You & Me in the Trees is Philomath author Amoris Walker’s love letter to her family and the great outdoors of Oregon.
With illustrator Alyssa Gnos’ artfully crafted reflections on Oregon’s diverse landscapes, Walker’s dream of writing a children’s book for her two-year-old daughter, Kahlia, finally came true.
“I always read tons of children’s books, and sometimes I’ll sit there at night and read to her because I think some of those books aren’t that great,” Walker said. “And I thought, ‘Well, why am I not a candidate to put good things out into the world?’ So she really was the channel for me to finally get this book out.”
The rhyming lyrics about nature and conservation that would eventually make up the words in the book came to Walker in a dream she had around 4 a.m., she recalls. She sent the poem to Gnos, a college student living in California, and Gnos returned almost the exact artwork that made it into the finished product. Walker made only two changes.
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“She totally nailed it,” Walker said.
A focus on diversity
Gnos not only included a variety of plants, animals and geography in her illustrations, but also people and families. Walker said a literary agency she submitted the book to refused to carry it because representatives believed there were too many different types of families for children to follow.
“Kids are really smart, and they need a lot of people to look at them — not just one main character who might have blonde hair and blue eyes like them,” Walker said. “So kids here will have people who look like people they know. And I find that really, really inspiring.”
Some of the scenes feature androgynous characters who could be an aunt or uncle, and one side features two women standing in front of a campfire holding hands, heads together, enjoying the moment. Walker said these different depictions of families will be present in the seven other books she has planned for the series.
“There is no future where that is not part of who we are as a human race,” Walker said. “I don’t tell anyone or any child who they are or what they should be. All I see here is lots of love.”
The publishing process
Walker chose a self-hybrid publishing option with Mascot Books, which allowed her to pay the company to help her self-publish and have complete control of the book. Mascot helped with marketing and got her book into the Library of Congress, meaning it can now be found at Barnes & Noble, Target, Amazon, and Walmart.
Any local bookstore can order the book and You & Me in the Trees is available from Common Fields in Corvallis.
Walker’s father, Morris Walker, is a published author of both fiction and non-fiction, so Walker had caught the writing bug long before their daughter was born. She’d wanted to write a book for years before actually doing it, and in the midst of the pandemic, she finally decided it was time.
Walker launched a Kickstarter campaign to get her book paid for, initially setting a goal of 40 days. She surpassed that goal in six days, raising more than $8,500 from over 200 supporters.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Walker said. “Kids love it, parents love it. So that feels really good.”
Walker grew up in a family band called the Earth Walkers, which performed thousands of shows for schools with the message of protecting the earth. Walker is currently working on a novel about her childhood in the band, but the children’s book series seemed a little less daunting to start her writing.
She said it was difficult deciding who to dedicate the book to because she wanted to list paragraphs by people, namely her father, mother, brother, best friend and husband Andy. She ended up going with Kahlia so her daughter can always know that her mother’s first published book was for her.
“She loved every page,” Walker said. “That was honestly the seal of approval.”
The official release date of the book is March 1st. It can be pre-ordered at https://bit.ly/MascotPreOrder. Walker is available for story hours in schools or libraries and can be contacted at @youandmebooks on Instagram.
Joanna Mann covers training for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @joanna_mann_.