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Begin Leading An Even Happier Life

Jennifer Decker Author Interview

Oliver and the Wishing Star follows a young boy who becomes a dog but finds that it’s not what he thought it would be and learns to appreciate his life. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Growing up, we always had a lot of animals. I often thought to myself how animals have the good life, especially our dogs. As a former preschool teacher and having spent a couple decades working in Children’s Ministry, I found the topic frequently talked about amongst children. The thing is, everyone’s life has both the good and the bad, and we should be grateful for who we are and what we have. And that’s the inspiration behind my story.

I loved the art in this book. What was the art collaboration process like with illustrator Chrish Vindhy?

Working with Chrish Vindhy was a wonderful experience, and we’ve become good friends ever since. In the beginning, she asked me for my manuscript and what the breeds of the dogs in the story were, and within two weeks she got back to me with her sample illustrations, and I was smitten. She captured my vision perfectly. Except for the cover, I let Chrish have complete artistic freedom in creating the entire book in black and white sketches. With only a few changes, I approved them. After that she enhanced everything with color, and with a few minor color changes we were good to go, and I handed it over to my graphic designer, Tia Perkin, to work her magic. Good relationships are vital when creating. I could honestly say that Chrish was ideal to work with, and I look forward to working with her again in the future. And highly recommend her as an illustrator.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

I hope everyone who reads my book or listens to it is left feeling more grateful and appreciative of who they are and what they have—and begin leading an even happier life—and also shares what they’ve learned and experienced with others.

Do you have plans to write more children’s books featuring Oliver?

I certainly do! “Cooper’s Wish” is in the works. Where Oliver’s dog thinks that kids have the good life and wishes upon a star and becomes a boy. I’ve also started another as well. I didn’t plan for it to be a series, but my imagination is running wild regarding numerous story ideas.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website



HAVE YOU EVER WISHED UPON A STAR? What did you wish for? In this unforgettable story, Oliver thinks dogs have the good life until one evening when he sees a falling star, makes a wish to become a dog…and that wish magically comes true! At first, he’s on Cloud 9, but soon things take an unexpected turn, and Oliver begins to miss the old life he once had. Will Oliver ever make it home, or is he destined to remain a dog forever?

This book is destined to become a CLASSIC and a FAVORITE your child will ask you to read over and over again! Filled with laugh out loud humor, and moments that will touch your heart. Sure to become a book you and your whole family will treasure and enjoy time and time again!

Remember How We Felt When We Were Little

Tuula Pere Author Interview

Do You See Me at Home follows a small child that struggles with big feelings and needs the adults in their life to comfort and reassure them things will be ok. What was the inspiration for your story?

This book is one of three belonging to “Do You See Me? Series.” I wrote the books because I believe my experiences as a mother of three can be helpful for young families.

I have always been sensitive to observing everyday situations between young children and their parents. I often notice that adults somehow look past the children even when a little attention is needed.

It is often a matter of small things that grow into big problems unless they are dealt with compassion right away. In many situations, we can choose to behave kindly and smoothly to make everyone do better. I don’t mean that we should accept all requests or whims of the child. On the contrary, we must help children find their place and limits safely and learn to trust that they receive support when needed.

I want to remind the reading adults that you have to listen to your child, even in the middle of a rush. Creating a sense of security is one of the most important things. It is also easier for the child to face strange and scary things in such an atmosphere.

Children must make their voices heard, even when they cannot express themselves adequately. An observant adult can sense what is going on, even without words. We have to empathize and remember how we felt when we were little.

How do you use social media as an author?

I admit that I am a beginner as a social media user. Our publishing company, Wickwick, has a lot of online activity in marketing and sales. For my part, I connect with all my stakeholders by participating in producing the publishing company’s material.

In addition, I have both the Tuula Pere Author and the personal Tuula Pere Facebook pages. My friends and readers there include very different people interested in children’s literature — readers, writers, illustrators, publishers, and many of my dear old supporters. I also use LinkedIn to talk about books and writing internationally. I try to find a suitable way to meet people on each channel. They are different depending on the media and have different expectations.

