For many years, I've been excited about my debut book as a fantasy author. What would I release? Which of my ideas would I first share with the world? All my questions led to one answer: the first book of my adult fantasy series that I'd had in the works since I was 18. At the time, I felt I didn't have the life experience I needed to make it great. But, over the years, with my experiences abroad, I finally had the depth I wanted for my adult fantasy story and was so excited to share it with the world. Yet, somehow, I decided to make my children's picture book the first book I would give to the world.
I still wonder why, sometimes. I'd been so excited to share my adult fantasy series, and still am. I can't wait to share it with you all. And, at the same time, the children's picture book became my priority. This is why.
It's when my love of books began
When you're a child, you have a world of imagination waiting for you. I learned to read very young and grew up with a family who loved to read. My parents would read snippets of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien to me before naps, and I adored the hairy-footed hobbits and the dwarves. (It would only make sense, then, that The Lord of the Rings would become one of my favourite fantasy stories ever.)
As a child, I would eagerly read children's picture books, children's chapter books, and move onto adult books at a young age. My love of books began, and I'd love to share this gift with other children. That's how I saw it: a gift. I would imagine going anywhere, being anyone. I went on adventures and quests, could be a king, a pilot, a dragon researcher, or children exploring a land behind a wardrobe.
If this is where the love of reading begins, I want to guide that, enhance it, and help to foster the creativity, imagination, and love of reading in the next generation of readers.
Encourage imagination through reading
Much like the above point, children have the most potential for imagination. If you help them grow a strong and flexible imagination when they're young, they'll develop the right habits for creativity as they grow up. Reading can help with this. I mentioned above that fantasy books can take you anywhere and allow you to be anyone. If children became absorbed into these fantasy books and excited with reading, it'll expand what they know to be true in the real world, and they'll push the boundaries of what they know.
Fantasy is best for this. You can make anything happen in fantasy ... almost.
Interacting with the readers
When I was a teacher, one of my favourite moments was reading. It's challenging to fit it in during school hours these days, so the joys were rare. But, now and then, I would be able to talk to the kids in my class about the books they were reading, which books they had chosen from the library, and recommend books that they might like. I loved it when they ran to me as they read the book I suggested and told me they were enjoying it, and I loved it when more of them engaged more with reading.
Even better were the times we could read together. When we would read aloud a story as a class, them sitting about me on the carpet and listening to whatever was happening in A Series of Unfortunate Events: the book I was eager to share with them (and one my class would eventually book all of the copies of that series at the school out of the library!). Their reactions when we got to certain parts of the story, when I read them poetry, or showed them the latest Japanese manga I was reading grew to be my favourite part of teaching. Ever.
So, of course, with these memories of interacting with children about books and reading, I couldn't help but honour that and get excited about sharing one of my own children's books. I'd love to know children around the world were enjoying reading time and sharing these precious moments with parents and other teachers.
I'm a softie who loves kids' books and illustrations
Finally, I just love kids' books and children's book illustrations. How could one not? There are some gorgeous works of art out there, and it's incredible how you pull together the words and the art, and they create a deep and incredible reading experience. If done right, picture books can be enjoyable for all ages, and I'm sure we all remember a children's picture book or two that made an impact on us. Do you still think of it all these years later?
(They're also perfect for learning how to read in a new language! The first book I read in Japanese was 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'. I thought, I loved it as a kid and knew it well still, I could bumble through the Japanese! Now, hare peco ao-mushi is special to me: I learned how to read in two languages with it! English and Japanese.)
Children's picture books change the world
If we all have memories of special picture books we knew as children, then it makes sense that a love of reading and the lives we grow into further in begins there, too. Opening up a new world to children through fantasy books for their age sounds like one of the most exciting opportunities for me.
So, my adult fantasy series will have to wait just a little longer. Because I'm excited and on a roll with my adorable children's fantasy picture book.
Want to know about my debut book: the fantasy children's picture book?
By nature, I love all things fantasy and strong women. So, being a fantasy author who wrote fantasy stories to empower women and girls was the clear mission. And, of course, my children's picture book fits this too.
Princess Mariam, our protagonist, LOVES science, and she lives in an awesome astronomy tower in the middle of a pine forest so she can study the forest and stars. She loves it there and loves that she can live with her best friend and teacher, Obaa-chan, an elderly dragon. But, quite often in fairy tales, adults will come and tell the princess they have to go with them far, far away. The knights will slay the dragons and 'save' the princess.
But, what if the princess doesn't need saving? What if she's exactly where she wants to be, doing what she wants to do, with the creature she wants to do it with? And, why are all the adult knights incorrectly judging her best friend, a kindly and peaceful dragon, and wanting to kill her?
What will Mariam do when a knight comes along and tries to kill Obaa-chan and take Mariam away from her forest home?