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Early Childhood Studies student publishes children’s book

Cover Illustration of Squish! Splat! Mush! A young blonde-haired girl makes a mess with green paint.Kristina Curcija was working at her field placement in a kindergarten class when a young girl, about 4 years old, was eating grapes. One by one, she picked up the grapes and plopped them in her mouth, chewing happily, until a grape slipped from her fingers onto the floor. With a mischievous grin, the girl brought her foot down onto the grape, squishing it into the ground.

“Ewwwww!” she exclaimed, looking at the mashed fruit. “Disgusting!”

Where the little girl had made a mess, Kristina had made a story.

“It was like a light bulb went off in my head. This girl made a mess and then realized she didn’t like it — it seemed like a perfect story to teach children about not making a mess, so I went home and started writing,” says Kristina, a 4th-year student in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Guelph-Humber. “I was typing out the story and was so focused that when my mom came to get me for dinner, I didn’t stop and just kept working all night.”

The result of her work is Squish! Splat! Mush. an illustrated children’s book recently published by Blurb Publishing. The book teaches kids the benefits of keeping things tidy and that food is better to eat than play with. It’s now available to order on, and Kristina is in talks to have it turned into an ebook.

While the inspiration for the book came from a day at kindergarten, it was her time at university that helped Kristina create the book’s content. She says her classes in Early Childhood Studies gave her insight into the specific needs of child readers.

“When writing for children, you want to talk to their level, but not talk down to them. Children respond well to open-ended questions, patterns, rhyming and they love games,” she says. “I tried to build those games into the book by including a lot of sounds. Sounds are good because the children will try to imitate them.”

 Though Squish! Splat! Mush. was written for younger children, she says that older kids have enjoyed it too. After winning over the students at her kindergarten placement with the story, Kristina took it with her to the grade 7-8 class she was working in as well.

“For the older kids I took a different approach and had them act it out, doing all the movements and making all the sounds. We had their attention and they were lingering on every word they said. It’s not just what level you make the story, it’s how you present it to them.”

With the success of her first published children’s book, Kristina is already looking forward to building a whole body of work.

“I’d love to write more children’s books, maybe a series that follows the whole developmental process of children,” she says. “It could follow them as they grow and help them achieve something difficult at each step.”

For now though, Kristina is continuing her schooling, and begins a Master’s of Education at the University of Toronto in the fall where she’ll focus on curriculum development.

“Education has always been my number one priority. Going through my program here at UofGH has helped me understand children’s mindsets, and I hope my Master’s will help that too,” she says. “I see a lot of potential for writing and literature though — I’d love to be able to write books that instil an imaginative drive in children. I want to help them learn to express themselves.”

Find Squish! Splat! Mush. on Amazon.

Learn more about Early Childhood Studies at UofGH.