The bonds for lifelong friendships are often created during childhood.
Publicist Staci Hauk’s debut children’s book, “Sawyer’s Two Cents,” focuses on those valuable, nurturing companionships young people make as they take their first faltering steps toward maturity.
The story is set in Gilbert, where Hauk resides, and features illustrations with the town’s iconic water tower and mountains, among others.
The spark for the story began in college when Hauk wrote a story for class that was based on an inanimate object holding a message and greater meaning; in this case, a penny that was passed around town, bringing luck wherever it landed.
“After years of watching my children navigate friendship and the ebb and flow of that process, I realized my story could evolve to being about a child who collects pennies for each friend she makes,” Hauk said.
“But, at the end of the day, were many pennies better then fewer, ‘shinier’ pennies? Therein lies the moral of ‘Sawyer’s Two Cents.’”
Hauk’s two kids – daughter Sawyer, 12, who attends South Valley Jr. High, and son Garrett, 9, who attends Quartz Hill Elementary – are featured in the story along with their dog Angus, that has since passed. Angus is a human in the story because he was indeed the children’s best friend.
The main character in the story is Sawyer, who has two close friends, Garrett and Angus, who are always there for her.
Children ultimately learn to look for qualities that make for solid relationships, Hauk feels, and that it’s important to learn those qualities early because they carry that into adulthood.
“Shallow friendships are all too prevalent and trusting that those around you care deeply for you is so important,” she said. “Starting children off with the mentality of true friendship will lead to stronger self-worth as they grow, and will help them choose relationships wisely later on.”
The book is aimed at children 9-11, largely fourth graders. However, it has a universal message and is much like “The Giving Tree” in that it is a great gift for any age, Hauk said.
“My feedback has been that even adults had a takeaway from it,” she said.
In the book, as Sawyer “goes about difficulties that kids face each day, she realizes these two particular friends are always there for her,” Hauk explained.
“She has a jarful of pennies collected for each friend she has. However, a shift happens as the story unfolds and Sawyer realizes that fewer friends who are true friends might be a better collection,” she added.
To create a series, Hauk is planning to release two additional books by next spring.
“Garrett’s Good Fortune” discusses luck in its many forms, and “Angus Deals with Anguish” takes kids through the emotions of losing a pet. They, too, will use inanimate objects – fortune cookies and photographs – to drive home the message.
She also plans to write a book of whimsical poetry for children, along the lines of her literary idol, Dr. Seuss.
Hauk has been a lifelong writer. In high school in her native Chicago, she won several awards for a column in the school newspaper and was inducted into the Quill and Scroll Journalism Honors Society.
After attending University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she studied for a degree in corporate communications, she worked as the youngest copywriter at a prestigious advertising agency in Las Vegas. Her work included print, radio and billboards for local hotels and malls.
In Arizona for the past 15 years, her work has included a magazine editor role in Scottsdale. Currently, she is a publicist for Chandler-based Pitch Public Relations.
While she enjoys her career, Hauk also finds fulfillment as a mom and doing activities with her kids, which includes crafting, attending theater performances, hiking with the family’s two rescue pups and “being a soccer mom” to Garrett.
Writing for children is the icing on the cake.
Her publishing journey was greatly helped by a chance introduction to an illustrator, Rebecca Steward, via a social media post.
It turned out that Steward is also a resident of Shamrock Estates, a housing development in southeast Gilbert, where Hauk lives.
Steward, who has published a children’s book of her own, introduced her to Author Services Company, which edited and printed Hauk’s book in five months.
“Rebecca and I met and then spoke often about every illustration; that is why they are so detailed, down to my kids’ appearances and the backdrops we mirrored around Gilbert,” she said.
When the pandemic retreats, Hauk plans to visit schools, daycares and bookstores for author presentations.
“That has always been my dream,” she said.