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Diversity and Inclusion, Seeking Acceptance

Tuula Pere Author Interview

The Only Blue Crow follows a lone blue crow that wants nothing more than to be included. What was the inspiration for your story?

I love birds! I often observe their lives, how they find a spouse, make a nest, and defend their space and their little ones. What intrigues me most are their songs! In this book, the blue crow misses many of these elements as he is too alone and feels miserable.

I’m a person with two opposite sides. I feel very happy and comfortable to be connected to other people and enjoy their company, but I also need a lot of private space and time. I have noticed that a balance of these spheres is vital to me.

Like many people, the crow in my book has too much loneliness. He has difficulties in finding his place and trusted friends. He also lacks the confidence of being what he is and compares himself to others to be accepted.

I have met many “lonely crows” in real life, and I’d like to encourage them! I would like to send my greetings to a special little boy whose mother I was talking to some years ago. She was worried about how her son would be accepted at school as he had a physical difference compared to the others. Until then, he had been happy with it, but now he was going to another environment with all new people and had already started to think more about it.

This discussion with that mother is still in my heart. With books like The Only Blue Crow, I try to make children and adults think about and express acceptance and empathy every day. It can make a big difference in many lives.

The art in this book is fantastic. What was the art collaboration process like with the illustrator Catty Flores?

Catty Flores is a wonderful artist and illustrator. We have been working together for many years. We communicate well, and we trust in each other’s professional skills. I am the author, and she wakes my stories alive in pictures!

Our first project together – ”The Survival Stories Series”– was published six years ago. She lived in New Zealand at that time, but the distance didn’t prevent us from working closely together. Modern technology and connections are amazing in connecting people!

Since then, we have made many other books – even series – together. It has always been smooth and positive. We have worked with many sensitive subjects like poverty, loneliness, illness. Welcome home, Pearl, from a series talking about the family life of a disabled child, was chosen even for to latest international IBBY collection of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities, and they included the whole series in their exhibition.

We share a similar understanding with Catty about both the every day “tragedies” and the happy highlights. The message is: there is always a way, and there is always somebody to be by our side! There is a positive and fun way of encouraging children in our “Little Fears Series” and “I did it! Series”, which is important to both of us.

It’s always a pleasure for me to see Catty’s ideas for a new story and start developing the book together with her. I also admire her flexibility and ability to find new ways and styles for various stories.

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

The Only Blue Crow is a book of diversity and inclusion, seeking acceptance and connection to others. It’s also a book of finding the strength in yourself, trusting your own wings, and discovering the world!

I feel strongly connected to the lonely blue crow in his search for happiness. My crow is a symbol of many ways of being different from others. I hope it gives comfort and encouragement for children and adults who suffer from discrimination or are left out for any reason.

In real life, many significant issues in society can cause problems – poverty, culture, religion, gender, to name a few. But even more, minor everyday things can start the difficulties – such as differences in a person’s looks, thoughts, taste, and behavior. It’s essential to understand that these experiences of being included or left out are very individual and personal. They are often secrets, and the others do not notice that something is wrong. Still, they can affect a person’s whole life!

My message is simple. We are individuals, and we should be accepted as individuals! But we also need the others around us. Tolerance and acceptance are crucial to making life happier for everybody.

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

I’m always working simultaneously with several books. Stories are developing in my head, and texts are edited, translated, and illustrated by artists all the time. I love all the steps but working with the illustrator has a unique creative touch! ​

I just received the finished illustrations from Catty Flores for Noise All Over, which is the next book in my “Little Fears Series” this spring. And now, she has just started working with The Giant Legs, probably published before summer, too. These are books about various troubling situations that children meet, sometimes without the others noticing it. My message is that parents, relatives, teachers, and other adults close to children, can do a lot by listening and giving space to children. The little ones have deep feelings under the surface, too. After solving the minor problems and fears, life will be easier all along!

Another of my trusted illustrators, Andrea Alemanno, has just finished illustrating The Stone Garden, which has a unique atmosphere and mysterious visual interpretation. He could surprise me again, although we have worked together many years, too. I love layers of history and the present day, memories and plans, fantasy, and real life. The Stone Garden captures this all in Andrea Alemanno’s pictures.

There is no end to it when I talk about my following books! I am pleased to be inspired repeatedly and find fresh ways to express significant issues – even the most delicate ones – together with other artists. I have had a lot of time to think and write during these special times – suitable for an author! I’m glad to show the newest results soon and hope to meet readers in person again.

