A group of third graders in north central Iowa has been working with a children’s book author on an “interactive” play inspired by her books which focus on kindness and compassion. Jena Bell — the author of the “CritterKin” book series — has been meeting online through “Google Hangouts” with Northeast Hamilton Elementary school instructor Tammy Massman and her students in Blairsburg.

“CritterKin is part of a global community both on Facebook and Twitter and we met Tammy because her kids tweet,” Bell says. “Her class tweets together and shares things that are happening in the classroom and we thought: ‘Boy, what a great person, what great kids. Let’s get in contact with them.'”

The result: the kids plan to perform their play next Wednesday, December 17.

“It’s a one-act play based on the book I wrote — ‘Lead with Your Heart’ — and it’s the story of a misunderstood black pitbull who, of course, people are afraid of and the play talks about how they change perceptions and teach people not to judge a book by its cover,” Bell says.

Some of the students will be acting as adults in the play. Six kids will portray dogs. The star of a TV series called “Rain” that airs on the CW network has been joining Bell to meet on-line with the class as the play is rehearsed.

“The kids are having a blast,” Bell says. “They’re doing fantastic.”

The kids have also been using a special app to design an animated “CritterKin Kindness Quilt” that will be part of the play. The third graders will perform their play over a “Google Hangout” at 2 p.m. on December 17.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)