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I Want To Encourage Children

Kathleen J. Shields Author Interview

The First UniBear follows a cub that through acts of kindness and compassion grows a unicorn horn and spreads acts of kindness all around the forest. When you wrote your story at the age of ten what was your inspiration?

I absolutely adore Unicorns and I loved watching the Care Bears. I never understood why there weren’t unicorns in the “Land without Feelings” or why there wasn’t a bear with a unicorn horn and special magical gift. That’s how the idea came to me to combine them.

I began by wondering why no one could SEE unicorns. I determined that they DO exist, that they are rare, and we haven’t “Earned” the ability to see them. Then I began wondering what we could do to EARN the ability. Being a good person, doing good things, that was a given, but there were plenty of good people in the world that couldn’t see unicorns. So there had to be more to it. That’s when I came up with the “Pay it Forward” idea (long before that movie came out). You have to help one person, then that person has to help another person, and down the line. So by having met all of those challenges, you could have the gift… but would you know it?

As a child, I hadn’t helped save someone yet, so that made sense as to why I hadn’t grown a horn. As an adult though, editing my rhyming story – yes, I wrote it in rhyme at ten years of age, and no, I will not share that hilarious version, I realized that it may be because I hadn’t met a unicorn yet, muchless, SAVED a unicorn. I had met horses, but none of them needed saving. There were a lot of dominoes that need to be lined up just right to get to that miraculous gift.

So in my mind, I still instilled the idea that you should all do good deeds, help each other and be kind, because in that rare chance a unicorn is involved one day – I want to earn that horn!

I really loved the artwork and character renditions. You drew some of the illustrations when you were ten what was it like working with illustrator Aashay Utkarsh to turn your vision into the final artwork?

I wrote a blog post late last year entitled “My memories behind the upcoming book” https://www.kathleenjshields.com/authors/the-first-unibear-my-memories-behind-the-upcoming-childrens-book/ and in that post, I shared the original illustration I drew at 10 years of age. It really was adorable (in my own opinion) but Aashay added a level of depth, emotion, and detail that I could never fathom! Finding him was a blessing from God and it was all due to covid! During the lockdown, so many authors that I had met over the years had extra time on their hands and they all wanted to do children’s books. Since I had done so many illustrated books, they came to me.

Over the course of the year, I worked with nearly a dozen different illustrators across the globe to help illustrate their children’s books, but it wasn’t until I saw Aashay’s first page (of another author’s book) that Unibear came rushing back to my mind. I hadn’t thought of Unibear for half a decade, easy! I had lost my father nearly three years earlier. The will to even attempt it had been shelved, and yet, seeing Aashay’s first sketch ignited that spark within me! I immediately asked him if he could draw a teddy bear and a unicorn and what he sketched for me made me feel like that 10-year-old girl – all giddy and excited! I told him he HAD to do my book (as soon as he finished with the other author) and I have been utilizing his illustrations since, in many other authors’ works.

Working with him has been an absolute joy! He understands what I want, and adds a flair and thrill to his work that I haven’t seen from any of the other illustrators. I’ve started projects with a half dozen more this year alone, only to be grossly disappointed. Good illustrators that just disappear or don’t return messages. Illustrators that charge a ton and submit subpar work… maybe Aashay has spoiled me. All I know is he was a blessing and he’s definitely a keeper!

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Originally, I just wanted to tell a story. I wanted it to be nice and magical and, as a ten-year-old girl who moved a lot, I wanted to make friends (out of a unicorn and bear of course). As an adult and author, my primary focus with all of my books is to educate and inspire. I want to encourage children to use their imagination, to do good, help others, and to believe that anything is possible. I want my stories to be fun and entertaining, and I don’t want to present major protagonists. I feel childhood is difficult enough without throwing so much ‘bad’ at them. And I wanted the story to be thought-provoking and a conversation started, which I believe it is.

I feel that 3rd, 4th and maybe even 5th graders can gain a lot from this story, especially Christian schools! Teachers could have the students point out Christian symbolism throughout the book; like the butterfly, the light leading the way, the ability to see with belief, and so much more. I even put together a document that detailed scripture along with questions of the theme which is available on my website.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I currently do not have an official book in the works. I have started a memoir but that has a long way to go! I also started writing a funny book about dogs, but it will be a chapter book. My illustrator for the Hamilton Troll series has come out of hiding and might want to work on the next part of the series… we’ll see. None of those are really inspiring me at the moment, and as any good author will tell you – when you force it, the readers can tell. A good story flows through you like warm chocolate cocoa on a bitter cold day. It comes to you like a frosty breeze and dares you not to shiver! When a story comes to an author, you have a very short amount of time to get as much of it written as you can because when that muse takes off, you’re left out in the cold without your cocoa. And for me… I want it to require illustrations because I want to work with Aashay again.

