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I Found It Just As Interesting

Colleen Brice
Colleen Brice Author Interview

Ships, Sleighs and Christmas Lights tells the story of how a young boy from Patara grew into the man we now think of as Saint Nicholas. What inspired you to write this story?

There are many wonderful things about gift-giving at Christmas time but for Christians who celebrate the holiday, it can be tricky separating the commercial from the spiritual. I have friends who want to embrace the fun of the season with their children, while making them aware of the historical figures associated with Christmas. I wrote the book with them in mind. Having researched Nikolaos’ life, I found it just as interesting as some of the fantasy stories about Santa Claus.

What were some of the challenges you had moving from being an illustrator to an author and illustrator?

I am used to complimenting an author’s words with illustrations so owning both aspects of picture book storytelling was a new experience for me. An outline of the story came first, then I sketched some of the key scenes. I worked with an editor before I started drawing, so the text was finalised and I knew how much space would be needed in the layout for the illustrations.

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

Nikolaos is recognised as a saint. I wanted to explore ways in which his upbringing shaped his beliefs. Not everyone will relate to him in this way but I’d like to think the book will be of interest to people with different beliefs too. Much of the book is about culture and the ways in which we influence one another (hopefully for the better). Although our clothes and countries of origin may appear to be different, people are always drawn to goodness.

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

There were so many legends about Saint Nicholas to draw on and some were only hinted at in Christmas Lights. I am writing a story about three young girls whose father fell on hard times. Nikolaos allegedly provided the family with special gifts but I wanted to tell the story from the girls’ perspective so they have a sense of agency. Most girls work hard but are not given opportunities or rewards. I’d like to think a privileged man like Nikolaos would address such imbalances. I hope to publish it in time for Christmas 2022.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Snow-covered trees, twinkling lights and sleighs – these remind us of Christmas. But what about sunlit hills, an ancient lighthouse or a wooden ship at sea. Discover where Saint Nicholas (or Nikolaos) came from and follow him on his adventures. Did he really wear a red suit and deliver gifts to children? Learn how people living in different times and places added a bit of themselves to his story.

Courage Over Fear

Michael Ssentamu
Michael & Alysia Ssentamu Author Interview

Sticky Icky Vicky: Courage over Fear follows a young girl that must conquer her fear of water in order to attend her best friend’s birthday party. What inspired you to write this picture book?

When we started teaching our children about having a positive mindset and our positive and negative inner voices we came up with this great idea of a character called Sticky Icky Vicky, who must deal with water fear and face her inner voices.

The book is vaguely based on our youngest daughter’s fear of water. At the time Rhea was having great difficulty being introduced to water and learning to swim because she had grommets in her ears, (tiny tubes inserted into the eardrum to treat a build up of fluid in the middle ear and prevent recurrent ear infections), after having repeated ear infections and didn’t like putting her head under water.

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

The art work is fantastic in that it’s vibrant, very imaginative and completely distinctive.

Noor Alshalabi is a Jordan based picture book illustrator while my husband and I are based In Canberra, Australia. All the collaboration for this amazing art work and illustrations for Sticky Icky Vicky: Courage over Fear was done through email, with the occasional phone call or FaceTime. This is all a testament to Noor’s brilliant communication skills and ability to work as part of a team. She is very skilled at reading into our comments and creating something amazing. We are very happy to have her working with us.

What were some ideas that were important for you to share in this book?

The principle message we want to pass across is that – it is okay to have fear, but it is not okay to let the fear stop you from doing what you like, love or need to do.

Courage over Fear offers children an inspirational/loveable heroine who learns some valuable lessons like courage, positive thinking and goal-setting. It is a reading experience that leaves children believing that they, like Vicky, can get past any obstacle in their way.

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

The second book in the Sticky Icky Vicky series is called “Sticky Icky Vicky: Choosing to Be Myself.”

It follows Vicky and her love for playing in the mud, getting all icky and sticky. But when a school bully starts making fun of her, Vicky’s love for mud play is dashed. That is, until she learns about upcoming International Mud Day. Vicky wants nothing more than to get in on the fun—but first she needs to stop listening to other people’s opinions.

