Jai the Albino Cow is a lovely children’s book that teaches kids how special it is to be different. What was your inspiration for this book?
During a holiday in Austria while hiking going uphill, I felt exhausted and lay down on a grazing pasture. A brown calf approached and licked my face. That loving gesture was indelibly printed in my mind.
Once back home in Germany, I had an idea to write a story about cows. I vividly remember that the story lead was going to be a female and her name is Gundula. The idea landed on a list I keep for children’s story topics. I wrote, “Once upon a time, there were three cows Gold Bell, Spotty and their sister Gundula. They lived with their mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Moo, in the alpine meadows of Nocky mountains. Gold Bell always wore…”
On another occasion visiting my home country Tanzania, I observed more cows in the pastures of Usambara Mountains. Soon after, the story idea developed further with themes from my motherland. I desired to create a main character who is female, different and also have her story address the topic of human diversity.
In some African countries, people with albinism have suffered and are still suffering from discrimination and other horrendous acts including being hunted for their body parts for magic potions by witch doctors. We can help solve this problem through stories which teach love and respect from an early age, such as in this book which uses a cow as the protagonist.
The book is told in both English and Swahili. Why did you want to tell this story in both languages?
My mother tongue Swahili is spoken not only in Tanzania but also in the neighbour countries of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique. The intention to have a bilingual story was with a hope that the message will have a great impact and reach many more, particularly in areas where albinos are maligned.
I loved the art in this book. It was both artful and bright. What was the art collaboration like with Nikki Ng’ombe?
Nikki is a daughter of a friend. Besides being acquainted with each other, she is very professional and delivers concrete results. We have worked together in another book project and already knew each other’s pace of work. She grasped quickly the vision I had for this book. I will certainly work with her again if not occupied by studies.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently proofreading a manuscript for a children’s Swahili book co-authored by Tanzanian writers. We intend to publish this year.
Can an albino cow possess abilities to be admired by other cows?
Anjait (Jai) is Ankole cow who lived with her family in Kole Hills. Jai suffers from albinism. Other cows thought she was cursed. One day, Jai shocked other cows for doing something that no other cow did before. She also surprised them with a magical skill.
What is it that Jai did as the first ever cow? Will her actions and skill help bring love and respect to albino cows?
Get your copy now to find out the answers and reveal to your children the importance of showing kindness and respect to everyone, even if they look different.
Posted in Interviews
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Lamellia: The Wicked Queen takes place in a magical mushroom kingdom where a baby appears and causes suspicions to rise. What was the inspiration behind this books story line?
Lamellia: The Wicked Queen is a story continuation that was begun in Lamellia: The Kingdom of Mushrooms. Sometime in May 2012, I saw a big and ugly brown mushroom during a forest walk. Thereafter, I began paying attention to mushrooms. One day, I had an idea to write a story involving mushrooms.
In August 2015 while visiting Austria, I photographed a lot of mushrooms as well as visited a mushrooms museum for further character inspiration. The inkling to include a human baby in the story was inspired by the movie Avatar.
Nobilia is an interesting character. What were some driving ideals behind her character arc?
After publishing the first book, I was mostly in disbelief for having written a story involving mushrooms taking care of a human baby. A sequel story wasn’t in my mind because I doubted myself with the absurdity of the story which I have shared with the public.
The idea for a follow-up-story was instigated by a potential reviewer of the first book. She declined to write a review as it would be totally negative. Instead, she took time to write a long feedback and potential ideas for a sequel. She had some ideas all involving a conniving queen. I took the backbone of her suggestions–an evil queen–and created Nobilia.
The reviewer concluding words were, “…I get excited when I meet someone who can write really well. I love seeing them succeed…”
The art in this book is beautiful. What was the art collaboration like with Katerina Brunot?
Katerina Brunot was a contact through an online magazine acquaintance. We spent ten months communicating back and forth, her based in the USA and myself in Germany. It was pleasant working with her. At one point, she was unable to continue due to sickness. She offered to involve someone else and have a combination of illustrations from herself and another illustrator of my choice. I declined and agreed to wait until she recovered. I will not hesitate to work with her in the future.
What do you hope young readers take away from your story?
- Learning the importance of showing kindness, following the rules and understanding consequences.
- Enthused to go outdoors and learn from nature.
- All inhabitants of this world (living and non‐living) deserve to be respected and loved.
- If we care to listen, nature selflessly gifts us all the time with artistic inspirations such as stories and poems.
Can a human baby possibly be a mushroom?
When King Polipoli, the ruler of Lamellia, finds a human baby in his mushroom kingdom, he adopts it immediately to satisfy his wifes desire to be a mother.
But when the baby mysteriously grows weaker and weaker under the queens care, suspicions start to arise.
What is the queen doing to the baby? How did the baby get there? Will it survive and fulfil its purpose before it’s too late?
Get your copy now to find out the answers and reveal to your children the importance of showing kindness, following the rules, and understanding consequences.
Posted in Interviews
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Jason Hensley has taken a very difficult subject, filled with darkness and sorrow and brought forth a glimmer of light. There have been many history books written on the Holocaust from many perspectives, but Hensley has taken a fresh approach to the subject. Anyone studying this period of history knows the horrors that awaited the Jews under Hitler but few history books talk about the children that do survive. Even fewer talk about the people that made it so children of Jewish families could have a chance at life. Hensley’s focus in Part of the Family is on the children that were taken in by the Christadelphians families and their stories. Part of the Family is not your traditional history book filled with facts, rather it gives you a brief overview of who the Christadelphians are, and than a collection of mini biographies of some of the children. This is also the first book in a collection that Hensley is working on to fill the gap in this area of history.
Part of the Family gives a brief overview of who the Christadelphians are, and what they believe. It does not go deeply in-depth to make this a history of religion, rather just enough to give the reader an overview of the mindset of the families that foster these Jewish children. It documents the lives of nine children and their experiences with the Kindertransport. The families are not just from Germany, included are also families from Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Poland. The general format of the biographies are: brief overview of the climate that the children were born into for their time/location, the decline of their families situation, the Kindertransport, meeting their new families and their life with them, than after the fact. Hensley tries to give as much information on what happened to the families of these children, in some cases the children are reunited years later, however in most cases, the families do perish at the hands of the Nazis.
In describing the Christadelphians Hensley makes sure to emphasizes that despite their devote and very structured Christian beliefs, none of the families ever forced or pressured the children to convert. They lived with the families as if they were their own children, participating in all the activities, including daily bible readings and attending meetings with the family. However, none were forced to be baptized into the Christadelphians faith. While some did ultimately choose that path, it was of their own choosing when they were near adulthood. For the families that took in the Jewish children, this quote seams to sum up the way they treated the foster children, “Perhaps, then, one of the most important questions to ask ourselves is how our own beliefs affect our actions – and whether these beliefs are truly influencing our actions for good” (Hensley, 2016, p.182). This mentality of showing the children kindness and good in the world despite all the misery they had faced, influenced them all in positive ways. The children in this collection all went on to have fulfilling lives of their own and often kept in touch with their foster families.
This book gives a compassionate overview into this period of history. It shows that there are good people out there that do things simply because it’s the right thing to do. These are not children that went on to be famous or necessarily do great things, they are every day kids that suffered deeply and came out on the other side to make a life for themselves. Overall a great supplement to the standard history texts on the Holocaust and the start of a great project by Hensley to bring these stories to light.
Pages: 442 | ISBN: 1532740530
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