It's always joyous to have kids excited over your book, but I'm especially ecstatic with the reception this book has gotten for two reasons. The first is that the main character is a boy and as boys tend to be more reluctant readers, I have reached my target audience. Girls, generally, will read across a broader range; they will read stories about boys (a la Harry Potter, Percy Jackson). Also, they will read adventure, magic, science, fashion, mythology, etc. Through my own sons, I see that most boys have a narrower focus. Few read books with girl protagonists, or about subjects like fashion, romance, relationships and subjects they might consider 'girly.' So I grabbed their attention with my premise on mixing science, adventure and animals.
The next reason I feel this book is a success is based on the interior illustration below:
In the original manuscript, I do not describe the boy, Collin, who teaches Jack the squirrel how to use simple machines and vocabulary. I didn't want that restriction because I wanted every boy to see himself as the main character. However, when my illustrator and I started working together on this project, I asked her to make the boy a person of color. Not that I consider myself an expert on the lives of people of color, but because I'm a qualified 'people person.' I have a broad spectrum of people in my life through my writing, my church, my children, my community. With the increasing awareness to include a more diverse reflection of characters in novels, film, and other areas, I felt it was important to step up to the challenge and out of my routine characterization.
There are some who might argue that I do not have the qualifications to write about characters from cultures and ethnic backgrounds different than my own. I would disagree in that my friendships and professional associations give me a starting basis. I fully admit I have much to learn, but judging from the wonder on the faces of the boys that thumbed through my book-and the smiles on the faces of the parents who then proceeded to buy the book, I think I have made a good start, but I ask your patience as I move forward.