Sticky Icky Vicky: Choosing to Be Myself will be available for purchase from March 2022.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Meet Sticky Icky Vicky, a girl who wants to get over her fear—once and for all
In Sticky Icky Vicky: Courage over Fear, the first book in the Sticky Icky Vicky™ series, authors Alysia and Michael Ssentamu introduce readers to Vicky, a fun-loving girl who doesn’t mind getting a little sticky and icky. She loves rolling down hills and playing in mud—but when it comes to water, Sticky Icky Vicky’s fear prevents her from joining in the fun. Then Vicky gets an invitation for a waterpark party, and she decides that she really wants to go—even if it means ignoring the Negative Ned voice in her head and getting over her fear.
With vibrant illustrations and catchy rhymes, Sticky Icky Vicky: Courage over Fear offers children an inspirational/loveable heroine who learns some valuable life lessons, such as:
Courage
Positive thinking
Goal-setting
Aimed primarily at readers aged six to ten, Sticky Icky Vicky: Courage over Fear is a reading experience that leaves kids believing that they, like Vicky, can get past any obstacle in their way.

The Fascinating World Of Holes

Lori Croy
Lori Croy Author Interview

The Hole Story takes children on an adventure exploring all the different holes there are in the world around them. What inspired you to write this picture book?

I have spent my life telling entertaining and educational stories to my 6 children and 13 grandchildren. I also love puns and wordplay and for many years joked about someday writing a book and calling it “The Hole Story.” During the pandemic when I was forced to be separated from my children and their families, I decided to write this book as a gift for my grandchildren. After receiving it, my daughter who is an Education faculty member at a university, encouraged me to publish the book as it had many elements that teachers could use in the classroom to help teach spatial concepts in a fun way. Thus, The Hole Story was made available for the public to enjoy!

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

Katelynn is a joy to work with. We have a great collaborative relationship. I draft my manuscript and try to think of examples of scenes or illustrative elements that will augment the telling of the story and move it forward. I break down my suggestions into the sections of text for pages and suggestions for artwork and Katelynn takes it from there. As I have more than one book, and intend to write more, we have agreed on an illustration “style” for my books that will hopefully make them more recognizable. Katelynn is responsible for coming up with a number of innovative paths in the illustrations that just add to the readers enjoyment.

What were some ideas that were important for you to share in this book?

First and most important, learning should be fun. And, second, you need to look beyond the obvious and use your imagination to see the possibilities all around you. Holes are just one example of looking beyond the obvious “hole in the ground”, for instance, and seeing that it has a purpose. It’s just one more step to seeing other critical things such as looking beyond a person’s physical appearance and being able to see who they really are. I also wanted to introduce children to wordplay and that a word may sound the same as another, but can be spelled differently and have a completely different meaning. Many paths for a teacher or parent to take with these concepts.

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

My next book will be “The Whole Dollar” and is based on a true story about my two oldest sons. This story focuses on the close bond between siblings, what it means to share, and the unexpected gifts that can return to you later on in life. It’s one that will tug at your heartstrings and will speak to big brothers, little brothers, big sisters and little sisters everywhere.

The book will be in pre-sale at major book distributors in the next couple of weeks and will be released on March 4, 2022.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

The Hole Story introduces in its title the concept of a word having more than one meaning. While many children may immediately think of a hole as an empty space, this story helps them explore the purpose of these “empty spaces”, giving them purpose and meaning. From providing a home for wild animals, to learning about the many places and purposes we can find for a hole in our clothing, this book allows children to learn about spatial concepts and wordplay through brief and easy to read text and beautifully illustrated examples. The Hole Story is an award winning children’s book, perfect for introducing early elementary aged children to the fascinating world of holes.

A Tribute To Her

Author Interview
Sharlene Novak Author Interview

Happy Tails Camper Stories: Lucy Learns to Share follows a young dog as she learns that having the toy you want but no one to share it with is not any fun. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

My inspiration for this book was our Westie, Lucy, who actually did have a favorite toy at her doggie daycare that she would not share with the other dogs. I was also motivated to write her story as a tribute to her, because she got very sick and we had to say goodbye to her last year. Writing the book was cathartic for me and brought me closure after her loss.