I am very grateful for the reception Unibear has received, all of the wonderful reviews, the awards it has already won, along with its stellar first day almost breaking the Amazon Top 100 Best Selling books in its respective categories! I honestly feel there are more awards coming up, and I have a dream of a screenplay making this inspirational and important story into a movie! Whether or not it makes it all the way is entirely up to God! Thank you for your support and don’t forget, “The First Unibear” is not only a full-color hardback book, but you can also get the full story in the black and white coloring book, for those young eyes that need a bit more activity to keep their attention.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website1 | Website2

This happy-go-lucky little Bear cub loves to explore! One day he follows a butterfly into the dark woods where he sees a curious sight and a shimmering light. A beautiful white horse needs help and this tiny young bear hurries to save him. What follows is a magically inspirational tale of what can happen if you follow your heart, have good in your soul, and do good deeds.

Grandpa’s Lessons on Fishing and Life

Grandpa’s Lessons on Fishing and Life by Ruthie Godfrey is a nostalgic story about a boy going fishing with his Grandpa. Together they spend the day enjoying each other’s company, and Grandpa imparts some wisdom to his grandson. While sounding like fishing advice, the knowledge that he shares also serve as important life lessons.

With the thirteen lessons shared, children will be shown how to be prepared for situations, look to those older and wiser for advice on how to do things, learn the value of sharing, and appreciate even the small things in life. I enjoyed how the lessons started out light-hearted with “do not bring a banana on a fishing boat.” Next, the lessons moved to more practical ones and then to serious ones such as being a good human with the lesson of “share the wealth.”

The illustrations by Pable D’Alio are eye-catching, with a unique caricature style and watercolor look. Children will enjoy looking through the pictures as they go through the book. In addition, the artwork gives the story extra character as the story’s text is simple. Together they make this picture book a wonderful creation.

Grandpa’s Lessons on Fishing and Life is a whimsical picture book for preschool through elementary school children. The images and story are easy enough for younger audiences, whereas the nuances of life lessons will be picked up by older kids. This is an excellent book for families sharing the joy of a multigenerational family structure.

Pages: 36 | ASIN : B08L8KNXTT

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The First UniBear

A brave bear cub loves to explore the forest he lives in. There are so many wonderful animals and things to see in nature. One day he follows a butterfly even into the dark part of the woods he hasn’t been into before. Continuing to follow the butterfly, he finds a clearing with shimmering light. Laying in the clearing is a horse that looks hurt, and Bear rushes over to help the horse. The horse is caught in a vine, and Bear is able to free him. He is rewarded with seeing the horse for his true self, a unicorn. Bears good deed starts a chain reaction of kindness and compassion through the woods, and soon the unicorn magic is spreading to all the animals in the forest.

The First UniBear, written by Kathleen J. Shields, started as a project when she was only ten years old. This beautifully written picturebook contains the messages of kindness, compassion, and faith. Bear’s pure heart and compassion for others allowed him to receive his horn. His good friend Bunny prayed for a chance to meet a unicorn and had faith that they existed even though she had never seen one. Once Bunny helps save a baby squirrel, she gains the ability to see a horn on Bear. Surprised, Bear and Bunny talk to Unicorn again and learn how kindness spreads and how showing compassion is contagious.

At critical moments in this story, there are references to scriptures. This is a great way to introduce the sometimes confusing concepts of scripture to young children. The whimsical rhyming style by Shields gives the story an excellent flow and makes it a joy to read aloud to children.

Complementing the touching storyline is the bold and colorful artwork of Aashay Utkarsh. The art style brings characters to life with expressive faces, and the scenery highlights the emotions that go along with the story on each page.

The First UniBear is a heartwarming picture book sharing the love of God with children and teaching them how they too can spread love and kindness to help make the world a better place.

Pages: 45 | ASIN : B09DM64V6F

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Addison Braves Brazil

Addison’s family is planning a trip to Brazil, and Addison is preparing herself for quite the adventure. What begins as some light reading to become familiar with the beaches she is looking forward to visiting becomes something a little less inspiring. Before she knows it, Addison is reading about some of Brazil’s less appealing features, and she begins to dread their trip as she pictures herself amidst a plethora of jungle-dwelling bats, bugs, and snakes! Will her trip be everything she fears? Or will she find a different side of Brazil–one that will amaze her and leave her with fun memories?

