LOS LUNAS — Los Lunas teacher Rachel Bate has written a book to encourage shy children to come out of their shell.
“Santa Fe Tom” follows a shy turtle named Tom, who struggles with stage fright when he wants to sing with his friends and audition for the Santa Fe Critter Opera.
“But he stays the kind, humble turtle that he always was. He doesn’t let it go to his head,” Bate said. “It’s OK to be shy, but have confidence in yourself, too.”
During the process of her writing “Santa Fe Tom,” Bate had a cancer scare with liposarcoma.
“My tumor was growing really quickly, and I was afraid I wouldn’t make it,” Bate said. “I just wanted to be a survivor and finish this and I was really lucky. This book has been special to me because of that.”
Her sister illustrated the book and the story is dedicated to Bate’s late father, whom the main character of the story is named after, and drew inspiration from her own desert box turtle named Tommi.
Bate teaches first grade at Valencia Elementary, and has written two children’s books prior to this, “Desert Bliss” and “Turquoise Tail.” Characters from her previous two books also appear in “Santa Fe Tom.”
Bate wanted to share a positive message for her students based off experiences she’s had.
“I really noticed those quiet ones that are in the class and just encourage them to get that confidence,” Bate said. “Sometimes the shy students end up having these amazing talents.”
Bate said writing children’s books has always been a dream of hers, and all of her stories have to do with furry critters and nature, usually set in the southwest.
She writes stories with her students in mind, and they serve as her test audience.
“It just warms my heart seeing their reactions to the story and I get feedback from them,” Bate said. “They’re my best critics.”
“Santa Fe Tom” is available online through Amazon, Mascot Books, Barnes and Noble and Treasure House Books & Gifts in Albuquerque.