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

The publisher, Atmosphere Press, referred me to several illustrators so I could make my choice. What drew me to Sarah’s artwork was the way she draws dogs…they are charming and expressive without being “cartoon-y”. Sarah was able to draw Lucy, her friend Bingo and some other dogs based on photos I sent her. I’ve had many compliments on Sarah’s illustrations.

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

Sharing can be tough for young children, whether it is with siblings or playmates. I think children can relate to the sharing issue as seen through Lucy’s eyes and hopefully learn that it really is better to share toys with friends.

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

I actually have ideas for two more books in the series. Shortly after we lost Lucy, we adopted a stray that showed up in a friend’s neighborhood, so I am working on a story about Harry finding a new home. Also, I know a new baby in the family can be difficult for a child, so I think Bingo will be getting a little brother and will learn to deal with the issues that a new family member will present for him. I would like to have both books done by the end of 2022.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Lucy is a little dog with a big problem.

On her first day at Happy Tails Dog Camp, Lucy meets other dogs and sees lots of toys to play with. But another dog grabbed the toy she wanted and ran off with it! Lucy has a plan to get that toy for herself, but when she does, her plan doesn’t work the way she had hoped.

In “Happy Tails Camper Stories: Lucy Learns to Share” by Sharlene Novak, we experience Lucy’s disappointment when another dog takes the toy she wants and when her plan to get that toy has an unexpected result. But her friend Bingo saves the day with the perfect solution!

Changemakers Of The Future

Tara Anderson
Tara Anderson Author Interview

You Belong Too follows a young girl as she navigates being the new kid in school. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The inspiration for the set up to this story was to teach children the importance of including others and accepting one another despite differences.

The art in this engaging picture book is fantastic. What was the art collaboration process like with Carrisa Harris?

The art collaboration process with my illustrator, Carissa Harris, was phenomenal. She is extremely talented. We worked well together as a team and she was very open to and patient with all of my suggestions, changes or additions I wanted.

What made you decide to write a children’s book on empathy and kindness?

I decided to write a children’s book on empathy and kindness because I believe these qualities will empower todays children to become impactful leaders and changemakers of the future. As well, there is always room for more kindness in our world.

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

The next book I am working on is about two boys and their adventures sailing the North Channel, but it is still in progress while I enjoy sharing this one.

Author Links: Instagram | Website | GoodReads

To everyone else at Meadowbrook Public School, it’s just an ordinary Monday.
But to Annie, it’s so much more.
Today is her first day at a brand-new school. She can feel the butterflies fluttering in her tummy.
Even though Annie’s Mom reminds her that she can do hard things, she wonders if it’s really true.
As she sits alone at recess, she begins to lose hope.
Maybe I can’t do hard things.
…. Or can she?
Join Annie as she overcomes her fears and takes a brave step towards kindness and friendship that leaves a positive effect on her entire class.

The Remarkable Story of Willie the Crow

When a young hunting dog and a crow decide to be friends, the dog pack does not know what to think. They hunt birds, yet a crow wants to hang out and be friends with them. Willie, the crow, is undeterred by the gruff hunting dogs and enjoys playing with the puppy Patch. While playing, Willie flies over the pool, and Patch, not paying attention, falls in. Turns out Patch does not know how to swim. None of the dogs know how to swim. They run to find the Labrador Newt thinking he can swim, but he is terrified of the water. Finally, through some encouragement from family and friends, he jumps in to save Patch.

The Remarkable Story of Willie the Crow: A Hickory Doc’s Tale, written by Linda Harkey, is a creative picture book about the friendship between two unlikely animals. The pack of dogs is concerned that a puppy hanging out with a crow is wrong, and they try to convince their senior dog Doc to put an end to the friendship. Doc, however, is a thinker; he looks at the situation and, rather than jump to conclusions, evaluates the benefits. He backs up his decision by pointing out that Willie the crow has worked with them to save Patch rather than just flying off and leaving her to drown. The message of inclusion and acceptance makes this children’s book a great addition to any book collection.

Illustrator Mike Minick has done an excellent job capturing the emotions of the dogs and Willie. Each page is vibrant and engaging. Even without the text, the story is clear from the marvelous drawings. Children will laugh as they learn a valuable lesson about friendship and family.