Author Links: Facebook | Website

There’s a blue crow who doesn’t know anyone like him. At times he feels terribly lonely.
“Luckily in my home valley there are blue flowers, blue butterflies and a blue sky,” he ponders. The blue crow feels even sadder when the new neighbors, black crows, mock him.
On the advice of a wise owl, the bird embarks on a journey across the sea. There are plenty of things to see. Will there also be other blue birds, and perhaps even another blue crow?

Lullaby of the Valley

Kaina is a grandmother from the valley, she has lived in the village of the valley all her life. Upon the mountain is another small village, and the people all use to be friends. Over time small disagreements broke out, and eventually, all the men decided to go to war with the other village. Families were separated as the men went off, and women and children could no longer shop in the markets or see friends they had from the other village. Everyone was sad or angry in these two villages.

Kaina is saddened at the direction her world has taken. One night she wanders down to the spring that rests between the two villages alone, where her dear friend Siran also arrives. Together they sing a lullaby each in their own language, but the melody and meaning are the same. Their voices reach out across the valley and mountain, and reach all the angry men and change starts to set in.

Lullaby of the Valley is an emotional and heartwarming picture book. The message of hate and distrust is presented in a gentle manner that children will be able to understand. Author Tuula Pere has written about this difficult topic eloquently and illustrator Andrea Alemanno has provided the haunting images to coincide with the topic. The lullaby is a beautiful message of peace and comfort. The two old women use the only tool they have, their voice, to calm the hate and anger in their world. Though from opposing villages, they work together to heal the wounds. The message of helping, loving, and friendship will teach children how even being small they can make a difference in their world.

Lullaby of the Valley will give children a chance to see how small things in life can make a big difference. I would recommend this picture book for all kids and their families, and as a useful story for teachers to show children that kindness can win over anger.

Pages: 30 | ASIN : B07HXGL58C

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The Only Blue Crow

A lone blue crow wants nothing more than to have friends. He tries to make friends with a flock of black crows and they do nothing but make fun of him. Discouraged, the blue crow sets off to find things that make him happy. When bluebells fail to lighten his mood, a wise owl calls him over. The owl tells him he should set out on a journey, that the world is large and perhaps he will find another blue crow on his search. So off the crow flies, hoping to find a reason to be happy and even some new friends.

The Only Blue Crow by Tuula Pere is a picture book that tackles the topics of loneliness, depression, and self-worth through the life of a blue crow. This crow is different from all the other birds he encounters and struggles with the reality that it seems no one will accept him for who he is. In the world today, this message is important as depression and fear of being different are impacting children at younger ages than ever. This thought-provoking story will guide young readers in realizing that different is not wrong or bad. The message of going out and finding those that appreciate you and not staying where you are unwanted is a powerful one.

Illustrator Catty Flores does an amazing job showing the emotions of the blue crow in her artwork. Children will be engaged with the whimsical watercolor style. The illustrations add depth to the story as young readers will be able to see the emotions on the blue crow even if they do not understand the words being used to describe his loneliness.

The Only Blue Crow is an inspirational read for young children. Teachers and parents will find this picture book is a great resource for introducing the tough topics of loneliness and inclusion.

Pages: 48 | ISBN : 9523573101

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Notes On The Train

Notes On The Train by [Loreen de Kort, Chandra Sparks-Splond]

Notes on the Train by Loreen de Kort is a thought provoking collection of impassioned poetry and prose. It includes dozens of poems about a range of themes such as hiding your true feelings for fear of being hurt, allowing others to affect or control how you feel, not seeing the good things about yourself that others can see, feeling unloved, looking outside of yourself for happiness rather than finding it within, not being seen for your true self, not fitting in, feeling lost, not being able to accept help from others, striving for a high goal that has not yet been reached, and questioning what is the meaning of life.

The poems in this book are heartfelt and stirring, and I enjoyed all of them in different ways. Although many of them have a darker theme, there were also many poems that were inspiring and uplifting, which were the ones that I especially liked.

My favorite poem was “Hitting and Missing”, which is about what a mother is missing by having children not outweighing what she didn’t miss–the precious moments with her children. Even as a reader who does not have children of my own, I could relate to this poem because it made me think of my own mother. I also liked the poem about puzzle pieces with each doll holding a different piece which represented a specific emotion or quality that was needed to make a complete whole, and not allowing the sorrow piece to take over. This poem was different than any poem I have read in other books, and I liked the uniqueness of it.

