Having worked with children for more than 20 years, it was only a matter of time before Solana Beach resident Carol Ann Ashley Birtwell wrote a children’s book. Inspired by her early childhood music and movement classes, “Freddie and Bibelle: An Extraordinary Encounter” is now available on Amazon.
“Children love Freddie and Bibelle,” Birtwell said. “Parents love it, too. It’s a great learning tool.”
Published in late February, the children’s tale follows a frog named Freddie and a butterfly named Bibelle.
The main characters stem from the frog and butterfly stamps Birtwell gives to children in her Kindermusik classes. At the end of every class, kids excitedly stick out their hands and feet for stamps — something that has become a classroom tradition. A picture of the kids with stamps on their hands is included at the end of the book.
The frog stamp represents fun and the butterfly stamp represents transformation, Birtwell explained.
“I hope Kindermusik is fun and transformative for every kid,” she said. “It’s just learning about life, and music happens to be a great vehicle.”
Children and music have always been a part of Birtwell’s life.
Originally from Connecticut, Birtwell grew up in a family of seven children, where music, theater and dance became an integral part of her life.
She went on to study theater and communications at the University of Northern Colorado. After college, she became one of the first female sales representatives for IBM in Massachusetts.
When Birtwell became a mother, she also changed careers. She became a preschool instructor and Gymboree Play & Music teacher in Northern California before relocating to Florida to be near her parents. Birtwell lived in Florida for 18 years, where she raised her son and led Kindermusik classes.
Founded in 1978, Kindermusik is an early childhood music and movement program for infants to age 7. More than 1.5 million families in more than 70 countries participate in Kindermusik classes.
Today Birtwell teaches several 45-minute Kindermusik classes every week. She recently wrapped up winter sessions at Calvary Lutheran Church in Solana Beach and is now starting 10-week sessions at the Community and Senior Center in Encinitas.
In October, she began writing her first children’s book.
“I’ve always wanted to write a book about the two of them because they’re such different creatures,” Birtwell said.
Page by page, she worked alongside illustrator Dao Kim Phuc of Vietnam. Although the two have never met in person, they shared the same vision for bright and charming illustrations.
“I kind of feel like once I came up with these two and how they would look, it’s almost like they wrote the story,” she said.
Birtwell encourages parents to not only read the book with their children, but use it as a learning tool.
The book has become an interactive tool for Birtwell’s classes. She often reads a couple of pages and then has the children do a related activity. One of the pages in the book, for example, shows the characters with some of the instruments she uses in her classes, prompting her to ask her students to name the instruments.
“It’s an excellent interactive tool between parents, grandparents and children,” Birtwell said. “It’s fun, but it’s also the best learning tool if they read it interactively.”
The book is available on Amazon at www.amazon.com/dp/1502759411.
Birtwell plans to release an audio book. She also hopes to continue the series, expanding the storyline and developing the minor characters.
“They really love it,” Birtwell said. “To me, that’s the best gift ever. It’s working.”
For more about Birtwell and her classes, visit ashleysmusikids.com.