Mermaid Dreams by Janet Lucy

Mermaid Dreams

Sueños de Sirena

Janet Lucy, Author

Colleen McCarthy-Evans, Illustrator

Seven Seas Press, Fiction, 2019 (bilingual version 2020)

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Mermaid, Dreams, Caribbean Tale, Overcoming fear, Courage

Opening: Maya dreams of being a mermaid. / Her long dark hair hangs / in silky strand / down her back / nearly reaching the top / of her favorite skirt – / the one her mama made / with seven tiers of turquoise net. 

Synopsis:

Maya is a dark-skinned girl who dreams of being a mermaid. She dances to Caribbean mermaid music as her favorite skirt rises and falls about her. She loves swimming and diving for coins in the pool. But she is afraid of swimming in the ocean and has frequent nightmares.

She listens to her mother’s bedtime stories about living on an island in the Caribbean sea where the beaches are sandy and the water is turquoise. One night, her mother tells her about her namesake, Yemaya, a river spirit and mermaid of the Yoruba people and a Goddess of the Ocean. That night she meets Yemaya in her dreams and they go on a magical undersea journey together. Mermaid Dreams shines a light on the universal fears of children and the vastness of the ocean.

There is now a bilingual version of Mermaid Dreams/Sueños de Sirena, 2020.

Why I like this book:

Janet Lucy has penned an enchanting and magical tale about a girl who wants to be a black mermaid, like her namesake, Yemaya, from a Caribbean legend. Yemaya is courageous, kind and full of wisdom. Lucy’s lyrical and richly textured prose invokes both the turbulence and beauty of the ocean. Colleen McCarthy-Evans illustrations are dreamy and have a mystical quality to them.

The story empowers children to face their fears, no matter what they may be. For Maya, it is an overwhelming fear of the ocean — even wading in shallow water. She lives along the California coast, where the waves are big and crash loudly onto the beach. One of the lessons Maya learns is that she has the power to change the ending of her scary dreams and take baby steps to dealing with her fear.

The author was inspired to create Maya after a real little girl who is a beautiful blend of her Caribbean and American parents. Her heritage reaches back to Africa, Europe and the Americas, “representing multiple threads of the extraordinary tapestry of humanity.” I love that quote. Visit Lucy at her website.

Resources: There is a Discussion Guide with 15 questions to help parents and teachers to continue a discussion with children about Mermaid Dreams.  There is also a list of fun activities for children ranging from drawing pictures of a mermaids and their dreams to listening to Caribbean or Yoruba music on the Internet. And there is a list of resources and a note from the author.

Janet Lucy is an award-winning writer and poet, and author of Moon Mother, Moon Daughter – Myths and Rituals that Celebrate a Girl’s Coming of Age and The Three Sunflowers/Los Tres Girasoles. Janet is the Director of Women’s Creative Network in Santa Barbara, California, where she is a teacher, therapist/consultant, facilitates women’s writing groups and leads international retreats. She has lived in Mexico, Costa Rica and Italy, connecting with the Divine Feminine in all her glorious guises and cultural richness. Janet is the mother of two radiant daughters.

*Review copy provided by the author.

What You Can Do With A Chance? by Kobi Yamada

What Do You Do With a Chance?

Kobi Yamada, Author

Mae Besom, Illustrator

Compendium, Inc., Jan. 10, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Taking a chance, Conquering fear, Risks, Courage, Opportunity

Opening: “One day, I got a chance. It just seemed to show up. It acted like it knew me, as if it wanted something.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:  What do you do with a chance? Especially one that seems too big or too wild or just out of reach?

Do you hold back? Do you act like you don’t care? Do you let it slip away?

This is the story of some remarkable chances and the child who doesn’t know quite what to do with them. But the more chance come around, the more the child’s fascination grows. And then, one day, a little courage makes all the difference in the world.

This is a story for anyone, at any age who has ever wanted something, but was afraid of wishing too much to get it. It’s a story to inspire you to embrace the chances that come into you life. Because you never know when a chance, once taken, might be the one to change everything.

