A Magic Cape of Careers, Colors, Cultures & Costumes

When I wrote Great Cape o’ Colors, I didn’t plan on it being about careers—I just wanted a Spanish-English picture book to teach colors to language learners. I came up with different costumes that include capes (costumes kids might try at home). I knew the book would have a pronunciation guide and diverse characters (something I try to have in all of my books). But after getting the artwork back from the illustrator, I realized this was also a book about jobs for kids—and it fit nicely with three other books I’d written on careers.

Suddenly, I have a career book series (along with series for STEM, bilingual, food, mystery, wordless, and immigrant books). The Careers for Kids series also includes Ma MacDonald Flees the Farm (about a woman-owned business. FREE now), Bright Star Night Star (for aspiring astronomers), and The Bridge of the Golden Wood: A Parable on How to Earn a Living—which was selected by the State of Vermont for primary school curriculum on financial literacy. These books link to a site with job and business ideas plus money management tips: ChildrenEarn.com.

As a former Silicon Valley recruiter, I’ve noticed that many high school (even college) graduates aren’t prepared to work their way up to a desired position (or run their own business or manage money). I wanted to share ideas that spark imaginations to discover gratifying activities that can become marketable skills. I especially wanted kids to learn that our best ideas and skills are born while solving problems and helping others.

I learned Spanish while serving the people of Chile for two years as a volunteer. Being bilingual has enriched my work. Over the past couple of decades I’ve taught English as a second language; I believe that serving immigrant ESL students helped me qualify to teach college, which I’ve done for nearly four years. I regularly speak on writing and marketing in schools as well as to private and government organizations. That networking has opened all kinds of doors for me to other professionals and clients.

“This is a magic cape!” begins Great Cape o’ Colors. It certainly has been for me. I feel like one of the superheroes inside (even without a cape). John Collado’s illustrations are wonderful. I’m especially grateful to my native language editors (who make me look good), Gema Ortiz de Gurrola and Diana Sanzana.

Great Cape o’ Colors – Capa de colores: English-Spanish with Pronunciation Guide is my 20th book–free now on Netgalley.com and soon on Kindle. It’s available in hard cover, paper, or ebook (single language or bilingual) through PremioBooks.com, Amazon/Kindle, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble/Nook, Brodart, Ingram, EBSCO, Follett, iBooks, and Walmart.com. YOUR comments on Amazon, Goodreads, Netgalley, or Smashwords.com can make a big difference in the book’s reach–I certainly welcome followers there and on Bookbub, Youtube, FB, Pinterest, Instagram, Google, or Twitter (search Multicultural Children’s Books by Premio Publishing). Hard ISBN: 978-1732069619, soft ISBN: 978-0692220986. WATCH the book trailer here.

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Serving Brings Happiness

Over the past 22 years, I’ve had the privilege of teaching English to immigrants on a volunteer basis in both California and Utah. I’ve also been able to donate hundreds of my multicultural/bilingual picture books to refugee and other charitable organizations for language learning. While I’ve been the teacher, it’s been an education for me. Students from Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, China, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, El Salvador, and Syria have enriched my world. These people are so grateful for the privilege of living in the greatest country on earth. (If you don’t yet know that the United States is the greatest country, find a way to live abroad–not simply visit tourist capitals.) While their language abilities vary, they want very much to master English and contribute positively to the community. Some of their stories are too intense for human consumption (and yet these humans have lived them). Sacrifice and struggle seems to be the price to come here. These people are generous with the little they have and are always grateful for help with perhaps the most difficult language in the West. If you can make time to help newcomers, I promise you, it is the cure for self-focus and “the world is going to heck” thinking. Find service opportunities in your area by typing your zip code in the following site: JustServe.org. You will be happier than you are today.

Me, Inside & Out

People often ask me how I—a South African, Scottish Swede—came to speak Spanish. I also get quizzed about being so thin. Both are the result of my LDS mission to Viña del Mar, Chile. Actually, my mom was an enthusiastic student of Spanish, so she spoke broken Spanish to us while we were growing up in San Jose, California (she used to call me Carlos).

If they are physically and mentally healthy, and if they meet the standards of worthiness, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the privilege of serving a volunteer mission when they reach eighteen to twenty something years (also at retirement age). I was healthy, but I’d made some choices that were less than worthy. I remember at 18 going to a room alone and declaring—not to God, but to the devil—that I would qualify to serve a mission no matter what! While my determination was admirable, God knew I could not do it alone. It would be years before I realized that it was Christ’s grace that qualified me.

After submitting an application, having ecclesiastical interviews, medical exams, and my wisdom teeth pulled, it was a thrill to bid my friends and family farewell, get some training, and fly to Santiago, Chile. I LOVED the country, the people, and the language. I got sick almost monthly, and learned what real service was (from the people I had come to serve).

