The theme of unconditional love is prevalent throughout Bucleigh Kernodle’s rhyme-filled series, which now includes her most recent publication, “I Would Love You Even If You Were A Tomato.”
Bucleigh Kernodle ’05 always knew she wanted to write. But it wasn’t until recently that she answered the calling.
Writing a book has been Kernodle’s dream since the fourth grade when a teacher made creative writing fun for her. But becoming a published author didn’t become an aspiration until a high school teacher pushed her to apply her writing abilities. Whether she was drafting stories or brainstorming narratives, Kernodle was certain that writing a book was part of her future.
But Kernodle put those dreams on the back burner when she got to Elon and chased another passion of hers: helping children. Kernodle declared a major in elementary education, but a thought dawned on her one day while student-teaching that redirected her career path toward communications.
“I was helping a child in fifth grade who did not know his multiplication at all. It broke my heart to see him being neglected,” Kernodle said. “If I become a teacher, I know that I will take each child’s personal problems home with me, and I will never be able to separate my home life from work life.”
Thankfully, her passion to write was still brewing. She realized that communications was the avenue she was meant to take.
“God wanted me to shut the door to the Alamance Building for good and open the door to McEwen with an open mind and heart,” Kernodle said.
Kernodle declared a major in journalism and never looked back. She pursued a successful career path, landing internships with the American City Business Journals and the Charlotte Business Journal, where she also worked after graduation. With the help of communications professors at Elon and editors at the Charlotte Business Journal, Kernodle was able to push her limits and master the art of writing tightly.
But it wasn’t until she was 35 years old that the perfect opportunity to write a book finally presented itself. And it came from her then-5-year-old son, Miller, knocking over a lamp.
Discouraged and worried to have possibly disappointed his mother, Miller asked Kernodle if she still loved him after what he had done. Her motherly instinct kicked in, and Kernodle reassured him that she would love him no matter what he did. And the response she heard in return was exactly what motivated her to pick up a pen and write.
“Well, I would love you even if you were a pickle,” Miller said to her. And thus, Kernodle’s first of two books to date, “I Would Love You Even If You Were A Pickle,” was conceptualized. The pickle book, as Kernodle refers to it, was long-awaited. But when the idea finally arrived, it hit her like lightning.
“My jaw dropped,” Kernodle said. “It was like God said through my son, ‘Here is the title of your book, Bucleigh, now go write it.’ So I did. And the words came to me in one night!”
And it’s no surprise that Kernodle’s deep-rooted faith played a part in her desire to start writing, according to friend and Elon classmate Emily Pinkerton ’06. And Kernodle knew that this time, following that path meant sharing a message many needed to hear, not just her son.
“I knew right then and there that his plan for me was to make this book happen so children can read this message: they are loved unconditionally,” Kernodle said.
The theme of unconditional love is prevalent throughout Kernodle’s rhyme-filled series, which now includes her most recent publication, “I Would Love You Even If You Were A Tomato.” In their very essence, the books highlight the unreasonable pressures of society and act as a constant reminder to children that no one was meant to be perfect.
“Our society has succumbed to an unreasonable amount of pressure in every demographic, place and walk of life,” Kernodle said. “I see it daily with my 8-year-old son now. He is beyond frustrated if he can’t immediately complete a task without any errors. I mean, why do we have erasers? So we can use them, right? God made us to be imperfect.”
The series is a sweet love letter from Kernodle to her family. While the pickle book illustrates unconditional love between Kernodle and her son Miller, the tomato book features a story of the affection between Kernodle’s husband and their daughter, Myah.
Although Kernodle wrote the series with the intention of appealing to a younger audience, she believes that adults, especially parents, need to be reminded of the message just as much.
“Sometimes, as parents, we can get so caught up in the frustrating moments of disobedience that we can forget to show love and grace,” Kernodle said. “Mistakes will always happen. It’s just important that we, as parents, remember to assure our children that they are loved anyway.”
Kernodle’s illustrator Ashley Belote believes this message is especially comforting and important for everyone to remember.
“This book’s underlying message of unconditional love is timeless,” Belote said. “It’s something we will always need.”
Kernodle not only wanted to share this message to remind kids like Miller that it was OK to make mistakes, but she also wanted to give them a reason to laugh. What better way to do that than with a lighthearted book?
“I didn’t want the book to be all sappy and lovey because what kid wants to read that?” Kernodle said. “I made it extra silly to hold their attention but finish with an important lesson they can feel good about.”
And Belote was sure to keep the visuals just as playful by designing the covers with personified vegetables and bright colors.
“When someone walks by a shelf of books, it’s important to create a cover that will stand out among the crowd,” Belote said. “I knew the title of the pickle book was unique enough that it would stand out on its own, so I designed the cover to showcase the words and then placed the main characters on the front. I did the same for the tomato book.”
Both books in the series have been recognized for their endearing messages and overall appeal. Since its release in 2018, the pickle book has won the 2019 Creative Child Magazine award as well as the bronze medal in the children K-3rd category of the 2019 Readers Favorite Book Award Contest. The pickle book and the tomato book, which was published in 2019, were also awarded with the Gold Mom’s Choice Award in 2019.
Now residing in Charlotte with her husband, Bryan Kernodle ’06, Miller and Myah, Kernodle plans on continuing the series with a book coming out every year, but with “new characters, new rhymes and out-of-this world hypotheticals,” she said.
Kernodle’s success doesn’t come as a shock to Journalism Professor Janna Anderson, who taught her in class.
“It’s no surprise that she has combined her interest in early childhood and teen education with her writing talent to become a successful author,” Anderson said. “During her Elon years, it was always clear to me that she would be a success at anything she puts her mind to.”