I’m also quite active in the Publishers without Borders group, an engaging Facebook community born during the pandemic. It’s incredible how fast such networks can spread! There are about 4,500 people from the book industry in this community, and I have already met some at the international book fairs and publishing fellowship programs.

And I recommend my Warm Values Blog to you! I write there on a more general level on topics that I consider essential and exciting – such as Author’s Voice, Parenthood, Society, and Inspiration. My purpose is to get my readers to ponder various societal themes with an empathetic approach. I may reflect on recent events around us, or go back in history, describe observations from my travels, and thoughts behind my books.

In Warm Values Blog, I sometimes open my personal experiences of family life, being a mother and child, or layered memories of my family’s many generations. – My modest and ordinary grandparents would have been amazed reading about how much they have influenced my thinking and writing!

If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?

When I answer questions like this, I often choose some past writer. My companion would now be Mika Waltari (1908¬–1979), a versatile Finnish writer who was a professional writer for almost every kind of literary assignment. In addition to the smooth pen, he had a broad knowledge base and studies that gave depth to his social reflections.

He was so productive and successful that many people in the book industry and literature field envied him. He seemed to be capable of writing anything and adapting his gifts to very different uses and audiences. He wrote great historical novels, film scripts, crime novels, plays, essays, poems, and rhymed texts for newspaper comics. And was well-paid, too!

I chose to spend my imaginary day with Waltari, as I am a great admirer of his most famous novel worldwide, The Egyptian. But as a writer of many travel stories, he would undoubtedly be an expert as a traveling companion, preferably on a train.

I traveled alone by train around Europe for a month at a young age. I made a lot of observations about different regions, people and their habits and languages, and history, too. There was a lot for a young traveler to ponder and melt together. Young Waltari did the same thing and wrote a novel about that. No doubt, we would have a lot to discuss about our findings on the way – at least for one day together!

Have you ever traveled as research for your book?

I enjoy traveling a lot because it helps me understand life more broadly. The goal of my travels is simply to see and experience, perhaps learn something new and connect it to my previous experiences and knowledge. All this belongs to refining one’s personality.

As I walk around and explore things and meet people, I get new ideas, and old ones develop further. Everything gathers deep in my mind, where it matures – hopefully even into a story worth telling others. I guess I don’t travel to collect material but gain life experience and clarify and refresh my thinking.

In my children’s books, the stories travel around the world. In this way, I want to connect children across all borders – visible or invisible. The ingredients in these stories come from somewhere deeper than my travels. They come from the journeys my brain and heart have made.

But who knows if the more concrete “mental souvenirs” from my journeys could later be used in books for adults? The caches of my memory are already quite packed at this age.

So far, I’ve not written much for adults – mainly non-fiction. But I have published one collection of my short stories for adults in Finnish. And in some of them, I have put a few extraordinary situations and events from my travels abroad.

Maybe it’s soon time to start writing about this lifelong journey for adults. But it takes a new kind of courage!

Author Links: Facebook | Website

What should you do when your playing time is cut short or news reports are scary? What if no one has time to listen to you when you come home?
Many ordinary situations can be difficult for young people, and that’s when you need a grown-up’s support. With a warm heart and playful mind, families can fin

A Fun, Entertaining Book with a Positive Role-Model

Once Upon a Dance Author Interview

Dance Stance, Beginning Ballet for Young Dancers teaches readers, children, and adults, how to improve their posture with tips from an actual ballerina. Why was this an important book to write?

We’re making the books I wished for as a dance teacher and mom. I loved watching things click for my daughter when she’d have a new teacher describe things differently, so giving kids more ways to think about technique as well as a fun, entertaining book with a positive role-model was important. As a teacher with decades’ experience teaching all ages, these highlight some of the most effective descriptions that have helped my students. Weaved in are helpful lessons and tips from a ballerina that we wanted to share.