What I like about this book:

This inspiring book challenges kids to find their courage, step outside of their comfort zones and take some risks. Chances are fleeting and may not appear in the same manner. It is a special book that is soulful and moving.

The tone of the text is simple and straightforward. The story takes children on a journey of self-discovery. Each step along the way, we can feel the child moving forward, holding back and finally taking the leap to victory over self-doubt and fear. Children will relate to this story

There is so much beauty in this book. Mae Besom’s pastel abstracts are wistful and wondering, yet carry the child’s raw emotions that culminate in excitement and exhilaration. The color yellow appears in the beginning of the story in a butterfly, and gradually explodes into yellow and gold as the child succeeds. Creative teamwork between author and illustrator.

Resources: This is a wonderful discussion book for home and classrooms. Taking a chance isn’t easy and Yamada opens the door for kids to explore the topic with the chances they have taken –riding a bike without training wheels, riding a roller coaster, singing a solo, writing a poem, and making a new friend.

Kobi Yamada is the award–winning creator of The New York Times best sellers What Do You Do With an Idea? and What Do You Do With a Problem?  He is the president of Compendium, a company of amazing people doing amazing things. He happily lives with the love of his life and their two super fun kids in the land of flying salmon where he gets to believe in his ideas all day long. He thinks he just might be the luckiest person on the planet.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Abracadabra! The Magic of Trying

Abracadabra! The Magic of Trying

Maria Loretta Giraldo, Author

Nicoletta Bertelle, Illustration

Magination Press, Fiction, Apr. 23, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, New experiences, Fear, Practice, Setbacks, Courage, Perseverance

Opening: “Today was an important day at the little birds’ school. Today was the day they all learned how to fly!”

Book Synopsis:

All of the little birds have learned to fly…except one. Little Owl can’t do it! He is too afraid of falling. Blackbird, Robin, Sparrow and Hummingbird explain that it’s easy. All he has to do is say “abracadabra!”

At first, it doesn’t work, and Little Owl thinks the “magic” word is broken! But as he gets better and better, he realizes that the real magic is in himself. This book teaches children how to face challenges and keep trying, despite setbacks.

An empowering story of gradually overcoming fear that will resonate with young children. A great purchase for most collections.

Why I like this book:

Maria Loretta Giraldo’s engaging picture book realistically depicts how slow Little Owl’s progress may be, yet how rewarding it is when he overcomes his fear and succeeds in the end.  He glides through the sky and his self-confidence soars.

This story has a memorable cast of forest characters — the birds, a turtle, a mouse, hedgehog — who turn out to encourage Little Owl to take the leap and flap his wings. They offer suggestions and continue to support him. Each one tells him to say the magic word, “abracadabra,” but it doesn’t work.  No matter how many times Little Owl tries, he fails and crashes. But he doesn’t give up and keeps trying.

This book is a useful book for parents to have on hand when their child tries to do something new, like riding a bike or swimming. Some children may be afraid of failing, hurting themselves and don’t want to try. Like Little Owl, trying something new takes practice and perseverance, no matter the setbacks. It is so important to support a frustrated child. Practice takes time, but is well worth the effort.

Nicoletta Bertelle’s signature illustrations are colorful and whimsical and compliment the story. She is a long-term artistic partner with the author.

Resources: The book includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers with tips for encouraging kids to practice and persevere.

Maria Loretta Giraldo is an Italian children’s writer based in Verona, Italy. She is the author of more than 100 books published and translated all over the world. Nicoletta Bertelle has illustrated more than 80 books for many Italian and foreign publishers.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

A copy of this book was provided by Magination Press.

I’m a Duck by Eve Bunting

I’m  a Duck

Eve Bunting, Author

Will Hillenbrand, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Mar. 13, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Ducks, Nature, Growing Up, Fear, Courage, Friendships

Opening: “When I was just an egg, I’m told, I left my nest and rolled and rolled.”

