Betsy Knode Newton

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Betsy Knode Newton

Retired teacher publishes first book

By John Henderson

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Publishing a book has long been on Betsy Knode Newton’s bucket list.

The retired teacher and Rocky Mount resident said she can scratch that off her list after writing a book, “Pink Bear,” which relays an inspirational story that has been passed down in her family for generations.

She will be presenting a program at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday about her new book at the Warner Meeting Room of Braswell Memorial Library.

The story of Pink Bear originated with her grandmother, Maurine Johnson Nash, a Wisconsin Rapids resident who lived from 1880 to 1940.

Newton said she knew little about her grandmother beyond that she was a lively woman who loved to sing, tell stories, and encourage others to find what is good in life.

“She first told the story of Pink Bear to my mother and her siblings as a way to entertain and inspire,” she said.

After first hearing the story from her mother, Newton passed it along to her family, friends and relatives.

Newton said the story has a special significance to her growing up.

“Of course, we’re all different. We have ways we don’t feel we quite fit in, so the story has been priceless to me,” she said. “I think I’m the only kid in first grade class who wore glasses.”

According to a website about the book, www.our
pinkbear.com, the book tells the story of a pink bear who overcomes his feeling of being different.

“By dint of hard work and growing an unusual garden, Pink Bear finds a path to friends and self-acceptance,” the website states. “This remarkable story is a delight to read aloud to young children and for new readers to explore on their own.”

The website states that Pink Bear is “a story to treasure about friendship, sharing, gardening and appreciating diversity.”

Newton said the book teaches lessons about diversity.

“I just grew up loving the story,” she said. “We all feel kind of different from other people. My grandchildren loved (the story.) I thought about writing it down. Then I had to figure out how to get artwork done.”

She got in touch with a childhood friend, Lucy Mueller Young, who illustrated the book.

“She is someone I’ve known since I was young from New England who is an art therapist who works with troubled people and uses the medium of art to help with life,” Newton said. “I talked with her about the possibility of illustrating Pink Bear. She wanted to hear the story. I sent it to her. She loved it. She had images (drawn) of a wonderful bear who has a very loving mother who helps him do something pretty unusual to make his way in the world.”

The book, which is sold online and at Barnes & Noble stores, was published in 2012 by Stellar Publications in Wilmington, a small publishing company that published a book for a friend of hers, she said.

“When I saw the book in her hands it became really obvious to me it’s something I’d love to do in my life and could do,” she said. “And so (her friend) talked to me about this person (with Stellar Publications) and helped me understand how to connect with her.”

Jennifer Stearns, manager of Youth Services and Childrens’ Outreach at Braswell Memorial Library, said she’s read “Pink Bear” and it’s a wonderful story. She said it’s no easy undertaking having a children’s book published.

“I’ve known a couple of people who have tried it. It’s not an easy process,” she said.