Children’s book features downtown Winter Garden landmarks

In “Wake Up Winter Garden,” a toddler goes on an adventure to many of the familiar sights along Plant Street.

Haleigh Smith, left, wrote “Wake Up Winter Garden” for her 2-year-old son, Beckett. Danielle Meter, right, is the illustrator.
Haleigh Smith, left, wrote “Wake Up Winter Garden” for her 2-year-old son, Beckett. Danielle Meter, right, is the illustrator.
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When Beckett Smith’s mother drives through downtown Winter Garden, the 2-year-old pays close attention to his surroundings.

“It's so fun to see the excitement in his eyes when he spots his favorite landmarks and shops around town,” Haleigh Smith, an Oakland resident, said. “He can actually name most of the storefronts as we drive through to drop him off at school.”

His fascination with the downtown corridor led his mother to publish her first book, “Wake Up Winter Garden.”

Beckett loves books, and one that Smith regularly reads to him is from her childhood called “Goodnight Mobile.”

“Reading that to my son and sharing the places I grew up loving with him really inspired me to write something my son could keep forever to remember this special place he grew up (in),” Smith said. “It didn't take too long to put a story together since we spend at least two days a week in or around the downtown Winter Garden area.

“He leads the way, and I sit back and enjoy the ride, so I just compiled our ‘mini adventures’ into a little story,” she said.

Thus, “Wake Up Winter Garden” was born.

Beckett even selected the locations included in the book.

“I included most of the places we frequent as a family, and then there were a few others that I felt were so Winter Garden that they must be included,” Smith said. “I also really tried to make this book for the kids, so I tried to incorporate businesses and places that might stand out to them.”

Stops along the way include the splash pad, farmers market and clock tower and an ice cream shop.

“Wake Up Winter Garden” is Smith’s first book. She is an accountant and swim coach and has always enjoyed showing her creative side, so this book ended up being a fun side venture, she said.

Her friend, Danielle Meter, illustrated the book.

This book is a first for Meter, too. The Clermont illustrator has expressed herself through art since she was a child. She typically creates large paintings on canvas but was intrigued by her friend's request to illustrate her book.

“We had such a good time coming up with the style of the Winter Garden characters,” Meter said. “Every character in the book has a story, and some are even real Winter Garden livin', lovin' people. I love the community here, so I took the responsibility of representing Winter Garden seriously. And by serious, I mean revealing the love, unity and joy this town emanates.”

After spending a few weeks tweaking the writing and finalizing the layout, Smith spend many hours learning how to self-publish, how to build a website and all about price points.

The finished product debuted in November, and right away the author scheduled readings to get her book in children's hands.

Will there be another book from this duo?

“While Danielle and I were going through the process of creating this book, we were having such a great time imagining what a child sees as they go by the places we pass daily, and sometimes mindlessly, in downtown Winter Garden,” Smith said. “Several times we said, ‘We should do more of these for the towns surrounding Orlando.’

“That would be so fun to go to each town and learn about the town favorites then bring those to life in book form for the local children. We are really enjoying meeting the community members and hearing how they relate to the book for now. As for the future, we will see what's in store as the new year rolls around.”

Keep up with the pair's next events and future projects on their Facebook page: wakeupwintergarden.



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