The Hummingbird Christmas: A Short Story

As the west coast rain fell outside, I bubbled with excitement.  I loved Christmas Eve and though a little snow, would be lovely, I was content.   I watched out my window as carolers gathered. Soon, it would be time for cookies and milk; I had written my note for Santa.

Dear Santa,

All I want for Christmas is a little sparkle of magic so I can know in my heart you are real. 

Your friend,


My friends told me Santa did not exist.  I wanted them to be wrong.  If I could just see something magical at Christmas time, that would be enough.  Would Santa bring the magic?

I stared at the Christmas tree.  The decorations sparkled but they weren’t magic.

I could smell shortbread cookies in the oven.  Delicious, but not magic.

I stepped outside, hoping to hear the carolers’ singing.  The rain sprinkled lightly on my face.  Then something pink and shiny caught my eye.  I heard a hummmmm of beating wings.  A hummingbird darted into view.  I stood completely still.  I saw a most surprising sight.  The hummingbird fed its babies with nectar from its beak.  I watched as it flew from the neighbor’s bird feeder to the nest. The mother hummingbird placed her beak into the mouths of the two babies; they were tiny and perfect.

Baby hummingbirds in winter… it had to be Christmas magic! Maybe Santa is real, I thought.


This short story was submitted to: Susanna Hill’s Holiday Writing Contest 


Victoria Parents: Look for Katie at your library!

Somewhere along the path to publishing the story of Katie, I realized that my little picture book could potentially be in the public library one day.  Well, that day has finally arrived!  The Greater Victoria Public Library now has one copy of Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker and as of today, it is part of this year’s “Emerging Local Authors Collection”.

So Victoria parents, grandparents, and early childhood educators, you can now borrow my story and read it to your children!  If your children like Jillian Jiggs, they will surely enjoy Katie Shaeffer!  But be warned, this story might have them wanting to build machines from recycled materials or start making fluffy golden pancakes.  So be prepared for the story to lead to some projects :). Perfect timing for our rainy west coast weather!  Yes, pancakes would taste pretty good right now, I think.

Oh, and if you like the book and wish to leave a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads, that I would be forever grateful. Thank you.

author website

Planning a Children’s Book

I thought it would be fun to share a bit of my process in creating a picture book.  I wish I had this idea when I was making my first picture book, Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker!  Honestly, this was not my own idea but I have adopted it and it really works.

You may be aware that picture books have a 32 page format.  So I just use 32 sticky notes to represent the pages and then when I get to the point where I’m ready to work out the page turns… voila!  All I do is make notes about where the images will go and plan out the book.

The page turns need to be in just the right places to add interest and create suspense.   Here’s a peek at my current project in partnership with Paula Nasmith as illustrator…IMG_6266

As you may have noticed, this is not the entire story planned out but a portion of the story (only 24 pages shown).  I just love the ease of the sticky notes; I can easily replace or move them around to get the story and page turns just right and it is so quick and easy to make up.

How to get a signed copy of my picture book with recipe cards included…

Hello out there in the blogosphere!

Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker makes a great gift for any child in your life, (ideal age 3-8 years). The book includes a pancake recipe and a repeated rhyme which will have children chiming in with the story as you read along.  What a great way to encourage children to work with you in the kitchen!  See below to get your copy.

If you order early, I can send you a signed copy along with a recipe card in time for Christmas.  Just send me an email with your mailing address to and I’ll be happy to send you a signed copy of the book by mail.

Give the gift of reading AND the gift of a memorable cooking experience.


A Sense of Place

Have you ever thought about how living in a place can shape you and the life you live?

