A Little Kindness; A Little Magic

Samantha Smith coauthored Cate’s Magic Garden as a fundraiser for Childhelp, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent child abuse.

A little kindness goes a long way. These days it has to, because it seems like there isn’t a lot of it around.

Twin Hills Drive resident Samantha Smith teamed up with Betsy Coffeen to write a children’s book to help support a nonprofit organization, but Smith believes the subject has taken on a life of its own. “The message is about kindness, and now more than ever, that is so important.”

Titled Cate’s Magic Garden, the book is about a caterpillar who teaches some grumpy bugs—Davey Dung Beetle, Pete Potato Bug, and Walter Worm—how to bring their dried-up garden back to life by using encouraging, uplifting words. “It’s about how your positive words can create a better world, ” Smith says. “It’s also about persistence, and friendship, believing in yourself and knowing that your thoughts and words matter.”

Cate’s Magic Garden came together through the efforts of five women across the country. Along with Smith and Coffeen, Ginger Seehafer was an illustrator from Chicago; Amy Cherrix, of Two Hoots Press in Asheville, North Carolina, was both editor and publisher and Rachel Eeva Smith is a book designer from Massachusetts.

Some proceeds from the book sales go to Childhelp, a nonprofit organization that helps prevent child abuse.  When Coffeen approached Smith with the idea of a book, “I said absolutely. We worked together; we wanted to promote the message of kindness and anti-bullying, to align with the goals of the nonprofit; to teach kids—and hopefully adults—to be kinder to people.”

Cruel words can lead to actions that have severe and lethal consequences, such as teen suicides and school shootings, and the civil unrest and violence happening across the country right now.  “Our children are seeing this, so now is the time to teach them kindness.”

Cate’s Magic Garden was published in 2017, and Smith said the feedback has been wonderful. “We’ve had a number of opportunities to get the word out, especially in Mt. Lebanon, and I’m really grateful.” She has spoken with students at Lincoln Elementary and Markham Elementary schools, as well as other places. The book is Smith’s first, and she and Coffeen have been talking about a series of Cate books. “We’re working on those but they’re just getting started so it will be a little while.”

Originally from New Jersey, Smith landed here after graduating from the University of Virginia and spending time in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. She and her husband, Sean, moved here in 2008.  “Sean is originally from McCandless,” she says, “but we were drawn to Mt. Lebanon for its walkability, its proximity to the city, the schools and especially the people. I think the people are wonderful.”

Smith was particularly pleased when Dr. Timothy Steinhauer, superintendent of Mt. Lebanon School District, read the book during an online message to students. “He was doing mindful moments every weekday morning at 9 in the spring when we were all home from school.  He would spend 15 minutes or so walking you through a meditation, or telling how important it is to take time for self.”

Cate’s Magic Garden is available at Barefoot Stitches & Gifts on Beverly Road, as well as online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  It can also be found at the Mt. Lebanon Library, and is an Accelerated Reader book for children who want to read it through the school program.