I love Prisilla the cat, where did the idea to include her come from?

​My illustrator added the kitty cat sidekick – it makes the book so special. We actually did a social media vote for the kitty’s name and got many great ideas—in the final draft, the cat’s name is Ballerina Kittina.

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

The first book I wrote for this age group was actually all about falling, but I went back and created Dance Stance, thinking that was a better starting point. So Falling into Dance is next up, and then we want to deep dive into turning after that.

One of the messages from Dance Stance is that ballet doesn’t have to be life-consuming. I quit cold turkey when I was fourteen because I didn’t know how to take just a few classes – it felt like it had to be all (40 hours a week) or nothing, and I’ve talked to so many people who had similar experiences, some who returned to dance years later wishing they never stopped.

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

Eka and the Elephants arrives in a few weeks. It’s part of the Dance-It-Out! series for kids ages 4-7.

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

Aspiring dancers adore the clever mix of wit, wisdom, anecdotes, and how-to instruction from a professional ballerina. Throughout the award-winning debut of ballet inspiration, young readers explore posture while standing, on tiptoes, and on one leg. A tutu-wearing kitty sidekick joins Ballerina Konora and friends, adding humor and lighthearted encouragement.
Brought to you by the mother-daugther team of Once Upon a Dance, with over 20 awards for their Dance-It-Out! and Dancing Shapes series for younger audiences. Dance Stance debuts their trilogy for kids ages 8+.

Oliver and the Wishing Star

Oliver and the Wishing Star follows a young boy who struggles with having so many responsibilities and wants to live free, like his pet dog. When a star streaks across the sky he quickly makes a wish to become a dog. When his wish comes true he realizes that being a dog is not at all what he thought it would be. Will Oliver get back to being a boy again?

Jennifer Decker has created a charming children’s book that teaches young readers to appreciate what they have through a whimsical story that many kids will be able to relate to. The story starts with Oliver’s mother telling him what to do, which I’m sure every child can relate to. Things quickly take a fantastic turn when Oliver is turned into a cute grey pup and he heads out into the night.

I really enjoyed how emotive all the characters were in this story charismatic, which makes it easy for young readers to watch the story unfold as parents read aloud to them. Every illustration is bright and sharp, with shading that makes the illustrations look 3D sometimes. With simple language and changes in font throughout, this is a story that will keep early readers engaged.

Oliver and the Wishing Star is an imaginative picture book that uses humor and heart to tell a fun story with an important message. Young readers will learn to appreciate who they are, as well as appreciate their family and home. This is a fantastic bedtime story as the magic happens right when Oliver hits the bed.

Pages: 39 | ASIN: B09DWHQBLD

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Scared to Swim (Little Fears)

Lillian is taking a bath one day and decides that it would be fun to learn how to swim. Her father agrees and quickly signs her up for swimming lessons. But that night Lillian feels that she may have been too hasty in her decision and starts to worry. Sure enough, when she is in class she is frightened by the noise and wild activity in the class. How will Lillian ever learn to swim?

Scared to Swim is an educational children’s book that shows young readers how to conquer their fear, specifically their fear of swimming. Many parents, myself included, think that sending their child off to swim lessons solves their swimming problem. But for some kids all the activity of a swim class can make them nervous. Author Tuula Pere illustrates this point perfectly in her children’s book.

I loved the art in the book as it made Lillian’s emotions throughout the story very plain. The dramatic enhancement of emotion on the characters make for some funny scenes, like when Lillian says she wants to learn how to swim. I literally laughed out loud when I saw her waving her arms around as if she was swimming.

This bright kids book sends a powerful message to young readers that if they trust in their parents, and give it a good try, together they can accomplish anything. I thought this book was going to show the parent encouraging their child to take the class. I was delighted to see that the parent is the one that helps their child learn a new skill and gain confidence in themselves. This shows young readers that relying on family can be powerful.

