Yelm Rotary Book Program Brings ‘Olive’ to Prairie Elementary School


Poor Olive.

The wooly miss is the center of attention but for all the wrong reasons.

First, she picked some flowers for her mom, but they wilted by the time she got them home. Then she hit her best friend in the head during a game of kickball, and the mud from her boots sprayed Grandpa’s hat. Then, to top off her misadventures, she made a beautiful card for her mom but used too much glue and inadvertently stuck the card to her own head.


But despite her unintended mishaps and funny frustrations, Olive learned in the end — that as her name Olive Ewe (I Love You) implies — she was cherished with no misinterpretation.

Olive, by the way, is a young, female lamb — and the star of a new children’s book written and illustrated by an author and artist from Buckley.

Last Friday, Feb. 28, a pair of teachers at Prairie Elementary School passed out paperback versions of the book “Olive” to about 140 kindergarten and second-grade students to keep and take home. And during a special school celebration that day, Olive’s author Michelle Wilson and illustrator Angie Penrose visited the school to read and draw in the school library that was chock full of enraptured kids.

The teachers — Jeanette Burnham, kindergarten, and Amye Kay, second grade — obtained the books after receiving the last of 12 2019 elementary school Teacher Mini-Grants from the Rotary Club of Yelm. Burnham and Kay had both requested Olive, and the resulting $1,000 grant — $500 for each teacher — enabled the Rotary Club to purchase 150 of the books.

Kay, who is good friends with Wilson and Penrose, learned that the author and illustrator had just published their first children’s book and that it would perfectly augment her classroom teaching. 

“Their book is a character education book, and it fits beautifully into what we as teachers promote in our class meetings each day at school.” Kay wrote in an email. “I am so excited that our students were able to take home their book and share their first-hand experience with their families.”

The Rotary Club issued the grants this year for the first time, selecting 12 recipients from about 20 grant applications it received and in the process awarding a total of $4,800. The grants helped fund classroom books, wobble stools, scholastic books, library books and cushions.

The grant application from Kay and Burnham, though, especially intrigued the Rotary, said club treasurer and past president Sandi Hanson. 

“We really liked the idea that the kids would be able to take the books home with them,” Hanson said. “This was the first time for that.”

Hanson said the Rotary Club would repeat the program next year with grant applications available in September.

“Our goal this year was to support literacy in the elementary schools,” Hanson said. “The Teacher Mini-Grant program was absolutely successful, and we were very pleased at the reception we received from the schools and glad that we could help out in a small way.”

Burnham credited the Rotary with “recognizing the importance of getting books into the hands of young children.”

“Being read to and then reading themselves helps children build language skills, expand their imaginations, increase their vocabulary, and helps children understand that the written word carries a message,” she said. 

And what, exactly, was Olive’s message?

Ian Codina, 8, one of Kay’s students, praised Olive for keeping her cool.

“She was able to solve her problems without getting mad at anyone or hurting anyone,” he said. “I really liked the story and the illustrations.”

Codina’s classmate Hattie Curry, 7, had a similar take.

“I really liked how Olive figured out how to make things better,” she said. “I also like the pictures in the book because they’re cute.”

And with that, Olive’s no good, rotten, terrible day seems to have gotten a lot brighter.







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