For Gail C. Neal, writing books for and about children just seemed like the natural thing to do. As a veteran teacher of 36 years, she said, “I see children all the time who won’t cooperate with their parents or teachers because they were dealing with adult issues. Although they had parents, the children often were concerned about things they shouldn’t have to worry about. The idea stayed with me and soon I was writing a book on the topic.”
That was in 2009. While she didn’t start writing right away, Neal said she couldn’t get the idea out of her head. She decided to write a series of books dealing with the theme of children being children. The first book, May I Just Be A Child, is illustrated by her sister, Jan Clark. The second, If My Chores Could Talk!, is illustrated by her close friend, Dr. Joy C. Ruff.
Neal’s idea for the children’s books have paid off. On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Neal’s books will be on display on Writer’s Row at the Miami Book Fair. It is a dream come true for the Sunset Lake Elementary schoolteacher.
“It took me about a year to write the first book because I just kept putting it down and going back to it,” Neal said. Once she set her mind to completing the book, the words just seemed to fall into place.
A devout Christian, in her introduction to If My Chores Could Talk!, Neal explains that children are a gift from Almighty God.
“This means that God values children highly. He refers to you as a ‘reward.’ A reward is given to someone who achieves greatness. God considers you as ‘great.’ He loves that you have inquisitive minds and that you are able to believe and trust Him,” she wrote in the introduction.
The book teaches young readers about their own private space — their room and how to care for it, including the floor, bed, taking out the trash, their pets. Each section includes a journal page for them to write their feelings about their room or their special space and the things that are in their space.
May I Just Be A Child is written in poetry form from a child’s perspective. In the book, the child asks adults to create a world for him to embrace by modeling the right behavior.
Neal uses rhymes to write her books. “I’m good at rhyming,” she said. “I can write a poem in 15 minutes. And I like the rhythm of the rhyme. Children like it, too.”
Neal, 59, is a native Miamian, born at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She is a graduate of North Miami Beach Senior High and later the University of South Florida, where she graduated with a degree in elementary education. She also has a Master of Science degree in reading from Barry Unniversity, and a Master of Arts degree in Christian counseling from Jacksonville Theological Seminary.
She has been married almost 25 years to Fredereck, a retired Miami passport agent. While they have no biological children, Neal said the youngsters she interacts with daily and over the years are like her very own children.