Ants, alliteration and apple dumplings combine in "Mrs. Johnson and the Ant Attack," a new children's book written by Maries R-1 kindergarten teacher Rachel Johnson.
The misadventure of a kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Johnson, and her class forms the story after ants attack the apple dumplings Mrs. Johnson made for a classroom treat.
Johnson said the book is the first in a series she envisions which draws inspiration from experiences with her classes, with each addition focusing on the alliteration of another letter in the alphabet and a different food. The next book, "Mrs. Johnson and the Blueberry Blunder," hopefully will be released next year.
The idea, starting with a simple poem, hit Johnson on a Saturday morning two years ago.
"I immediately got up and went to the computer in my home office and just started writing," she said. "Within an hour or so I had written 'Ant Attack.'"
Shelving the idea for a few years, Johnson said she finally decided to take the next step in June 2017 and found Mascot Books, a small publisher based in Virginia. The company gave Johnson the final say on illustrating and editing the book and kept her "very much involved in the process," she added.
Johnson still owns the rights to the book, so she can go to another publisher in the future but said she likely will stick with Mascot Books for the next addition.
Being a kindergarten teacher was never Johnson's goal in college. She holds a master's degree in history but said teaching became her passion after she attended a program in Oklahoma, and she has always been interested in writing for children.
She said the goal of the story is to give children the confidence to be critical thinkers. The book includes questions at the end for parents and teachers to use to help teach those abilities.
"I wanted to create a book that showed children that they could be problem solvers and that not all solutions have to come from an adult," Johnson said.
Five hundred copies of the book were printed, with Johnson owning about half of them and the other half being sold online. She said she has sold more than 60 copies since getting the books Feb. 26.
Although she has made some money, Johnson said profit was never the focus.
"My main goal was to turn my dream (of) becoming a published author into reality and to hopefully increase children's literacy," she said.
The book has been added to several area libraries, and Johnson said she plans to travel to other parts of the state to spread the book further, including a signing and reading at Willard Elementary in Springfield.
Lisa Garro, director of the Heartland Regional Library System, said copies have been purchased for library locations in Belle, Eldon, Iberia and Vienna.
Garro said Johnson is the first children's book author from the area to be added to the HRLS library. A label has been put on those copies to show it is from a local author.
"We love to support local authors," Garro said. "So any chance we can we will purchase those books."
The HRLS plans to purchase the rest of Johnson's books as soon as they come out, Garro added.