Thursday, July 12, 2012

It was a few nights before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for Cari Poock. The fourth-grade special-education teacher at Adams Elementary couldn’t sleep.

Words from a Happy Birthday Jesus Party that Poock had attended earlier that night ran through her head: All you need is God’s love.

A restless Poock jumped out of bed and onto the computer, where she wrote straight through the night. The result was a children’s book called “Mackenzie’s Gift,” Poock’s first ever, which celebrated its nationwide released last Monday by Tate Publishing, a Christian-based publishing organization.

As part of a larger marketing strategy, “Mackenzie’s Gift” will hit mainstream audiences, becoming available through bookstores across the country and their websites, like barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.

Poock and her husband Aaron, a math teacher at Carroll Middle School, have already sold about 200 copies by hand or through their personal website, mackenziesgift.com.

Although the Poocks said they don’t have a quantitative goal for total sales, they hope to bring the glossy lavender cover to as many shelves as possible, something the national release should help.

In the 10-page book, a little girl name Mackenzie learns the meaning of God’s loves when her mother denies her a new doll and leaves a majestic white box wrapped in red ribbon outsider her door. When Mackenzie can’t find anything in it, her mother explains that it is not empty at all, but filled with God’s love.

“It’s not the materialistic things that we don’t have — it’s being appreciative of the things we do have and knowing that we have God’s love no matter what,” Poock said.

Carroll children got a sneak peak of the book last month when Poock read it aloud to about 15 toddlers at the Carroll Public Library as part of the Rookie Story Time series.

Poock’s twin 7-year-olds, Mackenzie and Jonah, were among the crowd. The protagonist in Poock’s book is named after her daughter.

“The kids were real excited about it, and they enjoyed it,” said Diane Tracy, the children’s librarian who helped coordinate the event. “The message came through loud and clear for the older kids.”

To help the younger crowd, Poock used visuals—white and red boxes to match those in the story—and handed them out the children. Poock then facilitated a discussion about the contents of the box.

“It is always great to have a faith-based message,” said Julie Masching over the phone as she drove her two kids to the pool. Her 5-year-old son Joey has heard Poock’s book twice, once at the library and once at Sunday school.

“He thought it was really cool that she had little boxes that he was just in stitches,” she said.

Masching serves as one of the co-organizers for an online group called Carroll Area Moms and asked Poock to read “Mackenzie’s Gift” at one of the group’s meet-ups.

Within the coming weeks, Poock will promote “Mackenzie’s Gift” outside Carroll, holding book signings in Denison, Strawberry Point, Ames and even Walker, Minn.

Poock, who was raised in a large Catholic family in Adel, said she credits her success to her strong religious faith. Now she is an active member at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Carroll.

Poock remembers first writing in her fourth-grade classroom. That hobby evolved as she graduated from Iowa State University in Ames with a degree in elementary and special education and subsequently earned a graduate degree in literacy from the University of New England.

Since Poock gave birth to her two children in 2004, writing has been a creative outlet for her to express motherhood, among other things, Poock said. A book for Jonah is in the works, too. Poock said she already finished an outline for it.

“I’m amazed at what has happened and how blessed and how lucky I am to be even doing this,” Poock said.