Between the Walls follows a wondering traveler that comes across two towns that are divided by two walls and works to reunite them. What was the inspiration for this story?
In real life, there are many situations between both people and different groups in society where a mediator is needed. His role is not easy because it requires both sensitivity and strength.
The mediator must be a person that the parties to the dispute and conflict can rely on. Independent and fair in one’s actions. This diplomate needs to be able to listen, understand different points of view, and find compromises that can connect as many people as possible behind them. The solutions that are created must seem fair and justified to everyone. So the task is extremely demanding!
I chose this topic for my children’s book because it’s good to introduce this kind of thinking about resolving disagreements as early as possible. I call this approach “diplomacy of the heart.”
Of course, the use of the brain must not be forgotten, but it is often taken more for granted. In general, too little attention is paid to the human factors that guide our solutions, even at the highest levels of society and the world.
It would be helpful for adults to keep in mind the basics of a child’s way of looking at the world. The protagonist of my book represents such common sense and a natural way of treating people even when they live across borders and behind walls.
Did the personality for Leo’s character come from anyone you know in real life?
Fortunately, there are a lot of people like Leo in the world. They are everywhere and in all kinds of roles in society.
Many go unnoticed because they don’t make much noise about their activities. Nevertheless, they are essential for the whole community. They may have a bearing on the wellbeing of all the others, as they prevent problems from escalating and resolve them in case others are unable to do it alone. Their performance may be invisible, even though it is a crucial adhesive and lubricant for the entire “interplay machine.” We find these people in their homes, jobs, and hobbies.
I am also interested in the dynamics of high political life at the societies and the international level. Fortunately, there are active mediators and organizations – with Leo’s type of motivations, too. They work both nationally and globally, even at very high levels and positions. Their actions are not only guided by cold facts, but they are also able to understand situations through their human dimension. As those skills can also be used for evil purposes, the motive of such an organizer is crucial.
At their best, for example, heads of state and prominent representatives of peace organizations can do a lot of good and take the international debate toward the common good.
What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?
My stories don’t change much during the writing process. Often the whole story is intact and pretty finished in my head even before I sit at the computer. This same applies to Between the Walls. Of course, I still read it through many times, made minor refinements, and corrected the language.
I also do this finetuning when I participate in translations into English or Swedish. I speak those two languages myself. Interlingual “cultural interpretation” sometimes brings up interesting details.
Collaboration with illustrators is an exciting step, too. Sometimes I still grind some points even then to make the interaction between the illustration and the text as seamless and smooth as possible. This phase may require changing the name or color of the bird species or plant in the text. But like I said, the main lines in the book are strong and remain from the beginning.
If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose?
A natural choice for me to meet would be Zachris Topelius (1818-1898). We have a lot in common regarding our general interests and roles in society. True love for telling stories for children and improving their knowledge and wellbeing is something we share, too.
Although my work and influence as a writer are far more limited than Topelius’, I strongly connect to the idea of defending the weakest in society with various literary means. I respect his work for families and those who were less fortunate in the community. I consider myself working for the same purposes, so we certainly had a lot to discuss.
The power of rich imagination and a warm heart in stories is irresistible. Topelius combined facts and fiction in his vast children’s book production and kept his goals clear throughout his long career as an author, journalist, and respected scholar. Topelius used all his skills and positions in society to make a difference. In the same way, I think the weakest in life need the strongest defenders. The more fortunate should use their abilities to help others in whatever position there have.
If I could meet Topelius, I’d love to use the “time capsule” and meet him both in his time in 19th century Helsinki and today’s independent Finland. I would be happy to show him how the Finnish society has improved in social and educational aspects and become a genuine democracy to provide even better possibilities for everyone. I think he would be pleased and proud.
Like Topelius, I also love history and nature. We would undoubtedly ponder the changing societies and nature around us. We could take a long walk outside to admire forests and shores of lakes and the sea. I could take some photos and videos with my mobile and let him be surprised.
To end the day, I could repeat one of his thoughts that I like a lot – “… open the window and allow the air from the world to flow in!”
After that, I could concentrate on my favorite thing, writing stories for the world’s children – and use both my brain and heart!
Posted in Interviews
Tags: Andrea Alemanno, author, Between the Walls, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, childrens book, ebook, educational, goodreads, kids books, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, parents, picture book, read, reader, reading, story, teachers, Tuula Pere, writer, writing
Having ferrets as pets can be great fun, and can lead to some amusing adventures as well. Jeffrey agrees to take care of his sister’s ferret, Chubby, because she is too busy and Chubby needs attention. Jeffrey and Chubby play together and become great friends. But Chubby is missing his ferret friend, Coco. Chubby decides to go look for Coco, but gets into some trouble along the way. Luckily Jeffrey is there to save the day. Will Chubby ever find Coco?
