June Van Klaveren has worked in the pest control industry since 1971, starting as manager of communications for Whitmire Micro-Gen, a legacy company of BASF. Since 1997, the Ballwin, Mo.-based Van Klaveren has been the dynamo behind Compelling Communications, which focuses on helping pest management professionals (PMPs) better brand and market their businesses. Now she can add “children’s book author” to her repertoire, as she just released a 33-page, colorfully illustrated paperback book aimed at kids aged 2-6 titled Me & Smugg, the Bug: A Story of an Unlikely Friendship. We caught up with Van Klaveren to learn more about her book, and the impact it could have on the next generation of PMPs.
1. What inspired you to create Smugg, the bug in your children’s book?
With the social climate like it is, I felt the need to create something that would plant kindness in the minds of young children. The idea of a bug and a boy becoming friends opens the possibility of being friends with those who are different from ourselves, and possibilities are what childhood is all about. Because of my interest and involvement in the pest control industry, choosing a bug as a main character seemed appropriate.
2. How long did it take you from inspiration to publication?
I began working on the book in early March, and it was published on Oct. 9. At this time, the book is available only through Amazon.
3. Do you see Smugg eventually having a series of adventures for young readers?
I am beginning to think about a second book that would focus on adventures the boy and Smugg have together. I have no release date yet, though.
4. You have discussion questions in the back of the book for parents and teachers. Why was including that important to you?
In addition to my industry marketing background, I am a former teacher. I would love to see children read this book together in elementary school classes, to get them to think about friendship — and insects, for that matter. On a personal level, I hope to visit schools to read and talk about Smugg. I also could see this as part of an insect education and outreach program for pest management firms in their local schools and libraries.
5. What message do you hope children take away when they read your book?
I want this book to touch children’s hearts and help them connect with the values of friendship and kindness. The final verse in the story summarizes the lesson we all can use: When you get to know someone who’s not like you, you may make a new friend and they’ll make one, too! PMPs who want to share this message and distribute copies at schools or as holiday gifts may contact me at 636-394-4148 or email@example.com to purchase the book in bulk.