Elizabeth Hansen, a now retired Grinnell High School English and Speech teacher and author of Daisy’s Tale, left, is shown with illustrator Makaella Mitchell during the Grinnell Jingle Bell Holiday. Hansen and Mitchell collaborated on the book project. Since publishing the book, Hansen has partnered with the Greater Poweshiek County Foundation (GPCF) and the Pioneer Bookshop in Grinnell to raise awareness about pet adoptions at PALS (Poweshiek Animal League Shelter) located south of Grinnell. Books are $10 and can be purchased at the Pioneer Bookshop and at GPCF.
By J.O. Parker
A now retired Grinnell High School English and Speech teacher and a local illustrator have collaborated to publish a children’s book.
“Daisy’s Tale,” by Elizabeth Hansen with illustrations by Makaella Mitchell, a former student of Hansen’s, was released in October 2022.
The book is a “mostly true” story about two rescue dogs who came to live with Hansen, her husband and two kids.
“They were our beloved family pets,” said Hansen. “I always wanted to capture their unique friendship and how they became best friends.”
Since publishing the book, Hansen has partnered with the Greater Poweshiek County Foundation (GPCF) and the Pioneer Bookshop in Grinnell to raise awareness about pet adoptions at PALS (Poweshiek Animal League Shelter) located south of Grinnell.
Everyone who donates $10 to GPCF or purchases a copy of the book at the Pioneer Bookstore for the same amount receives the book with all the proceeds going to PALS.
The idea for the book came about in the spring of 2016. Hansen, who spent 33-years teaching at Grinnell High School, was asked to teach Education 341, the English Language Arts (ELA) Methods course that semester at Grinnell College while education professor, Jean Ketter, was on a sabbatical.
In one of our class discussions, Hansen said a student asked her about the challenges she faced as a teacher.
“I told the class about how I was teaching a new Capstone course (at GHS) that required students to identify an area of passion, do research, write a paper and create a product based on the research,” she said. “It was challenging because I had never been through that process before.”
Hansen said the student looked at her and said, “You can change that.” Meaning that not only was I going to teach the class, I was also now going to do the work my students were doing.
“What an eye-opening experience,” said Hansen. “My passion as a new grandmother was reading books to my granddaughter, so I decided to research writing a children’s book with the thought that the story about Daisy was one I wanted to tell.”
Hansen said she wrote the book during the Capstone course, the third-trimester in 2016, in about 8 – 10 weeks.
When thinking about an illustrator for the book, Hansen remember Mitchell. She said Mitchell was in her Capstone class her senior year and would often be drawing during class.
“Knowing that some students learn more effectively when they are engaging their brains through creating art, I asked if I could see her work,” recalled Hansen. “I was so impressed and began to notice her artwork displayed outside of the GHS art room.”
Six years later, after Mitchell had graduated high school, Hansen said she saw her at a local bank and thought about her wonderful illustrations and how they needed to be released. She thought they would be a perfect fit for her book, which had been stored on her computer, so she asked Mitchell if she might be interested in collaborating on the book project.
“She is a gifted artist and I knew she would capture the essence of the main characters,” noted Hansen.
Mitchell, who has been doing graphic artwork for about 10 years, said working on the book with Hansen was a fun project.
“I felt so lucky to help her with this process and illustrating her adorable pups,” said Mitchell.
It took her about two weeks to complete the illustrations for the book project. The book features 10-15 pieces of art, all hand drawn, inked and colored with colored pencils.
“She gave me an idea and it was so fun to run with it,” said Mitchell. “Liz was an absolute delight to work with as well. I couldn’t pass up that cute of a story. Plus, anything with dogs makes everything better. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to work with.”
Once the two collaborated on the book project, Hansen said she spoke with her family about the book and they encouraged her to reach out to Linda Foegan, an Atlantic, Iowa-based book designer who had worked with her family in 2015 to put together a book of stories about her father after he passed away.
She also had the students in her Capstone class read the book drafts and provide feedback. Other mentors she called included Alana Whisenand, a GHS English teacher and mom who gave great advice about language. Chelsey Kolpin, the GHS/GMS teacher librarian, was also a great resource in making the book possible.
“And one of my former students, Jaylene Hall, was another inspiration as she was a published author as an eighth grader,” added Hansen.
Hansen said all ages will like the story and message in “Daisy’s Tale.”
“The book is written to appeal to beginning readers with words that they know and will be able to read aloud,” she said.
After retiring from teaching at Grinnell High School in 2017, Hansen joined the Grinnell College Office of Community Partnerships, Planning, and Research in June 2017 and became the Executive Director of the Grinnell Newburg School Foundation in 2019.
Hansen and her husband, Jay, have two adult children, Rachel, a third grade teacher in Ankeny Schools, and her husband and two daughters and Caleb, who currently lives in Jersey City, N.J.
As for the future, Hansen said she would like to continue to write and is currently collaborating with her 7-year-old granddaughter on a project.
In addition to supporting PALS, copies of “Daisy’s Tale” have also been donated to Drake Community Library and the two Grinnell elementary school libraries.
“A huge thanks to all who assisted me with the development and publishing of this book and to everyone who has supported PALS by purchasing a copy,” said Hansen.