Becoming an author is a feat in and of itself, but doing so at the age of six is something quite remarkable. Ellie Archer, a six-year-old pupil at Carderock Springs Elementary School in Potomac, Maryland, achieved this when she put pen to paper during the Covid-19 lockdown.
As classroom-based learning became more and more restricted due to the pandemic, many children found themselves at home with their parents, and were able to enjoy more countryside walks, becoming more in touch with nature as a result. This was certainly the case for young Ellie who drew upon her surroundings, and in particular her local River Falls area, to tell a tale of reconnection with nature, which can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. The importance that friendship plays in the young girl’s life is also clear to see from the narrative that was inspired by her friends from Suburban Nursery School in Bethesda, Maryland, which she attended as a preschooler.
Her first book, entitled The Leaf Gurl explores the themes of friendship, imagination and plant life. The story involves swinging from vines, shinning up palm trees and magical plant growth, offering the reader a playful approach to the natural world through the eyes of a child. The simple story is also thought-provoking for adult readers, as it highlights the importance of togetherness, both with one another and with the natural world.
As the two central characters, Leaf Gurl and Blueberry, magically transform into trees before returning to their normal selves at the end of the story, readers might consider how time spent in nature can make people feel more at one with plant life, as these living beings took on more importance as the noise and commotion of everyday life was replaced with solitude and time for quiet contemplation when Covid-19 first struck. When a crying Leaf Gurl encounters Blueberry, she finds comfort in their friendship, which provides her with companionship in trying times.
The final line of the story, “We are back together, so it must be normal!” reveals the notion that normality stems from community and shared experience. The plants, which offered solace during the months of social isolation, must be cherished, but so must our fellow humans, as it is in togetherness that the magic of personal growth and indeed the growth of the flora and fauna may flourish.
Publishers praised the young author for her achievements. Upon reading the story, a San Diego-based publisher commented, “we are always impressed when someone so young has the creativity and initiative to create their own books and stories. We hope Ellie will continue reading, writing and drawing.” These sentiments were echoed by another publisher, based in Oxford, UK: “The Leaf Gurl is very sweet and mightily impressive for a 6-year-old.” A New York publisher also referred to the work as “an impressive and imaginative story.”
The Leaf Gurl has also been adapted into a short animation, which features Ellie’s illustrations and her original story, narrated by the author herself. The animation was selected by festival juries at Alder International Short Film Festival (2021, USA), Fresh International Film Festival (2022, Ireland), First-Time Filmmaker Sessions by Lift-Off Global Network (2022, UK), Kalakari Film Fest (2022, India) and Phare International Film Festival (2021, Mauritius). At the latter festival, the short film received the award for Best Short Animation in recognition of excellence in storytelling and filmmaking.
The future of the young author seems bright. Since the publication of The Leaf Gurl, she has also conceived and written two other stories, I Am Coming Home! and Leo The Goat. The two stories are very different in nature. I Am Coming Home! is a simple story that follows a young girl’s day, using time references that are particularly useful for children getting to grips with telling the time. Leo The Goat is a more complex, imaginative tale that focuses on a goat sculpture that turns out to be a real goat. The story once again shows an appreciation for the natural world, this time in the form of animals rather than plants, as was the case in The Leaf Gurl. The story focuses on caring for animals, and the protagonist Peter is a young boy who sets up his own petting farm with John, the local farmer’s child. Both narratives have been professionally illustrated in a charming and comic manner.
When she grows up, the young author Ellie would like to plant more trees to help to protect the environment and help the earth’s ecosystem to achieve a more natural balance. By sharing her outlook on the world through her writing and drawing, Ellie has offered a refreshing insight into children’s experiences during the global pandemic through her sensitivity and her strong connection to the natural world, inspiring adults and children alike.