Chubby Wubbles & Coco: 2 Missing Ferrets is a charming children’s book that shows the loving relationship that people can have with their pet ferrets. Chubby is so cute and the delightful illustrations throughout the book will appeal to young readers. The art focuses on the characters emotions and shows Chubby being very playful and getting into things.
Throughout the story readers, along with Chubby, are wondering where Coco is. While Jeffrey and Chubby have a wonderful relationship, which really shows you how close a pet and its owner can be, we are always left longing for Coco. This adorable kids books shows just how charismatic ferrets can be and children will love seeing Chubby throughout the colorful pages.
2 Missing Ferrets is a fun picture following a pair of friendships and shows how ferrets can bring joy, and a bit of playful mischief, into your life. Early readers will have a great time reading about Chubby and Jeffrey, and this will also be a wonderful bedtime story that parents can read to their young children.
Pages: 28 | ASIN: B09R84FL34
Tags: 2 Missing Ferrets, author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, childrens book, Chubby Wubbles & Coco, ebook, elementary, goodreads, kids book, kindergarten, kindle, kobo, literature, mj abrams, nook, novel, parents, pets, picture book, read, reader, reading, story, teachers, writer, writing
Emma and Oliver are best friends that live next door to each other. They decide they are going to build a treehouse in the backyard between their homes. Oliver is apprehensive, but Emma encourages him to help her make it. At one point, Oliver decides he is uncomfortable with the treehouse and refuses to climb up and leaves Emma to finish the job herself. Once it is finished, she proudly shows her work off to her parents and tells them she wants to spend the night up in the tree. They tell her no, it is not safe. Later, Oliver climbs up the tree to talk to her and tells her he heard what she said and wants to support her plan. That night when Emma sneaks out to stay in the treehouse, Oliver watches over her from his bedroom window.
The Tree House Night, written by Tuula Pere, is another fantastic work by this author. This excellent picture book focuses on friendship. Two friends who do not always agree still find a way to remain friends and focus on what matters, supporting each other in their dreams and goals. Even though Oliver disagrees with Emma’s plan, he supports her in the only way he can, shining light and watching over her as she sleeps in the treehouse. Knowing her best friend is watching over her gives Emma the strength to overcome her fears of the dark and the noises she hears.
So many children’s books on friendship focus on the good times children have. I like that this book showed that friends do not have to always agree on the same things or have the same goals. Even with these differences, they can still support one another and help each other make their dreams come true. This is the beauty of people. They don’t all have to be the same or have the same ideas and goals to be kind and be friends. This excellent picture book shows children they can be friends with people different from themselves and support one another.
The artwork done by Catty Flores is genuinely superb. The characters have so much personality children who can’t read will still be able to feel Oliver’s mood as he is concerned about things happening. But, equally, Emma’s excitement and confidence radiate off the pages as she builds her dream treehouse. The bond they share shines through the pages, and children will relate to the images presented in this captivating story.
The Tree House Night is a beautifully written picture book with an inspirational message about friendship and supporting those you care for. Children, teachers, and parents will all enjoy reading this remarkable story and will be able to relate to the message that the author has presented.
Pages: 32 | ASIN : B09K6MNF52
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Aino doesn’t understand why her father has left with the other village men during autumn. She doesn’t understand why scary noises are coming from the forest and why her mother wants her to play near home. Forced to leave their home when soldiers arrive, Aino quickly grabs her doll running for the trucks that will take the family to safety, but they have left without her. Looking back to where she ran, she sees the bright red doll’s apron lying on the pure white snow. It is then that Aino realizes two soldiers are standing near her house, and they too have seen the apron and her footprints. The young soldier sees her and sends the older one into the house. He then lets Aino escape, leaving her doll’s apron behind.
Aino, her family, and her friends must learn to live in strange homes and rely on people they do not know. Then, when the war is winding down, they can finally go back home. Arriving home to a burnt-down home, she is shocked to find her raspberry red apron that belonged to her doll hanging from a clothesline.
Raspberry Red by Tuula Pere and illustrated by Georgia Stylou is a story that I was not expecting, but the ending made me smile. This stirring story starts out on the darker side with questions and uncertainty for all the characters. The images in the story are impressive as they look lifelike and like they are hand-drawn. Aino’s eyes especially will draw in readers and convey her feelings throughout this inspirational book.
Aino’s character is impressive as she is a child but still aware of her surroundings and she is responsible and helpful to her mother. Raspberry Red is a short but powerful read that will leave the reader with complex emotions. Pere’s writing is remarkable in having the ability to affect readers. The best part of this book is the end, where readers will learn the meaning of the title Raspberry Red.
Raspberry Red is an emotionally charged children’s book that deals with war, displaced families, and the struggle to survive and rebuild in a war-torn country. Given current events, this insightful book will help readers understand the plight of those living in these conditions. This book would be a great way to open discussion with children.