The poems varied in style with differing structures and ranged in length from a short poem with only four lines to poems that were a few pages. I liked this variety in the poems because it ensured that the book did not feel repetitive even though similar themes were used. This book is comprised almost entirely of poems, but I enjoyed the inclusion of the short story as well.

While I did not fully understand some of the poems, I still felt that the poems were stimulating and meditative. I felt that some poetic styles didn’t resonate with me, but I appreciated how the poems conveyed a variety of emotions, some of them dark but all of them were expressive.

Notes on the Train is a stirring poetic exploration of the authors emotions and the struggles anyone faces with depression and the myriad of struggles that life presents. A bold, candid and memorable collection of poetry.

Pages: 57 | ASIN: B09436WNLJ

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Wales High School: First Diagnosis

Wales High School: First Diagnosis (J Peters Autobiography) by [J. Peters]

The Wales High School: First Diagnosis, by J. Peters, is a memoir talking about the first diagnosis of his mental disease. Who could’ve guessed that the blue-haired, chain-smoking teen Jacques was once an academically bright kid straying far away from any social interaction, let alone drugs. The account starts with freshman year at Wales High School, where Jacques is any other academically bright but socially challenged teenager, trying to fit in with the cool kids. It follows his development through high school, and how he ultimately wins the recognition award for “Most Changed”.

The language of the book is crisp and engaging. It hooks the readers right from the first chapter. The book does a fantastic job of describing how mental illness is seemingly invisible to the patient, and how in their mind, their actions are perfectly rational. The book talks about life before the mental health issues arose and shows readers the events that led up to them and then explains what was going through the patient’s mind during treatment.

This is a true to the soul account of a mental health survivor, the book is free from all the glamorization and undertones of extreme morbidity that often are found in books on similar topics. Rather than catch the readers’ eye, the author simply states his story, a true account. This honesty hooks the reader and made me want to know more and dive deeper.

While this is a thought-provoking and authentic story, I felt that the book did not provide a deeper insight into the feelings of Jacques. Even though it does a brilliant job of talking about the thoughts and explaining what a mental health patient thinks, I wanted it to be more emotive. I felt that a deeper dive into the emotions and subconscious of Jacques would have added a greater depth to the entire account.

I really enjoyed Wales High School: First Diagnosis for its extreme candor and simple yet engaging language. With a relatable plot, and short and crisp chapters, the book is hard to put down. It resonates with teenagers going through a similar phase in life and to friends and family who struggle to understand their child, help them, and be there for them. This is by far the truest account that I have come across about mental health issues.

Pages: 110 | ASIN:  B086381MYV

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A Firecracker of a Character

B.A. Bellec
B.A. Bellec Author Interview

Someone’s Story follows a teen struggling with depression along with a host of other high school challenges and finds a group of weirdos that save him from the dark depths of his mind. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I went through a rough patch in life and this started as a journal. After about a half-year of reflecting and journaling, I decided to turn it into fiction. I combined many people from my past to get the robust characters we have at the end. I also play with the timeline as all this did not happen inside a year but rather over 5 or 6 years. As an adult, you get older and you fall out of contact with those people from your past. In a way, this was me letting them know I was always paying attention.

Someone is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Originally it was me. The anxiety and the cleverness, combined with the running. I am a deep-thinking introvert and that side of me comes out in Someone for sure. Where the character took flight was when I combined two people from my past with myself. By bringing in their flaws and trauma I was able to create a firecracker of a character. The decision to leave the character named Someone was because I didn’t feel it was fair to make this from my perspective or to call the main character myself. By just leaving them as Someone, I better honor all the people that rolled into this character.

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

Mental health, friendship, love, loss, pop culture, drug use culture.

I wanted this to read pretty normal for the first 60% so I tried to pull from my past and give genuine heartfelt chapters from my past. I think I also do a good job showing broken homes and “busy” parents. Of course, the ending hits hard and mental health becomes the central theme. Jogging and writing are tools to help with mental health. I am not an expert on mental health in any way but I can say that jogging and writing help balance me. I know when I struggle the most it is because I have let those two things fall off my schedule.

This is a fantastic debut novel. What were some surprising challenges you faced while writing?

