Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
Focused on the philosophy of “sharing family stories and adventures with children to help fuel their love of learning,” the numerous books published locally by Suminski Family Books include the “Cowee Sam” series as well as the more recent “Animal Stories” series. This month, the third installment in the anticipated 17-book “Animal Stories” series was released. Although the “Animal Stories” books are intended for elementary-school-aged children, writer and editor Claire Suminski noted that they are for all ages – anyone who enjoys true, heartwarming narratives about animals.
“Some [Animal Stories] were actually written by contributors, while others are told to me and then I form them into stories,” said Suminski. “The third style is more of an interview, but all are true stories.”
Nine local individuals contributed to “Animal Stories 3 – Science Edition.” Illustrators are Susan Swedlund, Pat Menninger, and Marilyn Miller. An illustration of Sharon Taylor, a former director of Mainspring Conservation Trust, is featured on the cover of “Animal Stories 3 – Science Edition” because she is a contributor who began her story with, “Studying biology made me curious about all forms of life, so much so that one day I picked up a long millipede crawling along a wooded hiking trail.”
Suminski pointed to two main reasons why Suminski Family Books is committed to regularly publishing children’s books.
“Both of my grandmothers passed on stories to their grandchildren,” she said, “and storytelling has been a very valuable tool in many cultures to teach and pass on practical wisdom. Also, we homeschooled our four children, who are all grown now. And during some of those years we did foster care and now I mentor at East Franklin. In all of those situations I have seen how important it is to not only understand the mechanics of reading, but to learn to love to read.”
She wanted to make sure that the “Animal Stories” series is an avenue for both children and adults to share stories. Suminski explained.
“Children and people in general love stories about animals. By sharing these stories, I hope to inspire children to not only read more, but to love to read and to express themselves through writing. It is so much fun to work with the story contributors and illustrators. When everything comes together, it is very exciting for everyone involved.”
Primarily, Suminski views Animal Stories as a way to involve and assist the community at large. “The first $500 in sales in the Animal Stories series goes to a local nonprofit or school group that is a good match with the book. A donation from the first ‘Animal Stories’’ sales went to Appalachian Animal Rescue … the second to KIDs Place. The first $500 of Animal Stories 3 is going to Macon County School’s STEM/STEAM Program. I hear a lot of comments from community members saying how much they appreciate that, and I plan to continue doing this because I think that helping dedicated nonprofits succeed helps to strengthen our community.”
Suminski’s personal favorite story in the latest “Animal Stories” book is titled “Max’s Wesser Bald Adventure.” She said it involves her own family.
“We went hiking to Wesser Bald and my dad lost his beloved dog, Max. It was getting dark and after calling and searching, to no avail, we had to head home. At that point, my dad did something that he said would help Max to not worry and would ensure that we could find him in the daylight. That next morning, we headed back up the trail and … well, you will have to read the book to find out what happened!”
The next book in the “Animal Stories series – The Farm Edition” – is due to be published in 2022. Suminski Family Books are available at Books Unlimited, Smoky Mountain Host visitors center, and in other venues throughout Macon County.