Scared to Swim is about so much more than swimming, and all of these ideas are shared in an easy to understand and beautifully illustrated picture book. This is a fantastic book to read multiple times as I’m sure that every time a child reads it they will pick up a new subtle but important lesson.

Pages: 34 | ISBN: 9523254510

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Its “Cool” To Be Kind

Arlene Freeman Author Interview

Cool Kids follows a young boy who becomes a bully to earn a spot on the football team, but when terrible things happen to him he wonders if it’s worth it. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My father was my inspiration. He was a great storyteller. It was a time when television was first becoming popular; however, not everyone could afford one. Storytelling still attracted the children on the block and they could not wait to hear the stories about a character he created, Ruffy Butchbang. Ruffy Butchbang was a bully who always got in to trouble. It was the only way he could feel important. In every story my dad told, there was a lesson learned. Each story was so exciting because my dad added his special sound effects. This character, Ruffy Butchbang was embedded in my memory. I too told stories about Ruffy to my children and grandchildren. My sons Ted and Eric knew my father but my grandchildren never did. However, they knew who created Ruffy Butchbang, Grandpa Harry. Now that bullying is a subject in today’s society, it seems perfect to bring Ruffy Buthbang back into the spotlight, and so I created Cool Kids.

How can your book help children, parents and teachers with bullying?

I think Cool Kids offers families and educators a great teaching opportunity. It offers them the perfect opportunity to help a children understand their emotions and social dynamics involved in bullying. It open the door for many conversations, whether your child is bullied or bullying. It allows for different discussions and outcomes and steps to take in various situations. Cool Kids shows kids that changing your behavior to become a bully in order to fit in isn’t being cool. Be true to yourself. It shows that there is a power in kindness and its “cool” to be kind. Discussions about this subject is a great way for families to have an open dialogue with their children.

The art in this book was fantastic. What was the art collaboration process like with illustrator Amelina Jones?

After I wrote my story, I needed an illustrator. Mascot Books sent me the sample works of various illustrators. I chose the one who best fit my story. The drawings of Amelina Jones were perfect. She sent me drawings for each character for approval, even my beagle and matched the characters to the script. We made changes because I did not realize things could be inferred and not need to be seen. We communicated with each other through Mascot Books. When all was said and done, I almost did not see a drastic error. Amelina Jones was from the United Kingdom. My story involved football and she drew a soccer ball. Well, that had to be changed to an American football and it was just in time! She also added her personal touches and I loved it. I must say, I was lucky to work with such a talented illustrator.

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

I have thought about a second book about RUFFY BUTCHBANG and his adventures, still involving the same characters. In each story, there needs to be a lesson learned. I am thinking about the twists and turns that will take place so teachers and families can have continued dialogue and children will love it. I am a former school teacher so I know that communication between adults and children is so important. The paper and pencil is right by my bedside ready for creative ideas. It will ,come not sure of exact dates.

Author Links: Website | Instagram | Facebook

Winner of the 2021 Family Choice Award
Like most kids, Michael and his friends are so excited for their first day at a new school. They have a lot of questions about what to expect, but most of all, they wonder if theyll get to join the football team. That would be the perfect way to start the year! However, Michael soon finds out that its not as easy as he thinks. The team is filled with bullies, and to join, he has to become one of them. In order to be cool enough to get a spot on the football team, Michael has to start changing his behaviorfor the worse! Suddenly, terrible things start happening to him. Finally, he begins to wonder: Was it all worth it?

Dance Stance: Beginning Ballet for Young Dancers with Ballerina Konora

Ballet begins with learning how to stand. That sounds much easier than it actually is. From knowing the proper foot placement to being fully aware of one’s own spine, finding the right stance is not only essential but promotes good health. A proper stance, as the author points out, isn’t only for dancers. People of all ages can benefit from learning how to stand correctly. Broken down into simple steps with beautiful illustrations, the author and illustrator have handed readers everything they need to know to literally take the first step into ballet.

