'Little Foresters Adventures' teaches kids, parents about fun in forestry
Growing up, Dana Bloome didn’t understand why the other kids at school couldn’t look at trees and see what she saw.
For Bloome (MFR ’14), forests were a magical place. She learned about them from her father, Larry Bloome Jr., owner of D&L Logging in South Carolina. Bloome recalls going out to her dad’s job sites on weekends, where he would teach her and her sister, Diana, about trees and their importance to our environment and economy. She and her sister were later joined by her brother, Roger, who is now the skidder operator for the company.
“Those experiences we had in the woods—they were amazing and still stick with me to this day,” says Bloome, who would grow up to earn a master’s degree in forestry at the University of Georgia Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. “When I was younger, I sometimes got picked on because my dad was a logger. Some students felt that my dad killed trees for a living and I always felt like I had a target on my back when we discussed the importance of oxygen in science class. And I just thought, some people just hate it because they don’t understand.”
So, Bloome began thinking about solutions. What can help children—and their parents—learn more about the benefits of forestry? She thought of her dad, who she considers her own, real-life superhero, and realized the answer could come through books for kids.
“My dad, he’s always been my superhero. And not just as a parent, but as a logger,” says Bloome, who worked for International Paper for several years after graduating from Warnell. That’s when the idea for a children’s book first began to take hold. “When I moved back to South Carolina, I started spending more time with my family again. I would go out to my dad’s logging jobs and I said, you know, I’m going to start back on this book, and I’m going to make the logger the hero. So that’s where Larry the Logger came from.”
And so, “The Little Foresters Adventures” was born. In the first installment, “The Big Thinning,” Larry the Logger helps a group of friends save a dying forest. The book tells the story of four kids—Lana, Roger, Alex and Maddie—who with their hard hats, vests and boots, set out on a Saturday morning to play among the trees.
Published earlier this year, “The Big Thinning” is the first of what Bloome plans to be a series blending kid-friendly adventures with real-life lessons about the importance of the forestry industry. The goal is to give both children and adults a story that’s entertaining as well as informative.
“Writing for children can be very, very challenging, because you have to keep their attention. I intended for there to be a lesson and a message in it, but I didn’t want them to get bored,” says Bloome, who began the project about four years ago. She wrote several versions, then set the project aside for it to percolate.
After moving closer to her family and reading books to her own child—a daughter named Lana—the book began to take shape. “As we move forward, you’ll see the personalities come out of these kids,” she adds. Coming up with the names was the hardest part, but each character has their own distinct personality, allowing children and their myriad interests to pair with someone in the book.
“I wanted the characters to be diverse. I wanted everyone to open the book and see themselves—not just by the color of their skin, but also by their personalities,” says Bloome. “If you like sports, you might be a Roger. If you like books, you might be an Alex. I just wanted kids to know that you don’t have to be what people think foresters should be.”
That’s because forestry is fun, she says. And it’s important—paper products are an essential part of our everyday lives, and they all come from trees. It’s important for kids, and their parents, to understand the industry and its benefits.
The illustrations for “The Little Foresters Adventures” also tell more than one story. Drawn by South Carolina artist Vanessa J. Thompson, she incorporated photos of thinning jobs done by the real-life Larry the Logger. The illustrations also hint at the characters’ personalities and show logging trucks and equipment—but in a fun way.
At the end of the book, a series of photographs gives readers a glimpse of the real Larry, Bloome’s father, and what a healthy, thinned tree stand looks like in real life. “It was a last-minute decision to include the photos,” says Bloome, but in the end she’s glad she did.
These days, Bloome now runs a forestry business, Family Tree Forestry, with her brother and fiancé and contracts her father to perform harvest activities. Having seen it from multiple sides—even running some of her dad’s equipment on occasion—she has a deep appreciation for the challenges and teamwork involved in forestry. Her plans for future stories involve the benefits of clear-cutting, pine beetle attacks and tree identification—more ways to help educate kids and parents about a growing, important field.
“I just want everybody to get involved, because this is a fun career. It’s rewarding. You feel free,” says Bloome. “I just want kids to learn and get excited about forestry and grow up to explore career opportunities in this field. But most importantly, I don’t want them to think that they have to look or be a certain way to do it.”