Local author features plant and puppy in children’s book
What do you get when you mix planting, puppies and parsley?
The answer for Ann Lewin-Benham is a charming 44-page book titled “Parsley” (Hwin&LittleBearPress, $16.99).
Equally charming are the illustrations by Karen Busch Holman.
The story-poem for 3- to 8-year-olds is about a child who plants parsley, awaits long days with no results, marvels at tiny shoots that spring up, watches as it becomes full and bushy and delights as the plant grows into something to eat.
Then, a shock!
The parsley is suddenly gone!
Additional content in the back of the book provides suggested activities on how to plant parsley.
“I planted my first parsley at age 5 and wrote my first poem at age six. My mother was an inveterate gardener and chose parsley as an easy-to-grow plant for a youngster,” said the Santa Barbara resident who combines these two talents in the following poem on her website:
“Why and When I Wrote ‘Parsley”
As a little girl of about five years
Parsley caused me many tears.
It grew so bushy, its stalks so long
Then suddenly all of my parsley was gone!
Three decades later — at age thirty three —
I wrote parsley’s story just for me.
For the next fifty years, where was the rhyme?
Filed away until . . . ‘Now is the time . . . ‘
Brought out the poem, made it a book
With Karen’s fine drawings to give it a ‘look’
Added Dear Dog, always a Schnauzer
(Who died as I wrote, I’ve grieved so without her!)
My dog’s name was Lucy, constant companion.
As you read Parsley be sure to examine
Two heroes — the child who plants and takes care
And the small Schnauzer puppy who always is there.
The book, you see, has its own duet
A planting child, a dear darling pet.
While not exactly Lucy herself
It’s clearly a Schnauzer and nothing else!
When in Parsley the puppy is there
Please think of Lucy if you are aware
Your thoughts give Lucy life anew
And deepen the meaning of Parsley too.
We live as long as someone remembers
Then die out like a fire’s last embers.”
“My desire to write was evident as a preschooler,” said Ms. Lewin-Benham. “The end papers from my first books are covered with the irregularly-shaped letters of a child learning to wield a pencil. At age 5, I went to sleep with pencil and paper under the pillow in case I woke up and needed to write down a thought.”
“Parsley,” the first in a collection of poems for children, began when her son Danny was a baby and was published recently. Three new books are in various pieces on her hard drive, and more are in her head.
Frequently asked what she’s writing now, she says, “We’ll see what my editor finds worthy.”
Ms. Lewin-Benham was born in Quincy, MA, was raised in Manhattan and upstate New York, graduated cum laude from Bryn Mawr College and worked for a small welfare department in rural North Carolina.
Spurred by her son’s birth to become an educator, Ms. Lewin-Benham has been a Montessori teacher, teacher educator, school founder/director and children’s museum pioneer.
In the 1970s, she launched eight public school Montessori classes in the poverty pockets of Arlington County, a Washington, D.C. suburb. In inner city Washington, D.C. she ran one of the early corporate-sponsored day care centers established as a benefit to try to cut employee turnover.
In the 1980s, Ms. Lewin-Benham founded a computer-based center to prepare out-of-school, out-of-work youth for the GED and structured numerous government-funded teacher-education programs in the arts, humanities, sciences and technology.
“In the mid-1970s, I led an effort to establish the Capital Children’s Museum on a former riot corridor in the shadow of the US Capitol. Its Washington, D.C. location catapulted the museum to international prominence,” said Ms. Lewin-Benham, “For 20 years, my creative staff and scholar-advisors devised major exhibitions that brought to life foreign cultures, traced the history of human communication from the Ice Age cave to computers and explored the world of the hearing impaired in an exhibit called ‘Sound and Silence.’
“The exhibit ‘Remember the Children,’ prototype for the permanent children’s exhibit of the same name at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., probed the concepts of prejudice, organized hatred and cruelty.”
If asked how do you start a book, Ms. Lewin-Benham, who is married to Robert Benham, a retired judge, refers to the old joke — by cleaning out the refrigerator.
“In my case, I started my first book by moving from Washington, establishing a marriage and life in a new community, directing my new city’s Leadership Institute, running my husband’s judicial campaigns, seeing my beloved mother through a terminal illness, renovating a period house, becoming a visiting grandmother and then cleaning out the refrigerator.”