Being a self-published children’s book author is far from child’s play. However, with the help of her friends, family and community, one student is determined to break the norm of children’s literature.
Camille Phillips, children’s literature graduate student, said she has been interested in literature for awhile, but it was not until she placed second in Highlights for Children Magazine’s Fiction contest 20 years ago that she felt the need to write.
Phillips is a self-published non-fiction children’s book author. She has 20 books in English and 17 books in Spanish, which can all be found on Amazon.
Unlike traditional children’s books, Philips said her writing style is more pattern-like and step-by-step.
“My books have a beginning, middle and end, because that’s the way the real world works,” Phillips said. “However, a lot of children’s books aren’t written that way.”
Ashley Schimelman, children’s librarian at San Marcos Public Library, was one of the earlier readers of Phillips’s books.
“She came to me and asked for my input because she knows I have expertise in both children’s literature and families with small children,” Schimelman said.
Teya Rosenburg, English professor and director of graduate studies, regularly gives Phillips advice and suggestions for her books.
“(Phillips) writes in a way designed to meet the needs of her particular age group while using encouraging, learning language,” Rosenburg said.
Rosenburg said she admires the way Phillips has self-published and advertised her books and praises her ingenuity.
In her books “Kinds of Cats” and “Kinds of Dogs,” Phillips said children will be able to learn two definitions of “special”: one based on appearance and one based on feelings. Both books describe different kinds of cats and dogs and explain to the reader why each one is special.
“The cat and dog books can be used as metaphors for racism and classism because they talk about appearance, and liking someone for their appearance is okay, but it isn’t enough,” Phillips said.
In her safety book, “Kids, Keep Safe in A Fire,” Phillips writes in a way that does not convey fear about fires. She does not want children to be afraid if they are ever in a fire.
She begins the book by mentioning the good things fire does, such as providing warmth and light. The book continues by explaining what fire detectors are and what roles firefighters play. Phillips said she wanted her book to be as helpful as possible. She even showed her book to the San Marcos Fire Department and got their approval before publishing.
Phillips said she writes her safety books to explain and teach, but also address children’s’ emotions and encourage them to keep going if they ever find themselves in a dangerous situation like a fire.
“I don’t want children to be afraid, I want them to be cautious,” Phillips said.
Phillips has several other safety books on Amazon: “Kids, Keep Safe Around Swimming Pools” and “Kids, Keep Safe Around Guns,” which have been seen and approved by the San Marcos Fire Department and the San Marcos Police Department.
“When I look at children’s literature in general, there isn’t a lot of safety books in the publishing market,” Schimelman said. “It’s been a delight for me to see Camille’s projects evolve because they’re different from books written for this age group.”
Schimelman said Phillips’ safety books help families talk to their younger children about safety issues in an age-appropriate way.
Additionally, Phillips has books about animals and nature. She said these book topics promote conservation.
“Children naturally like animals and nature, so I want them to think they can help,” Phillips said.
In her book “A Few Furry Animals of Texas,” Phillips writes about several wild animals in Texas, such as raccoons and possums. She said the book was initially about how dangerous wild animals are and why children need to stay away from them. However, after showing the book to her wildlife biologist friend, she realized she wrote about fear, and children won’t protect something they fear.
“I want kids to recognize these animals,” Phillips said. “I want them to love these animals, but at a distance.”
Faith Debow, accompanying and class piano lecture, is Phillips’s former neighbor. Debow said she has helped proofread a few of Phillips’s books and admires how community-oriented the books are.
“(Phillips) introduces topics such as safety and nature in a kid-friendly way,” Debow said.
Phillips said she hopes her books and style of writing will give other authors inspiration about how to write for kids. She said her books support cognitive development and provide important information.
“Kids are very curious and they want to be competent and be able to do things right,” Phillips said. “I think my books foster that.”
To learn more about Phillips and her books visit her website.