Addison Braves Brazil, written by Laura James and illustrated by Jasmine Smith, follows young Addison as she travels with her family, meets new people, and finds herself having a very different experience than the one she anticipated. James’s book offers young readers a look at Brazil while also addressing issues with which readers will relate to including bullying, some common medical problems, and children’s misconceptions.

Addison Braves Brazil is the second in a series by the author. This book has a unique structure and offers readers a thorough look at a long list of words that begin with the letter “b.” While it is written for readers who are typically older than those who are studying initial consonants, it is a great addition to school libraries and classroom libraries for grades K-5. There are many ways James’s book can be incorporated into a curriculum. The author has essentially handed parents and teachers a wonderful tool filled with vocabulary words and their definitions used in context–a teacher’s dream come true.

Addison Braves Brazil is a children’s adventure story that is a great addition to a child’s library. Within one book, young readers will be introduced to nearly 40 pages that are filled with challenging vocabulary words. James’s work is an asset to any parent, homeschool, curriculum, or classroom. It is short enough to read in a couple of sittings and lays the framework for some great discussions for both teachers and students. As a teacher, I look forward to more installments in this series.

Pages: 41 | ASIN : B09SBS5622

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How Do We Live With Our Mortality?

Author Interview William Loizeaux

Into the Wind follows a young boy who, while fixing up a sailboat, befriends his elderly neighbor. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

When I was a boy, I had a feisty, independent, widowed and elderly aunt who was an artist and loved sailing.  As she aged, she didn’t seem to mellow or retire or relax, but seemed to come even more alive, to throw herself with increasing energy at what she loved, even as that became more difficult.  She painted with a trembling, arthritic hand.  Some weeks before she died, she managed—in a wheelchair!—to get herself into a small boat and, with the help of someone who held the rudder, sail through some rough weather.  That was the germ of Into the Wind

Was there anything from your own life that you incorporated into Rusty’s and Hazel’s relationship?

Yes.  There is a certain amount of my relationship with my aunt in Rusty’s relationship with Hazel.  Like Hazel, my aunt was odd and demanding—you might even say cantankerous.  We rubbed each other the wrong way.  But she took an interest in me, and slowly I took an interest in her and came to appreciate her quirky sense of humor, the challenges she faced and the wisdom she had as an aging woman who mostly got around in a wheelchair.  We became unlikely friends.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The main theme was intergeneration friendship.  How could that happen between a boy with his life ahead of him and a woman near the end of hers?   What might connect them?  What might each of them gain from that connection?  

Our mortality is another theme, something that children from eight to twelve are beginning to grapple with.  By then they may have lost a loved pet or, worse, a relative.  How do we think about that?  How do we live with our mortality?  Maybe Hazel shows Rusty a way.  Sadly, life comes to an end, but it can be filled, like Hazel’s, with curiosity, fun, humor, generosity, growth, energy, friendship, love, wonder, and meaning—all of which might be passed from one generation to another.  I hope that’s what readers feel and understand when they finish Into the Wind.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I write books for children and adults, and I’m usually working one or the other, or sometimes both.  At the moment, I have an adult nonfiction draft on my screen and parts of a children’s story in a folder on the side of my desk.  When might they be available?  I don’t know, as I haven’t finished them yet.  Sometime soon.  Fingers crossed.  Information about my previous books is available on my website.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

A character-driven novel about the unlikely friendship between a 10-year-old boy and an elderly woman. The old woman badgers the boy into taking her sailing, but when the weather turns bad, it becomes a wild sail. It becomes the last trip before she goes into the hospital where she dies: but not before the two of them share memories of their last sail together. Hazel helps build the boy’s confidence during a tough time in his home life. Both moving and joyful, Into the Wind is a poignant story about loss and love in a boy’s life, and the surprising and sustaining bonds that can grow between the old and young.

Ursamer

There is something wrong with the world, and there has been for many years. A change is taking place, and, if left unchecked, it will forever alter the world as we know it. Something else strange is happening, and none of those who encounter this anomaly can explain it. A unique young girl and her stunning sled dog appear in random places, and, as suddenly as they show up, they are gone. They have, but one goal in mind and only have a short time in which to accomplish it.

Karina McRoberts, author of Ursamer: A Treasury of Feel-Good Stories Book 2, has delivered a socially-conscious book designed to build a more solid understanding of global warming and its most certain impact on the environment. But, more importantly, McRoberts’s tale illustrates how challenging it is for those struggling to raise awareness to successfully make their point to society.

