A new holiday exhibit at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory comes with a valuable lesson for those young and old. The exhibit is a collaboration with local author/illustrator Talitha Shipman. The “Happy Smallidays” exhibit is inspired by a recently published children’s book of the same name.

It tells the story of how it feels to be very small when the plans, events, and celebrations around you are very big. Shipman, who grew up in Leo, was thrilled to work with a place she likes to call a second home. “It’s a fun story because we love the Botanical Conservatory and we come here a lot.”

“We carried Talitha’s book ‘Finding Beauty’ in our gift shop,” said Nate Cardelli, General Manager of the Botanical Conservatory. “It’s actually how we found Talitha. We reached out to her once we realized we had this great local author in town and we were very fortunate she was an emphatic ‘yes’ when we asked if she’d be interested.”

Author/Illustrator Talitha Shipman with kids at the “Happy Smallidays” exhibit at the Botanical Conservatory.

Shipman says the wheels in her head started turning at the opportunity to use a space she knows well. “I was super excited to work in a 3D environment while creating a book. You get to walk through the story and I think that really helps bring it to life.”

Shipman tells the story through the eyes of ‘Little Mouse’ who lives in the conservatory. “He noticed all the adults were rushing around during the busy holiday season. He wished they could slow down and enjoy the falling snow. He came up with the idea to shrink everybody down to the size of a mouse when they enter the showcase garden.”

“Little Mouse” leads you on a journey through the Winter Woods.

The exhibit takes you on a journey through the Winter Woods where Little Mouse meets Wren, a bird trying to learn how to ice skate, and Squirrel, who’s trying to build a giant snow mouse. “Little Mouse is able to help his friends, but at the end, his friends end up helping him so it’s a wonderful story.”

The exhibit opened November 19th and runs through January 8th. Cardelli says it has been very well received. “The people who are taking the time to slow down and enjoy our story are really getting something out of it. The whole point of the story is to take in the magic of winter and enjoy your family.”

Kids stroll through the Winter Woods in the “Happy Smallidays” exhibit at the Botanical Conservatory.

Shipman says it’s a message that resonates with adults. “Sometimes you just need to stop. Take a deep breath and relax. Don’t let it all just fly by so quickly. I think it’s helpful to take a little time to slow down and just walk through the garden and enjoy it. That’s what Little Mouse wanted in the first place.”

Shipman will sign copies of her book Saturday, December 17th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Botanical Conservatory. It’s a chance to meet the author/illustrator of several picture books who tries to encourage curiosity and creativity in kids of all ages.

Little Mouse’s message to humans.

The Botanical Conservatory also partnered with the Allen County Public Library to offer free admission for a family of four if you check out the book and bring it to the front desk at any time while the exhibit is open. “The ACPL is excited to partner with the Botanical Conservatory to bring both the ‘Happy Smallidays’ book and exhibit to our library patrons,” said ACPL Director of Community Partnerships and Programs Beth Boatright. “The holidays are the perfect time to celebrate with our families, enjoy great books, and connect with all that Allen County has to offer.”