The Remarkable Story of Willie the Crow: A Hickory Doc’s Tale is a captivating tale about friends, family, acceptance, working together, and believing in yourself. Parents and educators will love having this picture book to read to children in and out of the classroom.

Pages: 38 | ASIN : B07LCKSXSW

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Secrets, Gifts, Family

Willie the crow wants to eat the pack’s dog chow. The problem is he promised to not eat it from the kennel, and the other bowls are in the house with the Food Giver. To get to the bowels he must enter through the dog door, and this turns out to be harder than expected. Willie nearly drowns and gets stuck in a plant. After being rescued by Patch twice he makes it inside. There he taps on the refrigerator door and the Food Givers arrives and give him a small packet of walnuts and he flies out the window before the pack gets in and sees him. Willie keeps his special treats a secret from the pack

Doc, Willie, and the Pack: Secrets, Gifts, Family written by Linda Harkey returns readers to the Lazy Dog Hacienda. Willie the crow is part of the family that lives here. Willie however has a secret, he gets special treats from the Food Giver and is afraid to tell the pack about them. Instead, he brings the empty wrappers to Zeke as gifts making up stories about where he found them. Eventually, the truth comes out thanks to a newspaper article that was done on Willie that the pack saw.  

This entertaining picture book talks about family, keeping secrets, and friendships. Young elementary-age children will love the colorful illustrations of Mike Minick and the expression all the dogs have. This light-hearted story has a great message about friendship and family that they will be able to relate to. The adventures of Willie trying to get into the house will have children and adults laughing and asking, can crows get glasses, because clearly, poor Willie needs them.

Doc, Willie, and the Pack: Secrets, Gifts, Family: (A Hickory Doc’s Tale) is an engaging read for classrooms, libraries, and parents to read to children. It will make a great early reader for children learning to read with the vibrant artwork to help tell the story.

Pages: 52 | ASIN: B07XLHR2SZ

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The Choices We Make Aren’t Mistakes

Diana Smith
Diana Smith Author Interview

My Awareness Book follows a boy and girl as they encounter strong emotions and learn how to work through what they are feeling. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

The set up for My Awareness Book is: I had already written My Grateful Book and My Welcome Book talking about the importance of gratitude and self esteem and to start with this was going to be My Choices Book, but then My Awareness Book seemed more appropriate as it talks about how it is ok to have feelings and talk about them. Big or small. The choices we make aren’t mistakes they are all learning experiences.

The art in this book is fantastic. What was the art collaboration process like with the illustrator Sarah Jane Marchant?

Sarah had illustrated my first two books so it was just a given she would illustrate the third. I just give her the story and she creates these amazing pictures. I don’t have to change anything usually it is exactly what I was thinking as well. We work very well together.

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

The important themes in this book for me was to tell children, we do have some strong emotions growing up and it’s ok to talk about them. That the choices we make are ok for us individually. We are all different but can still all get along.

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

The next book in this series I think will be My Brave Book with what is happening in the world, vaccinations etc., masks and social distancing. Just letting kids know its ok to be scared but moving through the fear and doing it anyway will make you feel like a hero!

Author Links: Website | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram

Childhood can be tough. Navigating feelings and figuring out your place in the world can be even tougher.
With simple rhyming prose, My Awareness Book follows the journey of a little boy and a girl, steering through their struggles toward a positive mindset and learning the skills for mental resilience.
My Awareness Book teaches your child how to have a growth mindset, build mental resilience and identify and regulate their emotions, all important skills for a young mind to master. Beautifully illustrated with simple rhyming prose, this book is the perfect story to help a child feel supported and understood as they grow and learn. An easy read, My Awareness Book invites broader and deeper discussions with your child, enabling them to continue to move confidently towards adulthood, with empathetic direction and positive guidance.
This delightful book is part of the Feel Good series.
About the author
Diana Smith is the author of My Grateful Book, My Welcome Book and My Awareness Book (the celebrated children’s Feel Good series). Her other early childhood books include Bruiser’s G’day at the Park, Bruiser’s G’day at the Beach, Bruiser’s G’day Camping and The Adventures of Clive.
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