Dance Stance, Beginning Ballet for Young Dancers, by Once Upon a Dance and illustrated by Stella Maris Mongodi, is an incredibly informative book that will be useful to every reader whether they dance or not. The illustrations lend themselves perfectly to the narrative and provide comical moments throughout the book. It is worth noting that this book appears to be for younger readers, but the vocabulary and sentence structure is more appropriate for upper elementary and beyond.

I was especially impressed with the snippets of advice from a ballerina placed strategically throughout the book. These notes are right on target with the narrative and give readers an insight into the discipline a ballerina must maintain. I am not a dancer, but I appreciated these sections of the book; they served to add to the authors’ message.

Dance Stance, Beginning Ballet for Young Dancers, by Once Upon a Dance (Ballerina Konora and Teacher Terrel) and illustrated by Stella Maris Mongodi, is a short read that I enjoyed and recommend it to anyone curious about becoming a ballerina or improving their own posture. This book would make the perfect gift for anyone who is thinking of studying ballet. It is full of fantastic advice for readers of all ages.

Pages: 63 | ASIN: B09ZGHW76H

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The Message Of Positivity

Maria Cedolini Thompson
Maria Cedolini Thompson Author Interview

Our 20/20 Journey Back to School talks about returning to school in a post COVID world, what was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The inspiration for this setup to my story was the thoughts in my head about returning to school a few days before our return in February of 2021. I was fortunate enough to have my first-grade class loop up to second grade with me and so I knew the questions that they had been asking and had built a strong relationship with both my students and their parents. As a parent myself, I knew the importance of letting my community know that we are all in this together and that anything is possible (even though a pandemic). The message of positivity was necessary for all of us to cope with these challenges. The idea that we would conquer them as a team, was most important to me!

The artwork was very creative and engaging for young readers. What was the collaboration process like between you and the illustrator?

The collaboration with Daria Shamolina was amazing. She lives in the Ukraine and I have yet to meet her face to face or even on Facetime/Zoom. I trusted that she would produce incredible illustrations and she was truly able to make the story come to life. I found Daria on a Facebook Author page and saw her previous work and emailed her. I think it was meant to be because she had now illustrated my second book as well.

Returning to normalcy in a post COVID environment is challenging for adults and kids; you touched on the perspective of teachers and children in a relatable way. What was your thought process in writing this content in order to appeal to both the children and the adults reading with them?

In collaborating with teachers at my school and in Covid Facebook groups, I really got a good sense of what “all” teachers were going through. I learned so many things from the many groups I followed and was so thankful for the many resources that I had access to during this time. I really tried to put myself in the shoes of my students and think about how they might be feeling through this unprecedented time. I couldn’t be prouder of my group of students who were warriors through the Pandemic and who supported each other and myself alike!

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

My second book was just released at the end of November on both Amazon and Ingram Spark, it is called, “Lucky the Leprechaun on the Loose”. It is about a legendary St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun. Each year during the month of March up until the family Irish holiday, Lucky comes to visit children at school and at home. But he isn’t just here for a visit! Lucky wants to create some March magic by hiding toys, leaving messages and surprises, and even making messes while the children aren’t looking. In the spirit of The Elf on the Shelf, Lucky brings much delight to the hearts of children during this wonderful holiday time.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Instagram

“Our 20/20 Journey Back to School” is told from the children’s perspective and starts at the beginning of the Pandemic when students are home learning on Zoom. The children address both the challenges and positive aspects of their time spent at home. As the story continues, they tell of the changes to school upon their return. This story tugs on your heartstrings as the students return to school with joyful anticipation and describe the effects of the pandemic on their school experience. They explain how they are feeling and tell about the many unfamiliar changes in this new and different atmosphere. By the end of the book, they are able to express the importance of the class being together, whether on Zoom or in the classroom. This experience has opened their eyes (20/20 vision) and taught them the value of working together. While students and teachers have always been a team, 2020 truly taught us what teamwork was all about and the importance of our journey together and learning as a “class family”.
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