I do not have any technical English training. I used a pair of editors to help me with tense and spelling. The editors are critical to my process and both came back to help on my second novel. The plot and characters come naturally to me and I can write 50K words in a few months, then I spend 6+ months going back and forth with the editors. I went down a 2-year rabbit hole learning how to self-publish and then self-market. I had no idea how hard it would be to market a novel. You have to get on social media every single day for years to get steam. My second novel release is going to be so much bigger with all the skills and connections I made along the way though.

Author Links: YouTube | GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Instagram

In his debut endearing coming-of-age book, B.A. Bellec writes about a group of weirdos that find and save each other from the dark depths of their minds. Someone’s Story is literally Someone’s story, as in a first-person narrative of a teenager that calls himself Someone. As he struggles to find a new footing in a new space, we encounter the many ups and downs of modern teenage life, the difficulties that adjusting to adult feelings bring, and a few tear-jerking surprises along the way.

Littered with music, mental health, friendship, loss, meditation, advice, pop culture, and even inspiring an EP, there is so much nostalgia, inspiration, and depth here it is hard to absorb it all. Cozy up somewhere warm and enjoy!

The Price You Pay – Book Trailer

This book explores the journey of a successful Black woman who is trying to balance family, love, and her career.

I used to believe in fairy tales. I knew that one day a Prince Charming would come and sweep me off of my feet, but those fairy tales I once believed in turned into nightmares. I once thought that love didn’t cost a thing, but I was wrong. The wrong love could cost you everything.

This is an emotional memoir that outlines a series of emotional abuse relationships plagued by cheating, jealousy and depression. The main character was able to push through and become motivation for other women who have been emotionally scared.

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Through Hard Work and Tenacity

Will Hallewell
Will Hallewell Author Interview

Driven follows a young man who fights to achieve his dreams while trying to pull his dad out of his depression. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I was asked to participate in the Legacy Series of teen sports novels by my publisher and gladly accepted. At that same time, my wife and I were on the phone with my stepson who had played high school sports, and I asked him to help me develop a theme. He had gone through what Gabe had to go through with the rich kids in school getting playing time over those who had played hard for their four years and felt thrust aside because of wealthy parents. The theme was established.

The depression arc with Gabe’s father was based on my depression and the struggle I encountered to even get up off of the couch some days. Even though I didn’t drink my way through it, the struggle is very hard. Whenever I get the opportunity to talk about it or help others through it, I do. The white fleece jacket that Gabe’s father wore was the same one I wore each and every day of my depression. It was my security blanket, keeping me mentally safe.

Gabe is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Every story has to have conflict and a hero to fight through it. Realizing what was going on in his town and that he was the only one who could help himself achieve his dreams, I wanted to use Gabe to bring focus to teenagers the concept that life isn’t handed to them, they have to go out and get it on their own through hard work and tenacity. In today’s world where so many young kids fall into that “me” mentality, I also wanted to stress the importance of family. No one is more important than family. And although I realize that not everyone has the same core family of mother and father, they still have parental role models. And, good or bad, we all need to be there for our families and friends.

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

The fact that money can’t buy you everything, the importance of family and helping those in need, and the possibility that life can be lived and conflict can be resolved with “No Hate in the Heart”. Those were the main themes.

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

I have written a series of mid-grade books called The Gazore Series, which is an older kid’s tribute to Dr. Seuss, and am currently working on turning that into a podcast with 9 episodes completed so far. My current sports book is a hockey book entitled Blindsided. The Gazore Series and Podcast are available now and Blindsided I hope to get finished soon. I am approximately two-thirds of the way through that.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Good or bad, money can be a major factor in everyone’s lives. In the lives of Charlie Shaw and his family, however, it’s what makes them happy and what makes them popular.
When they move into the small town of Falls Creek, divisions of people who have known each other for years begin to occur, and the town becomes split by the creek that bears its name. On the north side resides the Shaws and those who have latched on to their money to try and better themselves, their social status, and their baseball team’s bottom line.
On the south side, there is no influence, only layoffs at the factory. Layoffs and sadness and depression.
Gabe “Honus” Wagner is a senior at Falls Creek High school, and his family is feeling the crunch of the layoffs, his father slipping deeper and deeper into depression. All Gabe wants is a chance to get to the regional game where he and his senior friends will get to display their talents for the scouts of the nation’s biggest schools, but Nate Shaw – Charlie Shaw’s freshman son – has other ideas.
Can Gabe overcome the misguided lure of money as well as help his father out of his depression, or will he lose his chance at a scholarship and his dreams? Driven to succeed, he has to do whatever it takes with no hate in his heart.
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