Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2019 issue.
I’m Solar, a cool Arctic Polar Bear, here to tell you about my new picture book, “Solar The Polar.”
Do you play outside in the winter? Well, I do. Winter is NO time to hibernate. Still everyone MUST stay safe in the backcountry. This book is about me and my friend, Sunny, who uses a sit-ski while I snowboard because she is missing part of both of her legs. Nothing stops Sunny … except an avalanche almost does! It’s me, Solar-to-the-rescue, and everyone learns about being with a buddy and having the right equipment for the outdoors, also about trying on life’s challenges.
The author, Kim, and the illustrator, Jessica, created my book together. I got to ask them some questions …
Do you do yoga? Or meditation? My snowboarding begins with Sun Salutation. I meditate on starry nights or under the Northern Lights.
Jessica Linn Evans: Does Pilates count? Soooo good for my core! With a strong core, after long hours spent doing illustration, I can still walk. And I do yoga. I love child’s pose. So relaxing for my back! Least fav is down-dog. My calves are too tight!
Kim Constantinesco: If I crash on my snowboard, I end up in child’s pose! Otherwise I meditate and practice mindfulness daily. I believe in the mind-body connection and encouraging my body to lead my mind at times. I practice deep breathing exercises everywhere, from the shower to the airplane to resting on the floor with my dog, Shasta. Focused breathing offers flexibility. You can choose how, when and where to engage, to be present and integrate that awareness into your daily life. You can breathe life into your days, improve your mood and decrease anxiety simply by shifting focus. Powerful stuff.
Focused breathing offers flexibility. You can choose how, when and where to engage, to be present and integrate that awareness into your daily life.
WOW! Kim, you are a competitive snowboarder. Much better than me. What else do you do to keep fit and balanced?
Running (especially trail running), hiking and performing functional lifts and movements in the gym. Also pick-up basketball and co-ed flag football. I love competing with men because I have to dip more into my athletic talent and pay attention to good fundamentals. I compete a few times each season, ideally in new places, meeting new people. Doing things on a whim keeps me happy.
It’s easier to stay in shape than to get in shape. Mental fitness, as it relates to snowboarding competition, includes imagery work before my run down the mountain. Visualizing success is a direct road to achieving it.
Visualizing success is a direct road to achieving it.
When I don’t feel like training (or writing!), I redirect my thoughts to a place of gratitude for motivation. I try to go from “you HAVE to” to “you GET to” … making it a privilege.
Kim, you had a serious snowboarding injury. How has healing changed your life? Sunny (in the book) enjoys sports with her injured legs and inspires me to do more. How about you?
K: With hindsight, my injury was positive. I learned how resilient the human body and the human spirit are. I went from having major surgery (cut open the front of my neck, removed a body part, replaced it with a cadaver bone and secured it with a plate and screws) to getting back on the mountain, doing backflips and entering my first competition.
Loren Landow (now Broncos head strength and conditioning coach) helped me to get my body “back.” He has coached Olympians, MMA fighters, NFL players, World Cup soccer players, and more. He taught me about training, recovery and improving performance. I gained confidence to test this knowledge in new ways. So empowering.
What inspired you, Jessica, to become a children’s book illustrator and why is your work important to you?
J: Solar, that’s like me asking you, why do you have giant paws and a black nose! It’s just part of me. I don’t take credit for it, but I try to improve. I want to bless others with God’s gift that I’ve been given through my work.
Kim, who or what inspired you to write for children? (Other than me, of course!)
K: I wrote Solar because I like that “anything goes” in children’s literature. A polar bear can talk and snowboard, no explanations needed.
My thoughts exactly. (Hey, a bear can write articles too!) Why is Solar an important book for kids and adults to share?
K: Children have natural empathy and cognitive flexibility. Engaging kids with memorable characters and relevant plot lines can shape the way they view and interact with the world. Sharing Solar is important because, in these divisive times, any springboard into acceptance and inclusion is positive. Sunny skis in a different way, but she’s as adept and passionate as a traditional skier. It’s her talent, not a disability. The theme of backcountry safety is also key, and a nod re Arctic warming.
What do kids seem to like best or take away from Solar?
K: Kids love that a polar bear can snowboard and that Sunny skis her own way. They realize how others can adapt and thrive, no matter what. It’s also reassuring that Solar and Sunny become fast friends, willing to help each other.
J: Yes, what I love most about Solar is their final hug!
And what makes you each “SHINE?”
K: Exploration, good company and growth-producing challenges. My favorite song, “I’m Alive” by Michael Franti.
J: When I just dive in there, whether I feel like it or not, and get the work started. I find that it brings out the best in my illustration.
I SHINE because my name is SOLAR! I hope you enjoy our book!
Solar The Polar
“Solar The Polar” is available from the MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing at www.maclaren-cochrane.com or your local independent bookstore.