Written by Shayda Windle

Even if school is taking place in your living room this fall, your child should still have access to the best children’s literature possible. After all, studies have shown that children who read about topics they enjoy are more prone to be excited about their learning experiences. Sounds like a win to us — as long as you have the right books at your fingertips. 

Local children’s book author, Elizabeth Reinhart, grew up in the rolling hills of West Virginia. When it was time for college, she moved to New Mexico to study paleopathology. After school, she moved back to the D.C. area to work as an analyst where she says she “spent years of plowing through responsibilities, work, and long-distance commuting,” before the idea of writing a children’s book was even a thought.  

Reinhart’s journey to become a children’s book writer is a personal one. It wasn’t until the tragic passing of her parents that she “had an epiphany and was finally forced to look up.”

“Time suddenly started to feel like it was running short and all I had to show for myself was that I was ‘a hard worker,’” Reinhart says. “I knew this was not what my parents wanted for me.”

With that, she began writing, and she says her series of children’s books about “Little Fox” is a love letter to her parents. She completed and publish her first book, “The Fox Who Chased the Sky,” this year, and started her own publishing company, Dreaming Pine Press, LLC, where her book and other merchandise are available for purchase at emreinhart.com.

“The Fox Who Chased the Sky.” Photo by Laura Luck.

“The Fox Who Chased the Sky” tells the story of Little Fox, who is longing to explore the world outside his den. Constantly told “no” by his siblings when he asks them to join his adventures, he decides to follow the sun on his own. As the day progresses, Little Fox gains more confidence in himself and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. 

“For me, the fun of the story is that the meaning can be interpreted in multiple ways,” Reinhart says. “I tend to use a lot of symbolism, and I hope that adults take away something from the stories that is a bit outside of the literal interpretation that a child may understand. These books became a way for me to hold on to the life lessons my parents taught me. Writing gave me a way to remember all the things they wished for me in life. They are messages of kindness and patience, of courage and confidence, of comfort and friendship.”

Elizabeth Reinhart, author of “The Fox Who Chased the Sky.” Photo by Laura Luck.

When I met Reinhart, I was surprised at the similarities we shared. Just last year, I was given the opportunity to illustrate my first children’s book with Janice Wilson, an author from the west coast. The book I helped create, “Eliana, Where Do Thoughts Come From?”, carries a similar theme to Reinhart’s Little Fox series, as they are both journeys of self-discovery, growth, and curiosity.

Wilson’s inspiration for her book, “Eliana, Where Do Thoughts Come From?” came shortly after the birth of her first grandchild, Eliana, the “miracle of God’s answered prayer.” 

“I wanted to give Eliana a gift that would last her a lifetime, so I decided to write her a story that would teach her how to always keep her magic alive,” Wilson says.

In 2018, while at home with a kindergartener and a newborn baby, I found myself surrounded with more children’s books than I could count. I started to pick up a pen and paint, posting my artwork on social media. My designs were dreamy, whimsical illustrations inspired by my new life as a stay at home momma of two little ones in very different stages of childhood.

Photo from the book “Eliana, Where Do Thoughts Come From?”

When Wilson found my work, she told me about the book she had written and asked if I would illustrate it. I jumped at the opportunity as it was special to me for many reasons. I was pregnant at the same time as Eliana’s mother, a friend of mine, and we gave birth to our girls just days apart. 

After reading the manuscript, I felt a deep connection to the story, stirred by my love for Eliana and the message we both wanted to convey to the world about mindfulness and the power of positive thinking. 

Photos from the book “Eliana, Where Do Thoughts Come From?”

Eliana is a curious mermaid who constantly wonders where thoughts come from. The book is written in a rhythmic style with stanzas and a joyful tone that’s a delight to read, both for children and adults. When Eliana asks where thoughts come from for the final time, she concludes, “Now I know, wherever I go, my thoughts will always come from me. I get to pick what they will be. I find the ones that feel happy and free.”

The process of creating “Eliana, Where Do Thoughts Come From?” started with a storyboard in pencil and evolved into the full-colored 42-page book, now available for purchase on Amazon. For those looking for additional educational resources this fall, the story is available on YouTube for children to enjoy. 

Janice Wilson, author of “Eliana, Where Do Thoughts Come From?”

“[Creating this book] was truly a miraculous adventure,” Wilson says. “It was such a joy to collaborate with Shayda, who brought the colors, characters, and story to life in a mesmerizing and uniquely playful vision. Her love for art, children, and magic is unparalleled in children’s literature. I believe every child should feel the powerful thrill and magic of this story and artistic imagery while learning the secret we all want the answer to: ‘Where do thoughts come from?’”

As an illustrator and writer myself, it has been amazing to watch these stories reach people in very different ways. While the Little Fox and Eliana come from different walks of life, both are curious, adventure-seeking creatures who learn to make choices on their own. Whether it’s finding the goodness in Eliana’s heart, or following the brave Little Fox in his quest for adventure, these books will be loved by curious children and their parents for generations to come. ML

Shayda Windle is a local artist living in Purcellville, Virginia, and covers the art scene for Middleburg Life. In addition to her work as a freelance writer and illustrator, she’s a small-business owner and offers marketing campaign planning and execution services to clients all over the country. Photo by Rachel Lehman.

Follow Elizabeth Reinhart on Instagram @author_emreinhart. To see her art and creative projects on Instagram, follow her @shaydawindle.