Every year, Puyallup resident Rae McDonald and her husband, Fred, hike to visit a Douglas fir tree in the Puyallup Valley they nicknamed Granny.
Using a piece of string, McDonald measures the tree around its trunk to see how much it’s grown.
“For 31 years we’ve been measuring Granny up in the hills of Puyallup,” McDonald said. “Some day, I thought I’d write a story.”
So she did.
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That story, called "Gran, Gran, Granny," is a children’s picture book that will be published in May by Clear Fork Publishing, headquartered in Texas. The book is illustrated by Eric Groff.
“Granny is the story of a family that is off on their trek up the woods and they’re off on a celebration, they’re carrying a cake, and Granny lives up in the hills in the woods and they’re worried about her ... and Granny’s really a tree,” McDonald said.
McDonald, 66, first moved to Puyallup in fifth grade. She graduated from Western Washington University in 1974 with a degree in teaching. In 1978, she graduated from the University of Washington with her master’s degree in librarianship.
Several years later, McDonald moved back to Puyallup and started working at Maple Lawn Elementary in Sumner. In 2007, her first children’s book, “A Fishing Surprise,” was published by NorthWord publishing.
“When it came out it was so exciting all over again because the kids were there and they would stop me in the hall and say ‘Mrs. McDonald, congratulations on your book!’” McDonald said.
“A Fishing Surprise” is illustrated by Kathleen Kemly, a friend of McDonald’s, and is about two children on a quest to catch some fish. Instead, they find apples floating along a stream.
The idea for the book came about, as many do for McDonald, from a real-life experience. Several years ago, she found an apple bobbing in a stream while she was out walking the wetlands near Clarks Creek in Puyallup. The image stuck with her.
“People ask, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ It's sort of like when I saw that apple in the water… The apple piece was like one piece of a big puzzle. It was so unique it struck me,” McDonald said.
McDonald spent 34 years working as a school librarian, and her ideas for children’s books grew.
“That’s a lot of books read and a lot of books shared with kids, and I think that’s what fueled my love for children’s books,” McDonald said. “Having them tell me with a twinkle in their eyes that they’d checked my book out… it was wonderful.”
McDonald retired after working as a part-time librarian for the past three years at Waller Road Elementary in Puyallup.
Now, McDonald continues to work on her stories and ride her bike around Puyallup. She has another book scheduled to come out, “Wicky,” early next year. “Wicky” is about a family of flicker birds who have outgrown the nest and are learning to fly.
McDonald encourages those looking into publishing a children’s book to get involved with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, an organization that supports the creation and availability of children’s books.
“That’s the advice I’d give anyone, is to get involved with that and get involved in a critique group,” McDonald said.
“Gran, Gran and Granny” is scheduled to publish in May. McDonald lives in Puyallup with her husband and dog. She has a daughter, Hillary, who is currently sailing the world.
For more information about McDonald and her work, visit raemcdonald.com.