I live on the southern tip of an island.  It is a big island; big enough that I’ve never actually driven far enough to see the northern towns of Port Hardy, Port McNeil and Coal Harbour.  Still, living on an island means that I am limited to where I can go by car.  And it also means that unless I want to limit my entire life to staying put on that island, I’ll need to travel by ferry (less costly) or by plane to see other parts of the world.  IMG_4851

Ferry travel shapes our lives here on Vancouver Island.  So much that my preschoolers’ play frequently features ferry boats.  They build ferry boats that have room to carry cars and people.  They create ramps for cars and people to walk or drive onto the ferries, and they even rescue people from the water, tossing in life preservers.  It is a pleasure to watch the ferry boats become more complex with moving parts and new ways to transport people and vehicles.










Here, we all understand what it means to wait for a ferry.  To miss a ferry and for those of us who’ve spent our lives using ferries as a means of travel, we know how it feels to be the last car on the ferry.

How does the place you live influence your life?  What methods of travel are popular where you live? How do children come to understand their sense of place in your community?  What is your sense of place in the world?

Feel free to leave a comment!



Ordinary Moments: Surprises


Being a preschool teacher is wonderful.  Each day if I pay close enough attention, I get these ordinary surprises which are absolutely delightful.  The shelf pictured above with the tree stump blocks is located where you would expect… in the block area.  When I look at the blocks there are certain things I expect the children might do with them.  I can imagine children might want to stack them.  I can imagine children creating a tower as high as possible.  I can imagine children using them a seats.  I can imagine children jumping from one stump to another.

So here’s my ordinary moment of surprise.  This is something I did NOT imagine children doing with these tree stump blocks.  I’m placing the image further down the page just so you can have the opportunity to imagine what other ways these blocks might be used.  Think about it for a little.  Do you have any ideas?  Okay.  Now scroll down for the surprise…


I just love how children can do unexpected things in creative and imaginative ways.  Don’t you?

Now let’s look at the potential learning through play here:

Children have opportunities for…

-taking turns going over the stumps

-balancing the stumps carefully so that they don’t tip

-gross motor development as children climb over the tree stump blocks and lift and carry the blocks into position

-cooperation to work together to line up the tree stump blocks

-creativity to find new and innovative ways to use materials

And that’s just the beginning. Learning through play is fabulous!

Ten Picture Books Related to Inspire Loose Parts Play and Creativity in Children


Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld This clever story of friendship quickly captured the hearts of my preschoolers.  Written in rhyme.


Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert This story illustrates the beauty and potential of leaves as the wind blows them into different configurations.  It will spark your child’s imagination.


Look What I Did With A Leaf by Morteza E. Sohi Similar to Leaf Man but with wonderful instructions for pressing and drying leaves.  This book really values the beauty of nature and the artistic possibilities of creating new artwork with leaves found in the fall.



Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by Dave Roberts Rosie feels shy about showing people her creations because they might fail or be laughed at.  Her aunt shows her that failures can be a good thing. Cleverly rhymed and beautifully illustrated.  Full of detailed illustrations.


The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires This book explores the way it feels to have an idea and try to make that idea become a reality.  The trial and error and the frustration are all part of the process.  When frustration takes over, not much creativity happens.  It is only when she gets past her anger that she can have success with her project.  This story is very much like the creative process.  Lots and lots of trial and error, doing and re-doing before completing an end product that is… the most magnificent thing!



Fraiday Zoo by Thyra Heder Little T is afraid to go to the zoo so the whole family helps explore what might be causing the fear.  Illustrations provide great inspiration for loose parts creations.



When I Build With Blocks by Niki Alling A child shows his love of block building with all the possibilities of creating things and pretend play.


Hannah’s Collections by Marthe Jocelyn Hannah values her collections but which one will she take to school?  She loves them all so this is a difficult choice.  In the end, Hannah finds a satisfying solution.


The Button Box by Margarette S. Reed Shiny buttons, big buttons, sparkly buttons and small buttons are celebrated in this book.  Harkens back to a simpler time.


Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker by Cynthia Mackey, illustrated by Paula Nasmith Katie uses her collection of loose parts to help her realize her pancake dream.  With a little magic and some help from a friend, she finally finds a way to make lots and lots of pancakes. A great read-aloud story.