ATHENS - Thanksgiving is almost here, but Athens author Sharon Ellsberry has been promoting the message of gratitude for weeks.
Her excitement for sharing and caring about others seems evident in both her professional and personal endeavors.
She's the award-winning author of five children's books about a mischievous family of doe-eyed Spaniels, including one about turkey day: "The Spaniel Family's Thanksgiving."
The storyteller has been hitting the highways for weeks, sharing her positive spin about the holiday in schools across East Texas.
"I really have a passion for literacy," she said, unpacking a series of character costumes. "When I see a child holding one of my books, I really sense that I'm part of their childhood … I feel like this is something I'm supposed to do."
Ms. Ellsberry may be a huge fan of Thanksgiving because the holiday is so positive and encourages family time.
Don't count on seeing her at the pre-Black Friday sales; she'll be home preparing a holiday feast.
"I think Thanksgiving gets glossed over," she said. "People go from Halloween to Christmas too much. It's one of my favorite holidays. I think we should be grateful … but it doesn't have to be just for Thanksgiving; you can be grateful every day."
Ms. Ellsberry enjoyed reading as a child, selecting "Little House on the Prairie" and the "Little History Book" series as the preferred page turns.
She grew up to become a marketing professional, but the allure of reading and reaching young minds was always close at hand.
The writing bug hit when she was an adult and something clicked, sparking an interest that is more than 10 years in the making.
The fast-paced career gal eventually traded her high heels and time-crunched calendar for something more meaningful: children's literacy.
"This is a deeper expression of myself," she said of her writing career. "It's given me the opportunity to be maternal in a special way. It's a small thing, but I love it."
Her Spaniel Family series focuses on three dogs that come to life and deal with commonplace situations in creative ways.
Each story combines childhood fantasy with the joy of being an animal.
The series includes her Thanksgiving book as well as "The Spaniel Family Goes to the State Fair," "The Spaniel Family's Pen Pal Adventure," "The Mystery of the Spaniel Family's Dog House," and her latest, "The Spaniel Family's Time Capsule Mystery."
Ms. Ellsberry was in Tyler recently, putting on a show at Owens Elementary School that included a puppet theater, skits and a PowerPoint presentation.
It was raining outside, but there was no dampening Ms. Ellsberry's enthusiasm for Thanksgiving with the Spaniel clan.
"When I say the word bark, I want all of you to bark," she said. "Can you do it?"
The Owens Eagles seemed to be all ears, seemingly captivated by the one-woman show and listening for an opportunity at canine expression.
Using a show of hands, the Eagles also helped explain the purpose for the book and reasons for celebrating Thanksgiving.
Here are some of their responses: To share, be thankful, be a good citizen and be responsible.
Tyler educators gave Ms. Ellsberry's message a "thumbs up."
"It's good for the children to see an author," said Pam Gilmore, media technology specialist for the Tyler Independent School District. "She does lots of activities so they can act things out. To see the students catch on and understand, it just means the world."
Ms. Ellsberry's Tyler stop was part of a busy itinerary of performances in Henderson, Union Grove, Groesbeck and Mildred before pausing to enjoy her own Thanksgiving feast. To learn more or book a performance, visit gospaniels.com.
"It's tremendously rewarding," she said. "My work is so fulfilling … it makes the work and the effort worth it."
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