LB: I love and treasure children and children's books! Before becoming an author, I marveled and admired the craft and gift of interweaving words and illustrations to ignite children's vivid imaginations. As a medically retired, elementary teacher, my classroom environment was filled with various genres for the children to enjoy, especially during read alouds. I believe in being a model to encourage a love of reading and writing, so they become lifelong learners. My desire was to help them individually succeed in the present for the future. When I was blessed with my two sons, it gave me an excuse to purchase and collect wonderful books to read to them.
LB: As I stated above I have always loved children's books. As an elementary school teacher, I returned to college after 25 years to obtain an M.S. degree in Reading. My heart's desire has always been to help struggling readers. In 1997, while working on my degree, my husband invited me to attend a conference in California. He worked it out so that his honorium for speaking was my travel expenses. The conference sponsors rented the San Diego Safari Park as a treat for the guests. As I was riding the tram and viewing the animals, I heard the lady announcer say we were nearing the giraffe yard and would soon observe a mother and newborn baby. I had rarely given a giraffe much thought. However, I was anxiously anticpating this tender moment. When my eyes focused on that precious newborn giraffe, I knew God was inspiring me to write what I was seeing in my mind. I asked my husband for pen and paper! He said, "Linda , we are on a tram in the middle of a giraffe yard!" Ha! However, he managed to find a napkin and pen. I wrote a sketchy, skelton of words on that napkin and I knew deep in my heart it was going to be a book. Trust me, I was not thinking about writing my own book. By the way, the adorable baby giraffe's name? Ivan, of course. He completely captivated my heart. I thank God for the Gift of Ivan to me and now to children everywhere.
LB: As a mother, grandmother, and teacher, I love to see that spark of learning in a child's eye. Children love surprises so I explained to my illustrator that I wanted something fun and unique in my book. I thought about hiding something. But what and where? One day, my illustrator was painting a green leaf and it turned into a heart shape leaf. She liked it and emailed me. Our communication consisted of emails, snail mail, and the telephone. We were thrilled and agreed that a heart symbolized Ivan's kind, generous, courageous, loving personality.
I named it the "Hidden Heart" Game as adventuous children .....and adults discover hearts lovingly and secretly placed throughout the vivid, mural illustrations. An answer key is in the back of the book....in case of emergencies for parents and grandparents, etc.
BBB: What was your favorite book as a child?
LB: As a child, I grew up in the See Dick. See Jane era. I don't remember owning a children's book. To my advantage, I had a marvelous fifth grade teacher who read books every afternoon to us while we sat on the floor - listening intently. She was my role model and I wanted to be just like her.
My parents were second generation Italian immigrants. They did not finish school as they were needed to work. As a young child, I do not remember being read to by anyone - even my siblings - who were a lot older. I went to first grade at 5 years of age, not knowing the alphabet. Today, that would be a red alert and probably a struggling reader as a result.
I believe literacy came to me in a different way. I observed my daddy reading the encyclopedias at night with such focus. Also, I realized the importance of reading and writing as I wrote letters for my Italian grandmother -- Nona Rossetti. I saw the pride on her face as she watched me read and write in English. She would reward me with a quarter which was the price of a movie at the time. OOPS -- I am telling you my age!
BBB: What do you hope children will learn from your book?
LB: I hope children will learn that like Ivan they are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) especially when they are challenged by bullying. After the zebra bit Ivan's fluffy tuft off and the water buffaloes made fun of the silly way he drank at their watering hole, Ivan wanted to be like them. Sound familiar? Yes, there is an Ivan in all of us! We want to be accepted. I hope children understand how they are designed by a loving God. Ivan's resilience and vulnerability mirrors a child's. I want this book to be a valuable teaching tool, as well as, a favorite, cherished classic book. Ivan Becomes a Hero was written to teach self-acceptance, "celebrating" differences while embracing similarities, and character traits like kindness, courage, forgiveness and a loving heart. Ivan has a LIFE MESSAGE and I have found all ages identify with Ivan's plight. After all, everyone has been hurt in one way or another. We cheer for Ivan and the fact he becomes an unlikely hero using all the features he disliked about himself while turning them into strengths. In the end, Ivan dances and shouts, "I LIKE BEING ME!" I want children to celebrate and never sell out their individualism!
LB: I co-published Ivan Becomes a Hero. I worked personally with the publisher, editor, designer, and the illustrator. The first illustrator quit after 5 months and a couple of samples. I was not upset because the illustrator "THING" was my most fervent prayer. My vision was to have lifelike, vivid pages of murals for readers and non-readers. My wonderful co-publisher, Linda Hawkins, from Tennesse phoned Donna Brooks, my illustrator, from Kentucky for me. I live in Florida! Donna had almost completed the project she was working on. Perfect timing! I did not know Donna but from the excitement in Linda's voice, I knew we had God's best for my book. I am elated with the extraordinary illustrations Donna Brooks painted. She had the heart for Ivan as her married, oldest son informed her that he had read the manuscript and - HE WAS IVAN! She was shocked that he opened up about the unkindness and bullying he received as a result of Tourette Syndrome. He wrote a foreword in the front of my book for children. The characters are alive, vivid, animated, and lovable just as I hoped would come forth.
BBB: Are you currently working on any more books?
LB: Currently, I am working on a sequel to Ivan Becomes a Hero. It has mystery, humor, surprises and tender parts. In addition, I have 4 other books ready to be edited. What is holding me back? Finances, of course. Ivan took 12 years (on and off) from inspiration to publishing! Frank (my husband and greatest encourager) and I are hoping to publish more books in the near future.
You can find out more about Linda Rossetti Brocato and Ivan Becomes a Hero by visiting lindarossettibrocato.com
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Contest runs from May 1, 2013 - May 8, 2013. The winner will be announced May 9, 2013.