This beautifully written short story is constructed so that young readers will easily be able to follow the story and the message the author is trying to convey. Each short chapter takes readers to a different location with Ursamer and her dog Nuga. The frustration she feels is apparent, and as her block of ice melts, her hope diminishes as well. Topics of language barriers, misunderstandings, and ignorance are presented alongside the message of climate change. However, this educational story is not all sad. There are moments of joy and understanding, and showing kindness and compassion still exists.

Ursamer: A Treasury of Feel-Good Stories Book 2 is a thought-provoking short story for children between ages eight and twelve, ideal for older elementary and middle-grade students. While the book’s topic is one that younger readers can and should begin to explore, it would make for excellent guided reading or as a teacher-led book due to the vocabulary and writing style. This is also the perfect story to introduce the topic of climate change to younger students.

Pages: 33 | ASIN : B09J1VN6N9

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A Calf Named Brian Higgins

A Calf Named Brian Higgins, written by Kristen Ball, is a child-friendly story that addresses serious and interesting topics, including poverty, different cultures, friendship, mourning death, and personal development. The story follows Hannah Higgins, a typical grumpy teenager from suburban New York who is dragged to the plains of rural Kenya to visit her Uncle, Brian Higgins, while he is there doing charity work. Leaving behind her comfortable American lifestyle for one that is drastically less comfortable poses many challenges that Hannah needs to overcome, such as limited access to fresh water. By spending time with the local people and being immersed in the culture, she slowly understands why her Uncle loves Sauri so much.

This story answers a couple of important questions. How would a typical white teenager react to going into rural Africa? And what does it take for that teenager to change their perspective on their life? Ball tackles both of these questions in a way that is simple enough for children to understand but sophisticated enough for all ages to appreciate. This is a story of personal growth. Hannah goes from a naive and unworldly teenager to an individual who begins to value her life, others around her, and opportunities wholeheartedly.

Ball’s debut novel was written based on her experiences of being the first westerner to live in Sauri, the Kenyan village where her story is set. Therefore the book touches on many of her first-hand experiences, enabling her to paint a far more vivid and authentic landscape of an environment many Westerners (especially children) are likely not to be familiar with. Ball’s spin on the story’s events helps to give the story a more genuine and sincere feel. The reader is not being presented with a shallow story from someone with limited knowledge of these complex topics. Still, they’re experiencing the insight of someone who lived under these circumstances.

A Calf Named Brian Higgins is a fantastic novel to introduce children to heavy and challenging topics, such as poverty or entitlement, in a simple and engaging way. It’s essential for children to be exposed to several cultures and walks of life, and reading this novel with them and discussing it would be a great starting point.

Pages: 272 | ASIN : B07DNKC7G4

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Into the Wind

Into the Wind by William Loizeaux is a children’s story about how an unlikely friendship develops between a young boy and an older woman in a wheelchair. It takes place during a difficult summer for both on the island where they live. After Rusty’s mother is admitted to an inpatient treatment facility on the mainland for depression, Rusty’s neighbor gives him an old sailboat that he works on repairing and learning how to sail. Hazel is a widow whose family lives far away on the west coast, and she hires Rusty to do odd jobs around the house for her to earn a bit of money. As they spend time together, the two find that they share an unexpected connection. 

The author has an engaging writing style that will draw readers into the story. The main character is relatable and believable, with a sometimes humorous point of view. This heartwarming story takes place on an island, and the author’s descriptions of the boats and water paint a vivid picture of the quaint tourist town where Rusty and his family lived. I could easily imagine the smell of the sea and the sound of the seagulls as they flew over the boats tied to the dock as though I was experiencing what Rusty did in the story.

I learned a lot of interesting things about sailing while reading this book, and I liked that various sailing terms were explained organically throughout the story for readers who are not familiar with sailboats. The author also includes a glossary of nautical terms at the end of the book. Watching the friendship between Rusty and Hazel is magical. Two people so different, in different stages of life, can find common ground and connect on a deep emotional level. They are both going through some challenging moments in their lives, and spending time with each other helped them cope.

This memorable book includes illustrations by Laura Jacobsen. They are done in shades of gray, like pencil drawings. They really add to the story as they are sparsely used and added to key moments in the story. My favorite was the image of Rusty pushing Hazel through the park with cards clipped to her wheelchair wheels. The innocence and simplicity of the scene remind readers to hold onto the small moments in life.

Into the Wind is a middle grades level chapter book. This emotional story deals with friendship, compassion, death, and grief. It is a wonderful story to help kids learn about love and loss and about the importance of treasuring the moments you have with people.

Pages: 138 | ASIN : B08PDGZRXS

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