Synopsis: One day, an egg rolled out of a nest and right into a deep pond. Now that egg is a little duck, and the water is still very scary. Jumping into the pond at all seems impossible, never mind swimming in a line with all his brothers. “You’re a duck, and ducks don’t sink,” Big Frog points out. Practicing in a puddle helps a little, while backrubs and snacks from his mother help a little more. Big Frog offers to hold his friend’s wing and dive in together, but our little duck knows that some challenges need to be faced alone. Even when they are very scary!

I cannot swim, and that is bad. 
A landlocked duck is very sad. 

Why I like this book:

Eve Bunting’s endearing picture book will make a big splash with young children.  The catchy rhyme scheme is beautifully simple and appealing.  Children will easily relate to this adorable little duck’s fear about trying to swim. Many other water friends offer to help him, but the little duck is determined to conquer is fear his own way and on his own time. This book is overflowing with heart and kids will want to cheer for the little duck. Will Hillenbrand’s warm watercolor are soft and gentle.

Resources: This is a wonderful read aloud before bed or in the classroom. It offers kids an opportunity to open up and talk about their fears. It offers teachers an opportunity to encourage children to name their fears, make a list and talk about how they try deal with a fear.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Review copy provided by publisher.

Bella Goes Bump In The Night – Interview with Derek Roché

Derek and Gina Roché,  Authors

Jonathan Ashley, Illustrator

Suitable for: Preschool to 8 yrs

Themes:  Imagination, Night Frights, Courage, Conquering Fear

Opening: “Things that go bump in the night, Giving my poor soul a fright.  Like Zombies and Warlocks, or cold witches brew, Ghoulies and Goblins who’d have me for stew.  Leprechaun, Minotaur, Cyclops — oh my!  Werewoves and Gremlins and Dragons who fly. Things that go bump in the night, giving a poor soul a fright…” 

Bella lays in bed, covers pulled tightly to her chin and tries to fall asleep.  But, her overactive imagination carries her into a world of goblins and dragons. It is there where Bella faces her demons and ends up befriending each one.  Bella is the spunky hero in this charming and witty book.  It is written in verse by the Derek and Gina Roché, and is the first book published in the “Bella the Great” series.  Jonathan Ashley’s illustrations are gorgeous, whimsical, detailed and beautifully capture Bella’s adventures.

Author Interview

Derek and Gina Roché  are the authors of Bella Goes Bump in the Night, under the  logo of “Bella the Great.”   They began writing children’s books to chronicle the daily lives of their two daughters, Isabella (Bella) and Angelia (Gia).  They are classically trained actors, who have studied at Circle in the Square’s Theatre School.  Derek and Gina have been writing for their own enjoyment for some time.  They have used the start in children’s literature to get them motivated to take their writing  in other mediums and genres more seriously.  My interview today is with Derek, as Gina is working on a film in the middle of a jungle in Sri Lanka for three months.

Before I start the interview, I’ve asked Derek to share his efforts to help a boy who has mitochondrial disease.  Zach needs to travel from Pasadena, CA, to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, to see a doctor who specializes in this specific genetic disorder.

Gina and I are trying to help raise the necessary travel funds to get Zach to Columbus for a potentially life-saving consultation with Dr. Carlo Di Lorenzo.   We are donating 100 percent of the net profits of our book sales for Bella Goes Bump in the Night, to help raise funds for Zach.  If you go to our website Bella the Great, we have given people multiple options.  You can make a direct donation that will go directly to Zach without making a purchase.  You also can use the button that allows you to donate $15 or more and receive the book as a gift.  Visit 17-year-old Zach on his Facebook page, Big Zach’s Village, to learn more about this remarkable teenager.

What is the inspiration behind “Bella Goes Bump in the Night?”

Our oldest daughter Bella (5 1/2 yrs.) is and continues to be our inspiration for the series.  We’ve now added Gia (2 1/2 yrs.) to our inspiration as well.  Bella Goes Bump in the Night came to us quickly after a talk about monsters with her.  She’s always had an incredibly active imagination (in the best way) and it’s something that we’ve marveled at and continually try to nurture in both our girls.  And, Bella has  contributed to some of the later stories.  She wants to be a knight for Christmas.  She doesn’t want to dress up as a knight.  No, Bella wants to actually receive knighthood.  We’re working on it!  Her current wish to be a knight definitely puts the idea of “Bella the Great” being knighted in the forefront of our minds for an upcoming story.

