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Kids With Heart 

As a kid, I kept a box of treasures in my closet. It was a small wooden case that I'd painted in bright acrylics. I'd adorned its lid with my name, in florid script, a yellow peace sign and a big, red heart. Inside, I stashed photos of my best friends and cats, good-luck trinkets I'd made from clay, programs from school plays.

I'd forgotten about the box until I ventured into my parents' attic over the Christmas holiday to search for baby clothes; I'm pregnant for the first time, due in early May, and on the hunt for hand-me-downs.

I found more than flowery onesies in the attic; I found my treasure box, and inside, evidence of the super-sensitive, nature-loving child I used to be. Amid the box's clutter, I pulled out a series of letters I'd lovingly handwritten — to a tree.

This wasn't just any tree; it was Camilla, the great Tree of Life, benevolent overlord of Naranthia, the name I'd given my suburban backyard. She watched over a harmonious kingdom of elves and animals — and me. In reality, Camilla was an apple tree, and she collapsed one spring during a fierce storm.

I was devastated. In my letters, I told her — in poetry and prose — that her loyal subjects would forever mourn her loss. My heart, I wrote, was broken.

OK, now the embarrassing part: The letters were dated 1996. I was 13 when I wrote them. Still, reading them as a mom-to-be, I didn't feel embarrassment so much as compassion for my teenage self.

I thought of those love letters while editing this month's Kids VT. It's February, so we're featuring some stories with Valentine's Day in mind: Heleigh Bostwick writes about dating as a single mom ("Use Your Words," p. 55); and local dads share advice they've given about first crushes ("Go Ask Dad," p. 14).

But a broader theme surfaced in our pages this month: kids with heart. In the Mealtime column (p. 13) — a new food-focused feature that replaces our regular restaurant reviews — Kathryn Flagg talks to families with children whose love of animals, or community gardening, inspired them to become vegetarians. In "Kids With a Cause" (p. 18), I wrote about a group of Enosburg Falls teens who are passionate about getting their loved ones to quit smoking.

February is also when parents get serious about planning for the summer. The 17th annual Kids VT Camp and School Fair, on February 1, is a great place to start. Come to the Burlington Hilton between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to talk with representatives from dozens of local camps and schools. You'll find many of those programs in our camp guide on page 25, along with helpful advice from local parents.

Other new stuff you'll see in this issue: Thea Lewis and Ian Webb have created a new comic feature, "Drawing on History" (p. 53). A new section called "Bookworms," (p. 17) includes selections chosen by our Book Review contest winners, as well as reading recommendations for Black History Month.

Hope you love it all.

—Megan James, Managing Editor

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