We missionaries saw thousands of people embrace the gospel of Christ and receive the blessings of following God’s plan of happiness. I learned that God’s love is tenacious. I witnessed miracles (especially when I could first understand the fast-speaking people). I gained an appreciation for U.S. freedoms while living under a dictator. I distributed food, helped build a house, and got in-person training from a prophet and apostles. I gained life-long friends with some of the most generous people on earth (we mission associates—gringo and Chileno—still gather whenever we can and marvel at the extraordinary things we were able to be a part of). Mostly, I had a profound and personal assurance that I was doing the most important work on the planet. It’s hard to describe that joy.

What I didn’t realize is that a double course of antibiotics (after having my wisdom teeth pulled) had sent me defenseless into an environment of microbes my body had never known.

At first I only had occasional discomfort once I was home. As the years passed, stomach stress became constant and often painful. Despite visits to Stanford Medical Center and countless other doctors, no one has yet identified or remedied the problem. I soon lost confidence in my ability to control my body. This began to impact my social life. While I’ve dated more women than I can remember or number, each date was first stressful, and eventually became a major effort. Soon, I would return from short dates completely wiped out.

Today my diet is severely restricted—as is my energy. My social life is paltry. I struggle to maintain even a runner’s body weight, and my gut remains inflamed. Please believe that this is not typical for a missionary who gets sick. Most I’ve met have found remedies. (Don’t fear travel, it’s perhaps the best education you’ll ever get—especially if you get away from the big cities.)

Still, I’ve been able to do nearly everything on my bucket list. My Spanish has proven helpful in my work and in countless other spheres. The following isn’t to brag (more to enumerate my blessings) —there’s a point I want to make at the end. In addition to gaining a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a film certificate, I have:

  • Been a commencement speaker for college graduation
  • Taught at a university
  • Sung in rock bands
  • Signed Legislation in D.C. (staffers do it all the time if the rep. is away)
  • Visited 4 continents, 12 countries, and 35 states
  • Created and headed two businesses
  • Volunteered at Stanford University Hospital
  • Helped found a Silicon Valley high-tech organization and handled their PR
  • Published 17 books (many award-winners and Amazon bestsellers)
  • Kayaked in whitewater
  • Lectured to large and small groups
  • Worked for IBM, Intel, and Marriott
  • Piloted a plane (not take-off or landing)
  • Hired hundreds of people
  • Been to an Olympic hockey medals game (my favorite sport to watch)
  • Performed for thousands (even alongside the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
  • Water skied, snow skied
  • Been a Spanish interpreter
  • Acted in radio, TV, film
  • Been published in magazines & The U.S. Congressional Record
  • Had my scripts selected in competition (one produced on radio)
  • Repelled on and jumped from high cliffs
  • Been an ecclesiastical leader / served on a high council

My point is this: Even with my illness and the impact it has had on my life (I have yet to have a family of my own), if I had to choose between the experiences from my mission or those in the list above, without hesitation I would keep my treasured missionary service. Some might wonder whether I would do it again—knowing beforehand how it would change my life. I wouldn’t give up those changes for anything. If they called me to serve again today, I’d be the skinniest, weakest, happiest missionary on earth. My passport is still current.

3 Diverse Spring Books Make Learning Funny

spring booksMIDVALE, Utah, March 25, 2016 – Award-winning author Karl Beckstrand is from San Jose, California. He has 16 multicultural books and more than 40 ebook titles — all of them educational — but kids would never know it from the mysteries, activities, and giggles. Here are three new ones.

“Butterfly Blink: A Book Without Words” is a picture book fantasy that helps children cement vocabulary as they describe the monarch from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Blink — and they multiply. Blink — and they’re gone! (Stories Without Words series, Ages 2 – 6, 24-page, 8″x 10″, wordless picture book on habitat conservation, ISBN: 978-0692648599)

“The Dancing Flamingos of Lake Chimichanga” is a witty, pink fest with a counting activity. Zany birds with a zest for life, revel, feast and dance on the shores of a shimmering lake. (Ages 3 – 8, 350 words, 24-page, 8.5″x 8.5″, children’s book, ISBN: 978-1512161786)

“Four Spanish-English Books for Kids – Cuatro libros bilingües para niños” is a set with a pronunciation guide in both languages plus opposites, insects and finding activities. (Ages 2 & up for ESL/ELL/ELA, 8″x 10″, soft cover bilingual book with characters of color, 100 page, about 2,000 words, ISBN: 978-1505672626)

Nationally-lauded (ForeWord Reviews, Horn Book blog, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews) these soft cover kid’s books capture attention and create repeat readers. Not about ethnic or racial diversity, they simply feature black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and mixed-race characters–with family values like courage, sharing, and loyalty. Find them online, at PremioBooks.com and select retailers.