Children’s Book Looks ‘In Grandma’s Garden’

Brenda Cockerell set aside her dream of publishing a book 30 years ago, until something rekindled the desire in 2010. The change could be described with Newton’s Law of Inertia: an object at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. In this case, the outside force was learning by happenstance that a friend from her past, Holly Horton, had died the previous year after losing a battle with breast cancer.

“I was working on my Christmas card list and I thought, “I haven’t heard from Holly in a while,’” Cockerell said. “I thought she might have moved to work at a different school, so I Googled her name. Then I came across her obituary.”

The two friends met while teaching in New York in the ‘80s, Cockerell said. They shared a love for children – so much so they decided to write a children’s book one day.

The Highland Park resident finally succeeded this year, and launched In Grandma’s Garden in Dallas in May. The children’s book is dedicated to Horton and will slowly be distributed in bookstores throughout the country.

After leaving their teaching jobs in the late ‘80s, Horton moved to San Francisco and Cockerell landed in the Park Cities. Though they kept in touch from time to time and Cockerell visited her once in California, phone numbers and email addresses were changed until they lost contact.

“One time when I was visiting her in San Francisco, we talked about the book again and decided on this idea of making it about flowers,” Cockerell said. “That’s as far as we got.”

When she learned the news of Horton’s passing, she was so devastated that she decided to sit down and write their book; and she did so in two days.

“I actually wrote the entire book in just about one day,” Cockerell said. “The next day I fine-tuned it to get it where I really wanted it to be.”

In 2014, Cockerell founded The Beacon Family Foundation, a nonprofit that distributes donations to breast cancer research through Baylor, Scott, & White Hospital, as well as directly to families in need. Cockerell hopes the impact Horton’s life had on her will in turn impact a nation of children and people fighting breast cancer.

“All of the proceeds from the book’s sales go into that foundation,” Cockerell said. “I wanted to be able to use the money to really benefit this population of women and children.”

Icelandic illustrator Linda Ólafsdóttir fed into the book’s childlike creativity by drawing flowers the way a child might see them: dandelion lions, tulips with two lips, and lady slippers with slippers. The book was also written with a child’s reading development in mind. Cockerell wanted to capture the perspective of a child, so that every child who reads the book can place themselves into the narrator’s role.

“The words are mine, and I feel like they would have been Holly’s words if she would have been here to write them with me,” Cockerell said. “When you read the description of Holly in the book [jacket], just know that’s the tip of the iceberg. To know her was to absolutely love her.”

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