Pages: 20 | ASIN : B077LXS2VQ
Tags: author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, childrens book, ebook, educational, Georgia Stylou, goodreads, kids books, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, parents, Raspberry Red, read, reader, reading, story, teachers, Tuula Pere, writer, writing
Colin, the crab, feels like he is an ordinary crab living alone. He has many friends who have many things going on in their lives, such as a family, success, and impressive antique collections. One day something unexpected happens to Colin. A tidal wave tosses Priscilla the pearl oyster into his backyard. Colin takes Priscilla in and helps her recover from the tidal wave, and before long, they become good friends. After Priscilla loses something valuable to her, Colin helps her find it and shows Priscilla that, more than anything, their friendship is the most valuable to him.
Colin the Crab Finds a Treasure by Tuula Pere follows Colin the crab as he lives his life content to be alone while his friends have many things going for them. When Colin starts to wonder if he is content being alone, Priscilla the pearl oyster appears in his backyard. Colin soon learns that friendship means more to him than fancy gadgets. Pere teaches kids to give everyone a chance no matter their status.
Children will be captivated by the colorful images done by illustrator Roksolana Panchyshyn as the pages are filled with detailed underwater scenes. This book is written for readers who are a bit older, kindergarten through fourth grade, as the chapters are longer and the lesson is more complex. Learning what is important in life and what to value is a challenging life lesson. Pere manages to convey this lesson in a manner that children can comprehend and relate to. In addition, this fantastic children’s book shows readers it is ok to express your feelings and be open and kind to others. I can see this book in libraries and classrooms.
Colin the Crab Finds a Treasure is a charming and entertaining book that will teach children the value of friendship and seeing the important things in life.
Pages: 24 | ASIN : B07HY341W6
Tags: author, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, childrens book, Colin the Crab Finds a Treasure, ebook, educational, goodreads, kids books, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, parents, picture book, read, reader, reading, Roksolana Panchyshyn, story, teachers, Tuula Pere, writer, writing.
Francis is a real piece of work and has been since he was a young fox. Known for his greedy ways and the bullying he inflicted on others, he grew into an even more selfish adult. When he finagles his way into becoming the acting mayor, his plans to run the city are no less conniving and self-serving. Erasmus, the mayor’s good friend and trusted assistant smells a rat and sets out to put a stop to Francis’s scheme. The days of Francis getting what he wants may just be coming to an abrupt end.
The Fox’s City, written by Tuula Pere and illustrated by Andrea Alemanno, is the delightful tale of one fox’s plan to outwit a city and have his way. Francis is your typical literary fox–sly, selfish, and always scheming. He is a fantastic main character and has every possible flaw needed to make him memorable and make his story worthy of rereading time and time again. Erasmus, who seems so unassuming, is the ideal sidekick to the mayor and gives readers someone to root for against the calculating fox.
Pere’s tale is well-written and engaging, and I was enchanted by Alemanno’s beautiful illustrations. Between the little element of mystery in Francis’s tale and the softly-lit illustrations, this story is a true delight to read.
The Fox’s City would make a wonderful addition to elementary teacher’s collection. I can see Francis’s story as part of a classroom unit on trickster tales. Cover to cover, Pere and Alemanno deliver a wonderful story with an important lesson in cooperation and teamwork. Suitable for both read alouds and independent reading in mid to upper elementary grades, I highly recommend Pere and Alemanno’s work to teachers and parents alike.
Pages: 22 | ASIN: B07HYYX99R
Siggy the Soccer Dog follows a dachshund that dreams of winning the FA Cup Finals through teamwork and kindness. What was the inspiration for your story?
I have been a Manchester United fan since 1975. Where I’m from lots of people support the team because of several local players who made their name there – most notably the world-class player George Best who made headlines and was known in the British press as “the 5th beatle” in the late 60s. He has a good claim on being the first soccer superstar but when he went through the wringer of fame there was no support like there is for Messi or Ronaldo today, and his story has quite a tragic element to it as well, which all adds to the aura and romance and adds a “what if” element, even though he actually achieved so much before his downfall. As a 5 year old I became a supporter because of my Dad and George. I wanted to do a story for the Utd fans and for their kids and this is what happened.
What was your inspiration for becoming a children’s book writer?
I have always enjoyed writing and won English prizes and things like that when I was younger. As I have grown older I have kept writing. I became a lawyer, which I’d say is being a “wordsmith” using legal language for money. But it never gave me the same satisfaction as writing stories. I wrote thrillers that almost made publication in my late 20s and then I was inspired by some local children during lockdown to write something for them. The books that exist now came out of that, and I have found to my surprise that I really enjoy writing for children and it gladdens my heart to see and hear their enthusiastic reactions to my stories.
Are there any memories from your own life that you put into your books?
