Preston County native publishes 1st children’s book: ‘The Me Tree’


From “The Me Tree” by Ashley Belote

TERRA ALTA, W.Va. – A Preston County native has published her first children’s book.  

Ashley Belote signing copies of “The Me Tree” at Barnes and Noble (Courtesy: Ashley Belote)

Ashley Belote grew up in Terra Alta, West Virginia and graduated from Alderson Broaddus University with a degree in art and creative writing. She used her skills to write and illustrate her new children’s book, “The Me Tree.” 

The book takes young readers on a journey with its main character “Bear” who has had it with living with roommates. But when he finally finds his own tree, he discovers that this perfect house is home to several uninvited guests, and Bear realizes that being alone maybe isn’t quite as fun as he thought it would be.  

Belote said the book has several underlying messages for kids such as friendship and blended families. 

“I grew up in a smaller family, so a lot of my parents’ friends were considered my aunts and uncles,” Belote said. “So, I grew up in a family of people that I wasn’t really related to, so a family can look any way that it wants to. There’s no set way that a family has to look, and so all of these animals, they don’t match, they don’t look the same, but they are a family in the end.”

Belote came up with the idea for the book when teaching a children’s art class. They were making prints using cabbage leaves when she noticed her print looked like a tree. She then drew a bear poking out from behind it and was adding some other animals when the line “who’s in my tree?” popped into her mind. From there, Belote blended the vision of the grumpy bear that just wants to be alone with her own background to come up with the storyline.  

A page from The Me Tree when grumpy Bear is squished into a bear cave (Courtesy: Ashley Belote)

Belote grew up in a family familiar with publishing books. Her parents still own a small independent publishing house Headline Books based out of Preston County. She has previously illustrated several books like “Frankenslime” and is a part of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.   

She always had a love and passion for art and said it’s a really fun job because all of her days are never the same. While reflecting on her path to success, Belote noted it’s important for kids in West Virginia to understand that anything is possible if you have big dreams. 

“If there’s something that you’re passionate about, you’ll have this drive to work towards it and make those things happen, and it’s so fun,” Belote said. 

The cover of The Me Tree by Ashley Belote (Courtesy Ashley Belote)

Belote also thanked her West Virginia family for their support in her career.  

“Whenever these things do happen, you’ve got this incredible support system, especially in West Virginia. We’ve got a lot of love for each other and we support each other and I’ve felt a ton of that through this book and my other books as well,” Belote said. 

The book was released by New York City publisher Penguin-Random House. You can buy “The Me Tree” on Amazon here or on Bookshop here

Belote said a sequel to “The Me Tree” will be coming out next year, and she will also be launching a picture book called “Listen Up Luella” soon. 

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