Penn State Brandywine senior Jackie Glace has two loves: teaching young children and volunteering with the Appalachia Service Project (ASP). The elementary education major united these two loves to pen a fully illustrated children's book about a young girl's journey from the Big Apple to wide open Appalachia for her Schreyer Honors Program thesis project.
"I wanted to combine both my passions -- teaching and working in Appalachia," Glace said. Inspired by a children's literature course and her experiences as a volunteer, and with the artistic help of alumna Christina Felizzi '10, the book's illustrator, Sam's Big Move came to life.
In high school, Glace began volunteering with ASP, an organization that prepares youth and adult volunteers to help families in rural areas of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee by making their homes safer and more livable. Volunteers participate in weeklong sessions doing home construction.
Glace became enamored of the people and volunteered for five summers. Several years into the program she was given a paid leadership role, and in 2009 she spent the entire summer in rural Magoffin County, Ky. She was touched by the stories of the people she met. And today, those stories can be found on the pages of Sam's Big Move.
The story follows Sam and her parents as they move from New York City back to her father's hometown in Magoffin County. There she meets a new friend, Dustin, settles into a new house (inspired by a rundown house Glace helped bring back to life) and explores this new, drastically different lifestyle. Even Sam's dog, Jasper, lives on in Magoffin County as Joe, the real-life pet of the family Glace stayed with in 2009.
The book helps young readers in urban areas, like the second graders at the Philadelphia elementary school where Glace is a student teacher, explore a world most never knew existed. Felizzi's illustrations were inspired by real photographs, bringing to life the town and people for which Glace is so fond.
The book explores common themes of life in Appalachia. She researched other children's books about the area, coming up with the top 10 themes -- the role of animals, food and hospitality and nature -- and built her story from there. Glace incorporated Appalachian clothing -- Dustin tells Sam kids in Magoffin only wear shoes for school and special occasions --, the idea of close-knit communities and self-reliance.
Glace even used Pennsylvania academic standards to create a lesson plan to accompany the book, she explained as she defended her thesis on Thursday, Jan. 13 in front of a packed room. Afterward, the line for her book signing extended into the hallway. Two dollars from the sale of each book will benefit ASP. She has already raised $90.
"It's so neat to see [the book] in a tangible form and to be able to turn the pages and [say], 'Wow, we did this!'" Felizzi said. "This is a dream come true for both of us."
To order a copy of Sam's Big Move go to http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1844383.