Part 1 of an interview with Bonnie Clark,
Author of Taste Your Words
Our words have power and make an impact on the people around us. Some words are nice and kind while others are mean and hurtful. Parents can teach kids about the power of words and the importance of kindness with Taste Your Words (WorthyKids), a charming picture book written by Bonnie Clark that cleverly illustrates why we should think before we speak.
Clark tells the story of young Amera who is having a bad day. Amera’s best friend, Maddie, ruined her cupcake by accident, and they both say mean things. When Amera brings her bad mood home with her, her mom tells her to “taste her words.” Amera’s mean words taste like rotten eggs, spoiled milk, and lemons! As she realizes that her mean words make her feel bad and others feel worse, she starts saying the kindest, sweetest words she can find.
When Amera notices the difference in the words she uses, her attitude changes, and the whole day starts to turn around. The next day, she greets Maddie with sweet tasting words and an apology. By sharing kind, yummy words everywhere she goes, Amera’s day goes much better than the one before. “I’m sorry.” “I’ll help.” “I love you.” The words taste better and better, like cherries, bananas, ice cream and chocolate.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your new book, Taste Your Words.
Taste Your Words is a flavorfully fun picture book about speaking kind words. In the story, the main character exchanges mean names with her best friend and when she comes home upset, her mom gives her some advice: “Taste your words.” Through a series of yucky events, Amera discovers that unkind words taste gross—like spoiled milk and rotten eggs! When she finally realizes that it’s her poor choice of words that are leaving unpleasant tastes in her mouth, she makes an important choice to speak kindly. From then on, Amera decides to use her palatable power for good and make the world a sweeter place one kind word at a time.
Animator Todd Bright knocked the illustrations out of the park! Each imaginative and colorful spread pulls the reader/listener into the story and helps them feel and see what the main character is experiencing.
Q: What age is the book written for? At what age did you start teaching your own children about tasting their words?
Everyone! Kidding. Sort of. The book is geared towards five-to-eight-year olds, but I’ve heard positive reviews from three-year-olds and twelve-year-olds! The concept of bad flavors being tied to unkind words and good flavors being tied to kind words is something that kids understand very quickly. There is also mention of adults tasting their words, too, which was important to me to include. We could all use the advice to “taste your words.”
The idea for Taste Your Words originated with my children when they were much smaller and learning how to use their words to communicate. Inspired by Proverbs 16:24, I would tell them to taste their words before they let them out of their mouth. The idea that we could taste our words was fun, and I was surprised at how quickly they understood the concept. There are few things that kids really understand, and one is food, especially sweet treats. It became a game in our home to politely encourage each other to taste our words. (The whole family needs reminding!) I thought that if my kids can get it, then other kids might also like the idea of tasting your words and choosing sweet kind ones.
Q: The main character in the book, Amera, is named after one of your children. Is there a backstory about your own daughter that inspired the book?
Amera is my youngest daughter’s name, but there isn’t a backstory specifically involving her. However, I had no idea that the book character would necessarily look or act like my Amera. Lucky for me, my stepbrother is the illustrator, and although the main character is his creation, I think he intentionally illustrated her to resemble my daughter. It was a sweet surprise. Now when I read the story, I totally think of my Amera. She has a very spunky and expressive personality, and even her body type and face look like the character! How many second graders can come to school dressed as themselves for Book Character Day?
Q: What important lessons does Amera learn about talking to friends and family, especially when having a hard day?
The biggest is kindness. We can never have too much discussion about being kind to each other, starting with our words. We may not be able to control our circumstances or what others say to us, but we can always choose to be kind and considerate.
One discussion point that I hope others will notice is the ripple effect of words. Amera has a bad day at school and, when she comes home, she takes it out on her little brother! Sometimes that happens. So, when someone says something unkind to you, it may just be that someone has recently (or repeatedly) been unkind to them! We can stop the cycle and choose our words carefully. The opposite is also true: Kindness is contagious!
Q: Have you ever found yourself in a parenting experience where you had to take a moment to taste your words?
Yes! Just ask my kids! Seriously, this why I included the mom tasting her words in the story. The message is for all of us, perhaps adults especially! I get reminded as much as they do to taste my words. I think the close quarters of quarantine and navigating homeschool have certainly added to the family stress. But I do think that the idea of tasting our words has been a fun way to talk about and understand the importance of speaking kindly. I can definitely appreciate their teasing, and if I can dish it out, I can take it!
Q: What are your personal favorite and least favorite tastes?
Ah! I love chocolate of course, but my favorite flavor from the book is caramel. I can eat it on anything or just by itself! Actually, an interesting fact from a book creation aspect is that the initial manuscript was a little too sweet so to speak. There were a lot more candy flavors, and there was concern that that would not be well received by health-conscience parents and professionals. (A valid concern!) So, with that feedback, the team added in more fruit! After all, fruit is sweet, delicious and healthy! One example of a change that was made is in the caramel spread. Instead of ooey-gooey caramel blocks, dipped-apples and popcorn were added!
Q: Where can our audience find out more about you and your books?
You can find out more about me and my books on my website, bonnieclarkbooks.com.
There you can sign up for my newsletter to stay up-to-date on any book news and events. If you are an educator or parent, you will find color pages and activities that go along with Taste Your Words under the “Fun Stuff” tab. There are discussion questions, a kindness activity and even a Mad Lib.
I also created a YouTube channel for my readings of Taste Your Words, including the American Sign Language version and the #TasteYourWordsChallenge. Go to YouTube and search for Bonnie Clark Books.
You can also find me on Facebook (Bonnie Clark Author), Twitter (@bonclark), and Instagram (@bonnieclarkbooks).