How has Bella responded to being featured in books?  What is Gia like?

Bella has had positive experiences from the book.  She definitely “gets it.”  The other day I overheard her asking the parent of another small child at the park, if she had “her” book?  I believe it has helped her self-confidence.  There have been times when she’s used it as a tool to ease me into the idea that she’s more capable of doing something than I might have given her credit for.   She has uttered on more than one occasion, “Don’t worry Papa, I’m Bella the Great!”  I am in awe of both girls every day.  Gia is the perfect complement to Bella and our family.  Gia is the one who is going to challenge me and give me gray hair.   Gina and I are truly blessed and excited to see the women they will grow up to be.  They show us true greatness every day.

Why did you decide to self-publish?  Did you find it challenging?

We self-published the first book.  That was the plan from the start.  We didn’t think we had enough time to go the traditional route.  We had some very specific goals and needs.  We felt that doing it ourselves would streamline the process.  As with everything, it had both its pros and cons.  Promotion was a foot to pavement scenario (finger to keyboard more so).  Then through friends we became connected to a variety of outlets.  It was very challenging and disheartening at times.   After the fact, we found a great agent, Mollie Glick with Foundry Literary Media.

How did you get your big break with Apple and publishing  on iTunes, iPhones and iPad? 

It was something we looked into in the early stages, but assumed it would take a good deal of time and capital   As it turned out, Gina had reconnected with a high school classmate who was developing apps with a new focus on children’s content.   He loved our book and approached us about developing it as an app, which he then submitted to Apple.  It’s definitely been our best market.  Apple and iTunes have been amazing and have loved Bella the Great.  We were picked as “New and Noteworthy right out of the gate.  We were featured in the banner on the front page of iTunes when we were simultaneously selected as “What’s Hot.”  We were the number two book, second only to Green Eggs and Ham.   They also honored us with a “Staff Favorite” pick.  It’s been a great run and we’re hoping to get another book out on the platform soon.  We love Apple.  We have sold more digital copies than books.  People have given us such positive feedback, but they don’t follow-up and buy the book.

Your sales and reviews took off like wildfire.  How did you feel about receiving the coveted Kirkus Review?

We owe a great thanks to Apple for recognizing a great children’s book.  We’ve never been in touch with anyone at Apple.  Our developer doesn’t talk to anybody.  He made it clear that they are very protective against the possibility of anyone accusing them of favoritism.   The app is doing well when you consider that we were “nobodies.”  We have a German translation included now with Italian, Hebrew and Chinese ready to be integrated.

We didn’t realize what a great honor it was to be noticed and reviewed by Kirkus.  That was exciting!   It definitely helped us to stay on track with this idea that we were on to something.

What are your thoughts about the future of traditional children’s books and apps?

I am very old-fashioned and don’t believe digital media will do away with real books.  I see the impact first hand.  When the girls and I go to the library or book store, it’s like hunting for buried treasures when we search for books.  We take them home, find our favorites, and read them again and again.  It’s personal and intimate.  I don’t get that with book/apps.  Not even our own.  They’d rather read the real book.  I do see apps as an opportunity for writers who are self-publishing or are with smaller imprints.  It can give them that extra little push to get them on board.

What’s next for Derek and Gina?

We have 10 Bella books written with several more story lines in the works, and a stable of non-Bella books too, both written and in their infancy.  We definitely plan on putting more Bella books on iTunes.   We’re working on the second of two new Bella books that our agent will submit to publishers based on earlier feedback.

Thank you Derek for sharing your unique journey with us,  from self-publishing to being the second popular app on iTunes.   I hope you sell a lot of books so that you can raise the funds needed to send Zach to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.  You have a big heart!  Blessings to all,  Patricia