would travel up here to tell new stories to her grandchildren. It wasn’t long after that move that Mannford school children also had the opportunity to receive a visit from a grandma with a story or two to tell.
“Those children love hearing the stories as much as I love telling them,” she said. Although the stories are hers, the illustrations are provided by her nephew who resides in Tennessee. Together they create a magical world that appeals to children in a fun and innocent manner while providing valuable messages important to young minds and hearts.
“I never thought about making any money when I started publishing. It was just such an honor to be able to publish these books that I write for my grandchildren and great grandchildren and to give them something of me that they will have in 100 years,” she explained. Although the book does sell, Stewart says it was and is still not about the money this book generates. It’s about the stories and the privilege to be a grandmother to all the children who have the opportunity to hear her read about the adventures of the Milo and Pookie.
The Milo and Pookie characters came from her grandson Jeremy who actually had a hamster and a tropical fish as pets when he was a small boy. He is now a young adult. Stewart wanted to write a story for him about those pets. That story prompted two more stories with those characters which are currently in the editing process at a publishing house in New York City. Although the stories were written several years ago, Stewart only recently decided to put her stories in book form.
On the cover of this colorful book there is no mention of Stewart, but only the name of YaYa as the author, which is a sweet message to her great-grandson Dustin Andrews who addresses her with that term of endearment and loves her stories. She quipped that he is the only great grandchild allowed to call her that, according to him.
It is interesting to note that Stewart writes all of her stories by hand and says that she is very blessed to be so happy in her life. She explains that one must have a child like happiness free from anger and hate to write stories that will connect with children. Soon to come is the story, ‘The Adventures of Round Mountain’. he has already tested its content with Mannford children with overwhelming acceptance.