Lacey Harris has seen a lot of the world. It’s one of the benefits of being a traveling nurse.
Through her new children’s book, “Charles Sees Kenya,” Harris is hoping to taking parents and kids on a journey through a beautiful part of Africa most westerners will never get a chance to visit.
The book was inspired by a trip Harris made to Kenya in 2016.
“Before I went, I got a lot of pushback, with people saying, ‘Aren’t you afraid to go?’” said Harris, who grew up in DeForest and graduated from DeForest Area High School in 2005.
While in Kenya, Harris said she never felt fearful and fell in love with the place. She and another travel nurse also went to Tanzania on that visit. Harris wishes others could travel abroad as much as she does, but understands they may not have the resources.
When she talks to people about her travels, Harris said they often harbor misconceptions about the lives of those from foreign lands.
With the book, Harris hopes to expose children and their parents to a world they may never see or experience.
“That’s what my vision was,” said Harris. “I wanted parents to sit down and read it with their kids, so they could share an educational experience.”
More than that, she wants to see “Charles Sees Kenya” used in classrooms. Harris’ former math teacher at DeForest, Sue Wilson, bought 20 for the school district.
Harris also wants to set up a messaging function on a web site that would allow students in this country to be pen pals with kids their age in Kenya. Ten percent of the proceeds of the book will go to SOAR Kenya, a charity that makes improvements to a school in Kenya. Mary Hoffman, owner of Sweet Pea floral shop in Waunakee helps to run the charity. She has copies of the book for sale in her shop.
Harris started writing the book when she returned from Kenya in November 2016.
“That’s when I started putting thoughts down,” said Harris, whose mom Kimberly and dad Scott are also DeForest Area High School graduates.
“Charles Sees Kenya” is about a boy who longs for overseas adventure. He goes to Kenya with his friend Zuri, and they go on safari in search of exotic animals, all while learning about African wildlife, experiencing a new culture, interacting with a native tribe and making new friends.
Harris said the Charles character is based on the safari guide she met in Kenya.
“He was so sweet and so great,” said Harris. “He had hawk eyes. He could see animals hidden in trees and bushes.”
Harris wanted to do something similar with her book. In order to make it more interactive, she hid animals in various settings, allowing readers to go and find them on their own.
Harris also decided to make Charles racially ambiguous, so that every kid could relate to the character and show that people are more alike than they are different.
Harris received word in April 2018 that it would be published, and it was released in July of this year. Mascot Books, located in Herndon, Virginia, is the publisher.
After high school, Harris attended Edgewood College for nursing school. She became a registered nurse and worked in hospitals in Madison.
“There was nothing else I ever thought of doing,” said Harris. “It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do.”
Harris’ specialty is working in the recovery room in post-anesthesia. Eventually, she pursued a career as a traveling nurse. The work keeps Harris on the move, as she’s spent almost a decade traversing the U.S. for her job.
An agency works out assignments for her in different places. They usually last 13 weeks, but can run between three and six months long. When finished, Harris takes a month off to travel internationally.
She just returned to the U.S. from Japan and South Korea and is currently in Ohio, although she said she’ll be coming back to the Madison very soon to work.
Harris isn’t sure where she wants to go next, although Australia is high on her list of possibilities.
Harris admits she had no previous experience as a writer before. However, Her head is full of ideas for her next book.
Will kids who read “Charles Sees Kenya” and Harris’s “Charles See” series develop a love for travel and exploration? Harris hopes so. Just finishing “Charles Sees Kenya” and getting it published has given her a sense of accomplishment.
“Just having an idea and seeing it through to fruition has been rewarding,” said Harris. “Just having that physical book in hand, that was already a success for me.”