Teacher's book helps kids discover inner beauty

First-grade teacher Lauren Raudabaugh is accustomed to helping her young students navigate linguistic challenges in her Spanish-English immersion class at Canterbury Elementary School in Crystal Lake.

But last year she was thrown for a loop when one little girl confessed a different challenge she was facing: her self-esteem.

"My student told me she thought she looked ridiculous compared to another girl in class, and it was so upsetting that a 6-year-old had those kind of worries," said Raudabaugh, a Villa Park native who grew up in St. Charles.

Inspired to help her student and teach a lesson to her own 4-year-old daughter, Raudabaugh set to work on creating a tool that would help children recognize their own beauty.

Over the course of an inspired eight hours last April at her home in Crystal Lake, Raudabaugh wrote her first children's book, "Mabel's Meadow."

The story follows a caterpillar named Mabel who always fancied herself as bright and beautiful - until she stumbles upon her reflection in a puddle and sees herself as skinny, green and plain looking.

Thanks to a robin named Eloise who befriends Mabel, the caterpillar is encouraged to keep sharing her kindness - the source of her true beauty - with others.

Raudabaugh collaborated with her cousin, illustrator Sarah Ehlers of Lombard who attends the College of DuPage, to create art for the book. Once the duo was satisfied with their effort, Raudabaugh self-published the story through Archway Publishing, a division of Simon and Schuster.

Appropriately, the teacher debuted the book with her students. But she didn't tell them she was the author and, instead, watched to see their genuine reactions.

Once Raudabaugh earned the approval of her most important audience, the teacher turned the moment into yet another lesson when she revealed she had written "Mable's Meadow."

"I wanted them to see that if I can be an author, they can be one too," she said.

Beyond Canterbury School, Raudabaugh secured her first book reading and author signing in December at Between the Lynes bookstore in downtown Woodstock. And next month, on Feb. 7, she will be part of a second reading and signing at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville.

"The overarching theme is that inner beauty is more important than outer beauty," Raudabaugh said. "I grew up with stories like 'Charlotte's Web' that taught important lessons to children on their terms, and I wanted to do that too."

Raudabaugh says she hopes to turn "Mabel's Meadow" into a series, with Mabel continuing to spread her message of inner beauty through acts of kindness, even after she has emerged as a beautiful butterfly.

In addition to Anderson's and Between the Lynes bookshops, "Mabel's Meadow" is available at, and

Lauren Raudabaugh shares the story of "Mabel's Meadow" with some of her students. COURTESY OF LAUREN RAUDABAUGH
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.