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By RAEGAN MILLER
Daily News Staff Writer
“Can you see the bear in the blueberry?”
Author, environmental activist and songwriter Linda Buckley poses this question in her new children's book, “The Bear in the Blueberry.”
In the short book, Buckley introduces young readers to the concept that “everything is in everything,” as was explained to her in a lecture by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.
“In one of his talks, he held up a piece of paper and asked, 'Can you see the logger in this piece of paper?'” a note on the back of Buckley's book reads. “I was confused and looked hard to see a picture of a logger. Then he asked, 'Can you see the sun in this paper? Can you see the rain in the paper? Can you see the forest in the paper?'”
Buckley's book takes this concept and adapts it for a younger audience. “The Bear in the Blueberry” follows a bear through stages of its life as its actions slowly begin to contribute to the environment, finishing with the growth of a blueberry, which then becomes part of a stack of pancakes.
The book, which features colorful illustrations by Seattle-based artist Robin K. Robbins, includes a fact sheet about bears and a recipe for blueberry pancakes.
Buckley uses simple, clear language that is easy to understand, even though the overall concept of the book is rooted in critical thinking and science. The tone of Buckley's writing stays calm and easy-going throughout the book. Combined with the plain white pages and whimsical illustrations, the book feels both engaging and relaxed.
“I wrote the book pretty fast after that talk (with Hanh),” Buckley told the Daily News, adding that it took her a few days to finish a complete draft.
After finishing the draft, Buckley personally selected Robbins to illustrate the book, and spent time collaborating with her throughout the project.
Buckley connected with Robbins on Facebook as little more than acquaintances to inquire if she'd like to work on the book's illustrations, which are primarily of bears and plants.
“A children's book is all about the art,” Buckley said.
After completing the writing, editing and illustrating process, Buckley chose not to go through a traditional publisher so that she would have more control about how her book was managed and distributed.
“The hard part is now: marketing, distributing (and) shipping,” Buckley said, adding that her books are shipped to her in Juneau from Canada by Alaska Marine Lines.
When she first published “The Bear in the Blueberry,” she expected to get the most attention from tourists.
“So I think when I wrote it, I had a lot of interest from visitors,” Buckley said. “You know, the tourists would say, 'Oh, we're looking for books on bears and blueberries that also have a deeper meaning.' And this is basically science wrapped up in bears and blueberries, (it's) about deep ecology – that everything's connected.”
However, Buckley said “it turns out locals love bears and blueberries more than tourists.”
“I sold 700 (copies) in a month, so I already have to re-order because it's flying off the shelves,” she said.
Now that the book has been published for a few months, Buckley has been visiting children and families around the state to sign and read the book.
“They have these fabulous questions,” Buckley said of her young audiences.
Buckley will visit Ketchikan to sign books at Parnassus Books from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Ketchikan is her last stop in Alaska for the year.
With so many of her visits to bookstores around Alaska being close to the holidays, Buckley is looking forward to a short break before the new year.
“I just have to kind of do it until I can't do it anymore,” Buckley said about the tour.
In 2020, she will continue on to bookstores and libraries in Washington and Oregon to promote “The Bear in the Blueberry.”
“I'm very proud of it,” Buckley said. “It's a quality book with a message.”
The book is only available in independent bookstores, Buckley said, and will begin a second round of printing in January.