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Rita Leonard brings us word of a special distinction for a Sellwood author of books

RITA A. LEONARD - Sellwood author Barbara Kerley won an Oregon Spirit Award for her pictorial childrens book, Brave Like Me - and a second award for a story of hers in a childrens collection. Among the many Inner Southeaast published writers, Sellwood author Barbara Kerley has had special success – having recently received an Oregon Spirit Book Award for her pictorial nonfiction children's book, "Brave Like Me".

The award is given annually by the Oregon Council of Teachers of English to the author of a distinguished contribution to children's or young adult literature that engages and encourages readers' understanding, while "reflecting the spirit and values held by Oregonians".

"Brave Like Me", published by National Geographic in 2016, is a 40-page photo essay accompanied by verse. The book is a poignant look at children's feelings when a family member is deployed elsewhere for military or government duty. The photos are ethnically diverse, and include people from a variety of military branches, addressing feelings of love, fear, and a resolve to stay positive. There are also tips for caregivers and a map in the back of the book.

Another Oregon Spirit Award was presented to Kerley in the Anthology category for SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) – Oregon Reads Aloud: A Collection of 25 Children's Stories by Oregon Authors and Illustrators. Kerley had a story in that collection as well; a tale entitled "A Really Good Present for Dad". The story describes two young boys trying to choose a special Father's Day gift. The result is a family photo, taken after a hike at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.

Kerley has been writing professionally for 23 years, and has published over a dozen kids' books. Her simple yet expressive stories offer well-balanced adventures that have proven appealing to both children and adults. Her latest is a board book called "Portland Baby".

"Mostly, these books were generated from my own ideas, but 'Brave Like Me' was a book idea that came from the publisher," she tells THE BEE. "I get my inspiration from reading, when I'm curious about something. I read a lot of histories and biographies, which often hold the potential for a story."

The author admits she's been writing ever since she was a kid. "I now belong to two Writers Groups," she reveals. "The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) is an active national group that offers classes, conferences, and social hours. I just returned from an 'author fest' in California. I also belong to two critique groups in Portland.

"Next spring I have a new children's novel, 'Following Baxter', coming out. It's fun to expose children to new ideas through nonfiction."

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