Author Nicole Weaver shares joy of multiple languages

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Writer, teacher, poet — Nicole Weaver of Centennial was born in Haiti, the youngest of six, where her language was French; moved to New York at age 10 with her family, where she quickly learned English; won a full-ride college scholarship and eventually became a teacher. She has taught French and Spanish in Denver Public Schools for 22 years — now at South High School.

She speaks about the joy she found in the “Curious George” books, which her New York teacher read to the class. They helped her learn English as she enjoyed the pictures and story content.

While in college, she spent a semester in France, living with a family in Alsace-Lorraine. She hoped for a job as United Nations translator when she graduated and got a community-college job teaching French and Spanish while she prepared for the necessary exam.

“I realized my passion for teaching and helping students and went to graduate school at Bank Street College of Education,” she said.

The next move was to Texas for five years, where she met her husband, a native Coloradan of German ancestry. Their first child was born and they moved to Littleton in 1989 — “I have been here since.” Her children are now 25, 23 and 17.

When her first, a daughter, left for Pepperdine University in California, Weaver became seriously depressed and a helpful friend took her to a meeting of children’s book authors and illustrators for a presentation on writing picture books. “Write about what you know,” that speaker advised, planting a seed.

She remembered being out collecting sea shells and finding a sea turtle stranded upside down on the beach near her Haitian home, and calling on her dad to help her get it back into the sea. Alas, he sent the cook to collect it for soup, but she wrote a picture book with a happier ending about a little girl who rescued a turtle — “Marie and the Sea Turtle.”

She self-published that one, so she could be sure the child was black — “It’s my story.” (Generally, a commercial publisher contracts for illustrations and the author does not have control.) It is available at Tattered Cover in her distinctive style, with each sentence in English, French and Spanish, so a young child can begin to learn another language easily — a plus as our world grows smaller.

She also entered a poetry contest through the Arapahoe Library District and won $100 about this time. “I got to meet the mayor and had a story in the paper,” she recalls.

The tri-lingual book is her trademark and is repeated in “My Sister is My Best Friend,” about the closeness of twins — and the forthcoming “My Brother is My Best Friend,” due in 2013. The illustrator, Clara Batton Smith, provided by her publisher, lives in Australia, she said, and did a fine job of capturing the spirit of her story.

She wants to send the message that there’s nothing wrong with being smart — especially for African-American kids.

She is rewriting a middle school book previously published, which needs sounder editing, she said. English is not her first language and she still makes some errors in grammar, which embarrass her. She recently attended a class at the active Light House Writers Workshop in Denver, where the rewrite was suggested.

Another future project will be writing something supportive for biracial kids, who have their own set of challenges. She recalled that at Pepperdine University, people wanted to place her daughter in some sort of category — “What are you?”

Her books are available from Amazon or from her publisher at guardianangelpublishing.com.

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