Definitely. The series of “Siggy the Sausage Dog” stories – and the upcoming “Wee Moos” and “Phlower Phaeries” series are all based around kindness and seeking happiness. When I was a youngster my dad always told me: “Be a happy man!” and I’ve appreciated that simple advice more and more as I have become older myself. It took me a while, but now writing for children has made me a happy man. I want to share that philosophy and to help children hold on to their natural happiness if I can.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I think the next book after (Siggy the Soccer Dog) will either be “Hello Moo!” the first of the Wee Moos series or “Siggy and the Balloon Festival” the next Siggy story. I am continuing to write the first Phlower Phaeries children’s novel but this is taking longer than the shorter stories are!
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Tags: author, author interview, book, book recommendations, book review, book reviews, book shelf, bookblogger, books, books to read, Brian Frederick, childrens books, ebook, education, elementary, goodreads, kids books, kindle, kobo, literature, nook, novel, parents, picture books, read, reader, reading, Siggy the Soccer Dog, story, teachers, writer, writing
A Big Blue Boat follows a young girl as she sets out for a day of sailing and teaches readers different parts of a boat. What was the inspiration for your story?
My husband and I are ocean sailors and sailed from Australia to Europe between 2013 and 2015 – the story can be found on www.gratisaustralis.com. The idea for the book originally grew from the desire to share our experiences on the sea with our own big blue boat in a fun way with our Grandchildren. I wanted them to experience that feel of being in a boat out on the sea.
As we sailed and met other people in the sailing community, I also learned that although slowly changing, it is still very much a man’s world. We need stories that are going to help promote this change.
From a simple book written for the grandchildren and their parents, A Big Blue Boat rapidly grew into a story that could be enjoyed by all and used as an educational text.
The art in this book is fantastic. What was the art collaboration process like with illustrator Lesley Cybulka?
Everything to do with A Big Blue Boat has just fallen into place.
I originally asked a friend, whose artwork I loved, whether he would like to join us on the journey by creating the images. Having completed the first image of the sea, Andrew felt he couldn’t do the imagery of the boat and captain full justice and wondered whether I would be happy for his friend, Lesley, to do the illustrations instead.
The partnership with Lesley was something beyond my imagination and a true collaboration.
Initially, I sent a copy of the text with some basic illustration notes and multiple photographs of the boat to Lesley. We had a long conversation via Zoom, where we discussed the manuscript, illustration notes, and mediums to be used, then I left the rest to her.
Neither of us work well when under pressure, so the time factor was left open…
The arrival of what would become the front cover image had me hyper excited. Lesley’s first illustration had taken the artwork beyond my imaginings, and it was so different to what is found in picture books of today. Having never seen her work, I discovered how exceptionally talented Lesley is and she had brought my story to life!
As each set of images were created, Lesley and I would connect to discuss whether readjustments were required. In some cases, illustrations were totally redone.
That moment when Lesley agreed to join me in illustrating A Big Blue Boat, will be one for which I will be forever grateful.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
As I searched to find sailing stories for young children – particularly girls – in the 4 – 8 year age range, I discovered the majority of picture books in the boating genre are about motor boats and the protagonists male. For girls especially, sailing stories are set within the character’s imagination, as a dream, or used as a way of introducing the reader to other cultures. Realistic sailing stories with a female protagonist that are fun for young children, are difficult to find and the female sailing community is crying out for them. Many women have told me of how they change characters from male to female when they read boat books to their young girl/s. A strong female protagonist was of utmost importance. The captain of A Big Blue Boat is based upon the ‘sailing me’ I am learning to be.
As a sport, sailing is perfect for children on many levels. It promotes and develops critical thinking, problem solving, communication and cooperation skills; builds team spirit, fitness, and strength; and shows that clean wind power can be just as much fun as motor boats. It seemed right that the first book should be one that introduced important parts of a sailing boat and the captain.
The sea is also a magical place. There is nothing like the feeling of freedom one experiences out on the water in a sailing boat. Here you are immersed within the elements and can encounter the inconceivable wonders of nature: wind, storms, a dolphin’s birth, albatross soaring, dolphins leaping and whales breaching. It has been an environment that has long called to me personally, as it does for many children, Australians as a whole and people worldwide, and I want to share it with the world.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Two sequels about A Big Blue Boat are completed and currently with Lesley awaiting illustrations. I am not sure which of the two will be first, for I have left that up to Lesley. A Big Blue Boat and the Mighty Storm tells of a storm that blows up in the Australian Bight, whilst A Big Blue Boat is Out on the Brine introduces more of our wondrous ocean creatures and the web of life. Anyone who loves Bill Martin Jr’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear is going to love The Brine.
We are hoping the second will be available for purchase sometime in 2023.
In the meantime, several more sequels and a couple of prequels are well underway.
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