EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Influenced by the students she’s taught in Eastchester schools for nearly 30 years, Greenvale Elementary teacher Wendy Fielding has penned “Skunky Dory,” a children’s book inspired by the challenges biracial children face in a different culture.
“Skunky Dory” is designed to be read aloud to younger children, or independently by older children, and it provides guided questions that promote group discussions about acceptance, appreciation for one’s differences and forgiveness.
Fielding said that the book was heavily influenced by her time working with students in Eastchester, and alongside her peers, namely High School English teacher Ruth Kambar who she called “an inspiration and lifelong friend.”
“I have taught English to speakers of other languages for 28 years,” she said. “Having had the opportunity to work with various cultures has heightened my appreciation for cultural differences.”
The title “Skunky Dory” came to Fielding in a semi-lucid state while she was in the process of awakening from a heavy sleep while grieving for her terminally ill mother. She said she immediately knew what to do from there, something she hadn’t planned to do until she retired from teaching.
“Within those first moments of semi-consciousness (while waking up), two words came into my head: ‘Skunky Dory.’ I asked myself, ‘what is ‘Skunky Dory,’ and I knew immediately, ‘aha! It’s the children’s book I’m going to write,’” she said. “The story theme began to unravel itself in the moments following, and ‘Skunky Dory’ was created.”
Although her book is about members of different races and the struggles of assimilating into new cultures, Fielding is confident readers of any race, gender or culture can ascertain important information from it.
“I feel that at times in our lives, we all may feel torn between identifying with more than one group,” she said. “The message is the same: acceptance.”
Fielding has been hard at work on her follow-up, “Marisol’s Parasol, a tale about a modern heroine, designed to empower young girls. Ruth Palmer, a 2011 New York Book Festival award winner, is illustrating the book.
“Marisol finds happiness through her own talents and success. She is not whisked away by some prince into a life full of blissful happiness, although she does marry in the end,” she said. “It is peppered with plays on words, and the story has a slight Hispanic overtone.”
Now that she’s found success writing about bullying and acceptance, Fielding plans to tackle environmental issues with her third book, though she isn’t about to quit her day job.
“My time teaching in Eastchester has had a profound influence on my writing,” she said. “I think that our school district’s consistent determination for excellence has inspired my own determination to fulfill a dream of becoming an author.”