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Alumna showcases unique Texas history through children’s book

Alumna showcases unique Texas history through children’s book

Alumna showcases unique Texas history through children’s book
October 29
12:00 2021

A tale of calf slobbers, swamp seed and coffee so thick you could float a horseshoe in it are all found in alumna and author Jennifer Coleman’s newest book titled “Come ‘n Git It!”

Come ‘n Git It!” follows the daily life of chuck wagon cook Cookie on the cattle drive in 1800s Texas. Cookie’s day, which starts at 3 a.m., goes through a cowboy’s typical life on the drive from avoiding gopher holes and scorpions to singing the cows to sleep at night. 

“This to me is Texas grit,” Coleman said. 

Coleman was born in Scotland before her family sold everything and moved to Lubbock. She wrote her first story, “The Green Valentine Who Wanted to Be Red,” at age 3. 

Coleman later received her teaching degree from San Angelo State University and was a teacher for several years before deciding to specialize, with one of her reasons being her dislike for math.

After receiving her Master’s of Library Sciences in ‘96, Coleman went on to be a school librarian. Coleman said being a school librarian informed her decision in being a children’s book author. 

“I was always writing stories,” Coleman said. “I [said], ‘I want to be in a library. I want to be in a bookstore.’” 

Her career as a professional writer began in 2002 when she wrote for Highlights for Children, an American children’s magazine. After receiving a scholarship from the Highlights Foundation, Coleman went to New York where she was mentored by Jerry Spinelli, children’s book author and winner of the Newbery Medal and Honor. 

Coleman published her first book “The Texas Nutcracker,” a retelling of the classic story with a Texas twist, in 2018. Coleman had taught at her elementary school for 10 years at this point and said she loved seeing her students’ reactions to her book. Coleman said when her students saw her book they could not believe someone they knew had been published. 

“The best thing to me was being a role model to kids in my school,” Coleman said. “That’s the best thing.” 

Inspiration for “Come ‘n Git It!” came from her days of feeding and watching the cows on her grandparents’ dairy farm.

Initially, her book was going to follow the life of rancher Charles Goodnight. After watching the TV show “Food Truck Wars” with her family, Coleman decided to shift her focus to the chuck wagon, which was the first mobile kitchen. 

The chuck wagon served another purpose for Coleman’s book. “Come ‘n Git It!” fulfills part of the fourth grade Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for students in Texas. One TEKS for fourth graders is learning state symbols. Coleman said while most students know the bluebonnet is the state flower, most do not know the chuck wagon is the official state vehicle of Texas. 

The book contains other TEKS such as a map with a compass, a diagram with labels, a bibliography and a glossary. After being an educator for 29 years, Coleman wanted her book to be educational, but in an interesting format. 

“I like that there are all these little nuggets that they learn in just a short little picture book,” Coleman said. “They’re going to know more about Texas history through this format.” 

Diane Mayes, co-owner of Patchouli Joe’s Books and Indulgences and former teacher, said “Come ‘n Git It!” being all about Texas is one reason she was drawn to Coleman’s book. 

“We don’t have a lot of books that are based in the south [or] show that cowboy lifestyle that’s really unique and cool,” Mayes said.  

Erin Bigelow, a 25-year-old elementary teacher of Lubbock Cooper Independent School District, said using a picture book for Texas history is a good way to increase a students’ engagement with the topic.

“[‘Come ‘n Get It!’] is a great way to integrate literature into social studies with entertaining characters and storyline,” Bigelow said. “Students are able to connect to the characters and empathize with their experiences, especially in the part of Texas my students live in.”

Because of COVID-19 setbacks, it took four years for “Come ‘n Git It!” to be published. Coleman said it is important for new writers to not give up on their projects.

“Keep writing, keep writing — that’s what I would say,” Coleman said.

“Come ‘n Git It!” can be purchased directly through Arcadia Publishing.

Featured Image: Author Jennifer Coleman sits at a signing table at Patchouli Joe’s Books and Indulgences in downtown Denton on Oct. 9, 2021. Photo by Lindy Jenkins

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Hannah Johnson

Hannah Johnson

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