Author Gail Boe 2

“Lettuce” written by Gail Boe and illustrated by Junica encourages readers to be kind.

A little Gail Boe sat in the pews of her childhood church and the phrase that repeated during the service “Let us pray” resonated with her.

She repeated it to herself, “let us, let us, let us…,” and soon it began to sound like the veggie “lettuce.”

“I said, ‘Huh, that’s kind of funny,” Boe said. “I kind of always held on to that.”

The play on words snowballed over the years. Boe, who is the media assistant at Jefferson Elementary School in New Ulm, pictured a head of lettuce being the character for her debut children’s book, fittingly titled “Lettuce.” The book features Lettuce, an optimistic little head of lettuce that spreads the message of loving the differences in each person.

“Some of us like to run, some of us like to walk, some of us like to read and some of us want to sing,” Boe said. “We all do these different things … Let us look at everybody’s differences and celebrate that and be excited about that.”

Though now a published children’s author, Boe didn’t initially set out to be one. As a kid, she’d set up her stuffed animals to teach them (Boe was a teacher at Jefferson before becoming the media assistant), or she’d sit down and write little stories in her “writer’s notebook” in class for assignments, but it wasn’t a lifelong dream.

“It was an ambition that I wanted to try.”

And what better time than during the pandemic to give it a shot?

Boe began to work on the book April 2020 and it is slated to be released Aug. 3, available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

“A lot of people were buying dogs or doing all these other things like cleaning up their house or spring cleaning,” she said. “And I’m like, you know, I always have had this idea and I’m always going to kick myself if I don’t do something about it, and capitalize on it and try it.”

The story had been percolating in her mind for a while, so the writing process was relatively easy, she said. It was finding the pinpoint where to start selling her idea that was the more challenging part.

“I didn’t have any contacts with Capstone in Mankato or anything like that, so I did some research and I found the publisher that picked (the story).”

Through researching, Boe stumbled across Mascot Books, a hybrid publishing company. There was a space on the website that allows authors to submit an idea.

“And I did,” she said. “Then they contacted me, we had some conversations and then things took off from there.”

The call was encouraging, especially when other authors get rejected with their ideas from publishing companies.

“Even Dr. Seuss got turned down many times,” Boe said.

As an enthralling experience as it was, she didn’t tell anyone about her project except her immediate family.

“I wanted to see it through and I didn’t want to have to constantly go back and update. I just wanted to go through the process.”

The book came as a surprise for Heidi Wilker, the media specialist at Jefferson Elementary. Wilker and Boe have known each other for a decade but have worked closely together for the last five years.

It wasn’t until the annual contest that the school held where students drew their favorite book that Wilker found out. Between Boe, Wilker, and two other teachers, they go through all the submitted art. The winner gets the cover painted onto the ceiling tile in the library.

“We were in the library with some colleagues with Gail putting all of these book covers together — 600 kids have drawn covers and we’re going through them,” Wilker said. “And I know 95% of the books and one came up ‘Lettuce.’”

That cover didn’t look familiar.

Boe’s daughter, Lucy, had drawn the cover. And as the cover came through, Boe perked up and mentioned that “Lettuce” was her book.

“The three of us looked at her and said ‘What? Shut the front door!’” Wilker recalled. Boe pulled up “Lettuce” on the computer and she talked about all the small details added into the illustrations such as the green and red colors to commemorate Boe’s love for Christmas or the blue baseball hat for her son and the butterflies and the letter “L” on Lettuce’s hat for her daughter, Lucy.

“Gail’s heart and soul is in that book,” Wilker said.

And even though Boe’s more of a quiet person who likes to remain behind the scenes, she presented her new book to the students of Jefferson — 27 classes for two weeks. Jefferson typically brings in a few children’s authors to speak to students over the year, including Mike Lupica, but due to COVID the sessions were canceled. Instead, Boe took over, sharing the process of writing the book.

Having an author working at the school made becoming an author a realistic goal for the students, Wilker said.

“I remember a girl walking over and said ‘You get to work with an author!’ and I said, ‘Isn’t that great?’” Wilker said. “I think we have some budding authors (because of Gail) — they think, ‘If Mrs. Boe can do it, I can do it!’”

And the kids received it well, even going so far as asking if the book was available on EPIC — an online reading program where students can download books.

Currently, Jefferson’s library holds three copies of Boe’s books. For Wilker, it’s exciting to have a friend who wrote a book that resides in the catalog of the library.

“I think the part that makes the book unique is that I see her in the book,” Wilker said.

It’s not only a good story with a good message in it, Wilker said, but it’s uniquely her in that book with a simple message: Love yourself and be kind, something everyone of all ages can still learn every day.

“Throughout the book, Lettuce loses a little lettuce leaf. He drops it on each page and sometimes, I find myself like that too. You try so hard to be like other people and you lose a little piece of yourself along the way,” Boe said. “You can’t do that, you can’t compare yourself to other people, and you can’t try to live or be like how they are.”

Kindness goes a long way, Boe said.

And for students or anyone who wants to write a book, it is hard work, she said. But it’s definitely not unattainable.

“When a little girl asked me, ‘I want to write a book, can I write a book?’ I’m like, ‘sure,’” Boe said. “If you have an idea, certainly, go for it. I just go back to what my dad always said, ‘Work hard and do your best,’ and that’s all you can do at the end of the day.”

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