Into Every Life, Add a Few Sprinkles
BY ROBIN JOVANOVICH
One hour spent in the company of Kate Stempel will leave you feeling buoyant. Another half-hour reading her new children’s book, “Sprinkles”, to your grandchildren, who ask you to read it again, and you will be up in the air. Her optimism and belief in the power of even the smallest gesture are infectious.
In an interview at her Rye home, Stempel said that she has written stories for as long as she can remember. She decided it was high time she wrote a story for her children. “I used my kids as a sounding board,” she shared. Her family enjoyed the story so much that she decided to find a publisher.
If your blood sugar is running low, you’ll be following an enchanting aroma from the opening page — “The air was thick with the scent of frosting and sugar.”
The main character is Sky, based on the author’s 9-year-old daughter Eliza, who loves to bake, and in the story baking cupcakes to raise money for her local animal shelter. It’s worth noting that one of the Stempels’ Huskies is a rescue dog, a remarkably well-trained one.
“My family volunteers a lot,” said Stempel brightly. “And the sense of responsibility instilled in me is one I am trying to pass down to my children.” She added, “My father is a firm believer that you should leave a person happier than when you met him.” Having volunteered with Citymeals on Wheels for several years, Stempel learned that nourishment is more than the food.
The first challenge for Sky is convincing her neighbor, Mr. Conway, to buy a cupcake. He scowls and growls and walks in the other direction.
She fares better at the local nursery whose owner Lilly is retiring and tells Sky to take a plant or two home. Sky is drawn to “an adorable little tree”, a bonsai. In exchange for a half-dozen “Sunshine” (pineapple vanilla bean with coconut frosting) mini cupcakes “to sweeten the deal” Lilly gives her a bonsai starter kit.
As they’re leaving, Sky and her mother run into Mr. Conway, “who had grown up on a strawberry farm in Ohio and enjoyed walks through the nursery to relive some of the old smells of his childhood.”
He spotted another bonsai, which brought back memories of his late wife, and he bought it and brought it home.
The following week, Sky, undeterred, rang Mr. Conway’s doorbell to see if he’d changed his mind about cupcakes. Before he closed the door, Sky saw his bonsai, which he wasn’t taking proper care of.
Sky tells him that she’s come up with a song about what a bonsai needs to grow and shares it with him. Mr. Conway suddenly feels something unusual in his chest, something he hasn’t felt for a long time.
Kate Stempel said that she based the character of Mr. Conway on a character, The Oldest Man, that the late Tim Conway portrayed to perfection on the “Carol Burnett Show”.
It didn’t take Stempel long to write the book, about three months, but finding a publisher grows harder by the year. In the end, she went with Friesen Press, which matched her with an illustrator.
Was her husband helpful with the project? we asked. “He’s the voice of reason, which we always need!”
Meet Kate Stempel at the Rye Free Reading Room on Friday, November 1 from 6-7:30.