Mindful Max’s Finger Focus Farming Frames

Max, Ma, and Pa comprise a Canadian prairie family. Max fills the day purposefully meandering on the family farm. As Max engages in gender-specific and generic activities, Max mindfully finger-frames scenes, objects of interest and points of pride. Since pronouns are not used the reader is never sure of Max’s gender, celebrating gender neutrality. In the afternoon, the family is faced with a typical summer prairie threat. By the day’s end, the family finds serenity.

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The cover for the children's story "Mindful Max's Finger Focus Farming Frames"

The front cover of Mindful Max’s Finger Focus Farming Frames

MC Rolston reading at a school visit

School Visit: What Can You Expect?

  • In costume, I will read the story to a group of students, (The suggested maximum is no more than three classes. The reading would be more effective with one or two classes)

  • A copy of the book for the school

  • The option to use the book as a fundraiser. I will ask for $7.00 to cover my cost and the school or the classroom can set their own price for instance, the book could be sold for $12 which is almost 5 dollars less than regular retail price

  • Depending on time availability, I will conduct a writing workshop with the students in your class

Inspiration for the Story

One February afternoon in 2021, I was heading out for my daily walk to discover our new neighbourhood in Comox, B.C., when I spotted Maxine’s big wave and warm smile.  That day I was feeling a touch shy, (Yes, you might not believe it, but I can have those shy and reserved moments) but something told me this lady was special. Over the past months, I’ve learned how Max’s (her preferred name) optimism and resilience have kept her buoyant through her remarkable life as a Saskatchewan farmer, competitive curler, university graduate as a mature student, airline and airport customer service executive, travel agent, golfer, wife, widow, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, daughter, sister, and steadfast friend. No matter the life challenge, Max passionately believes that we all can choose our attitude which in turn affects our outcomes. She continually chooses to smile, frame circumstances optimistically, and “get ‘er done”.

An illustration from a page in the Mindful Max story

About the Illustrator

When I drove across Canada with Andrew, our youngest son, I fell in love with the stunning bold azure skies and flat golden land of the prairies. I call the prairies, Canada’s yoga mat. It was one of most peaceful and meditative sections of our drive.

Illustrations were birthed from combining Max’s life experiences and my fond reflections of the    Canada’s yoga mat. Upon completion of the story, I could see illustrations in my head. Tentatively, I began to wade in with acrylic paints, but quickly realized that this medium would not work, so I took a deep breath and deferred to pencil crayons, watercolour paints, brush markers and collage. When I struggled depicting scenes due to my amateur skill, I chose to focus on what I could draw in a scene. Then came the repeated consistent images of hands which were a point of frustration. Hence, with the suggestion from Leslie, I collaged them with beige crepe paper. As the saying goes, “Where there’s a will there’s a way!” Are these illustrations professional? No. Yet, I am proud to say they reflect the optimistic determination, tenacity and resilience that Max exudes.

Thank you, Max, for the inspiration!

Guide for Reading: PRC

Predictions, Reflections and Connections

Predictions

Predicting is an essential tool when developing as a strong reader. This story has been written to hook the young audience in engaging in predicable events.

Ask the following questions:

Can you predict if Max is a boy or girl? What are your reasons?

Max lives on a farm. What might be some of Max’s activities in a day?

Living on a farm are there neighbours next door or close by?

Who is Max’s best friend?

Will Max play with other children?

Will Max make it home before the storm gets worse?

Predicting the rhyme and bringing it to memory…

During the reading of the rhymes encourage your listener to chime in the rhyme. Start by hesitating and encourage guess what the rhyming words are at the end of the lines. By the end together chime out the rhyme.

Reflections

Reflecting throughout a book makes the story extra personal and come alive. It reflects a Reader’s level of comprehension. A more thoughtful and complex reflection and connection reveal a higher understanding of the story. They also help reinforce one’s memory sequence which forms the basis of a retelling with more detail and reference to nuance. A simple and literal retelling reflects a more simplistic understanding.

Use the following questions for points of discussion:

Artists and photographers have used finger- framing as a way of de-cluttering one’s view, simulating the focus of a camera lens on whatever is captured in its specific area of vision. It’s a way of creating balanced, pleasing pictures with a central point of focus. Sometimes artists use small black frames, but it’s just as easy to use our own hands to create the frame.

Here are a few questions and simple tasks:

Look at a scene without anything blocking the view. Hold up one’s hands in a finger- frame focusing on an object. Try focusing on another object. Which views do you find most interesting? Did you find finger- framing helpful?

Can you finger frame with different shapes?

Max usually used two hands when finger- framing, but can you finger- frame a word or an object with just one hand? Try finger- framing by making a peep hole circle by bringing your index finger and thumb together like you are looking through the eye-piece of a telescope. Can this be a simple and easy way to focus on one thing?

Is Max ever bored?

How does Max stay happy and busy?

Connections

Making connections facilitates a deeper understanding of a story through making inferences, noting details and relating them to prior information. It is seeing, linking, and articulating other topics and events to the story. The reader is applying this reading experience to other learned information. Often when making connections the reader will arrive at exciting new insights that extend beyond the literal story.

Use the following questions for points of discussion:

Have you ever been on a farm?

Have you driven through farmland areas?

If you could be on a farm for a day what would you like to do?

Is Max an independent person? Why?

What does it mean when Max says:

“Ma and Pa say they gave me life,

Now it’s my turn to make my life!”?

Additional Resources

Gender-friendly articles for Parents & Educators

Power of Names

Activities

Teaching Anti-Bias Resource for Teachers & Parents

Finger Framing

Finger Framing Video

Words we use to give meaning to Gender Identity & Sexuality