Page-turners in a Halloween frame of mind

Local author’s season-appropriate titles geared for younger audience

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
As autumn makes its mark around town, coloring leaves in gold and wooing swifts, local author Gloria Gardner invites children to start thinking about Halloween.
Gardner, who moved to Lebanon with her husband, John, three years ago following their retirement, has published four children’s books in just the past year.
Her first two, “What Will You Be for Halloween?” and “Grab My Hand,” were both published in verse form in 2020. “What Will You Be For Halloween?,” written for children aged 3 to 8, explores the different characters a child can be for the holiday, while “Grab My Hand” (5 to 9) expresses a child’s desire to feel safe and comforted when afraid. Lebanon graphic artist Robyn Hodgdon designed the first book, while Zellie Calavita, one of Gardner’s former preschoolers, designed “Grab My Hand.”
Two story-form titles came out this year: “Hidden Treasures and Big Surprises” (6 to 9) and “Halloween Night at the Spiders’ Party” (5 to 8), both illustrated by Eric Strong. The former tells the story of a boy who learns why squirrels hide nuts in autumn, while the other reveals some surprising twists about a party at the spiders’ house.
Gloria graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1963 and taught as an elementary school teacher in the state for nine years. Her husband was a heavy-duty truck salesman until the factory shut down.
“When John and I had children, we decided that it would be a good idea to stay at home,” she said. “That was when we got the idea of a preschool.”
The pair opened The Little Red Schoolhouse in Richmond, Calif., in 1979, and together prepared about 400 kids for the world ahead of them. In 2014, Gloria received the Preschool Teachers Make A Difference award from Habitot Children’s Museum in Berkeley.
“I like that you can creatively reach children and bring them to a point of learning,” she said. “Through the years at the preschool, I developed what I believe is a really good system, and that is an integrated curriculum so that you’re appealing to everybody.”
Their lessons included cooking, science experiments, pre-math and fine motor skills tied into unit themes. The couple also wrote songs and taught sign language to use in lessons.
“Halloween was a big unit that we did with the children at the preschool,” Gloria said. “Everybody was so responsive, and it just seemed like a subject that drew peoples’ attention.”
That’s one reason why three of her books center around the holiday.
After retiring in 2017, the Gardners chose Lebanon as their retirement community.
“We really like it here, we really do,” Gloria said.
After living in cities with pavement and tall buildings, they’re pleasantly surprised to see sheep in pastures just a little way from home, she said.
John, an accredited Suzuki teacher (a discipline developed by violinist Shinichi Suzuki that applies the principles of language acquisition to music education), spends his time playing cello and has participated in the Corvallis-OSU Symphony at Oregon State University.
When the Gardners first settled in Lebanon, Gloria found herself with a garage full of boxes containing her lesson plans from 38 years at the preschool, and she decided to turn them into books for the benefit of other teachers.
Starting with an autumn-themed unit, she has so far compiled 80 pages containing more than 300 ideas to attract kids’ attention. While working on that book, she’s also developing more children’s stories, including one involving a talking sunflower, another about picking berries and a couple about clouds.
“If you like what you’re doing, you just go, ‘I’d like kids to hear these fun things,’” she said.
Gloria Gardner’s titles are published through Luminare Press in Eugene and are available through Amazon in Kindle, hardcover and paperback formats, found at https://amzn.to/3azQIWf.