On a picture-perfect, clear blue sky day, with the aroma of kettle corn filling the air, a young child runs up to a book display, pointing at the book cover and shouting back to her parent in tow – “A kitty, a kitty!” This scene played out numerous times this past weekend, where I had the privilege of attending the Orange County Children’s Book Festival with my friend, author Jaimi Ilama.
Jaimi was stationed in an author booth, where she sold and signed her book, The Upstairs Cat, for her new adoring fans, and I was Jaimi’s steadfast booth buddy. But I brought more to the table than just my payment processing skills. I provided signs for the children to hold and pose with in front of…you guessed it…cats and kittens!
In order to spread awareness about cat adoptions, Jaimi invited Caring Friends Cat Rescue of Tustin to the festival. The cats were a huge hit! And hopefully, the exposure for the rescue group will result in some adoptions.
Animals Take Center Stage
This year marked the Orange County Children’s Book Festival’s 13th year, and what I really appreciate about the event is that it’s free to the public! Free admission and free parking…there’s no reason to not enjoy a wonderful day outside at the festival that featured over 125 authors and 135 exhibitors.
One of the highlights of the festival was the animal stage, which happened to be right next to the author booth where we were located. All throughout the day, kids could watch presentations on animals, see live animals on stage or listen as an author read from their animal-themed book. It was wonderful to see the kids’ faces light up when learning about our furry friends.
Meeting Other Authors
Besides seeing all of the excited kids racing from booth to booth, the festival was a great opportunity to meet other children’s book authors. One such author that I met was Lisa Wiehebrink, who wrote Love Me Gently, an illustrated book that centers around a puppy named Cooper and is perfect for young readers.
A Conversation with Lisa
What is the book about?
Love Me Gently helps children ages 3 and up to discover the meaning of unconditional love, compassion, and kindness toward animals. The book is essentially a kid’s guide to man’s best friend that captures common, real-life challenges a young boy faces with his newly adopted puppy. Each dilemma is a learning opportunity that is met with a solution that “makes them both happy,” a recurring and charming theme throughout the book.
Simple lessons include allowing the dog to eat uninterrupted, patience in training, gentle handling, and safety around the house for both child and dog. Young readers are empowered and encouraged to make good choices as they learn the responsibilities of caring for a pet.
What inspired you to write Love Me Gently?
This book came to life while sitting at a park watching my youngest play. I observed another little boy playing roughly with his dog and thought there should be a book to help kids (and parents) understand the meaning of kind, gentle care of their pets. I jotted down my thoughts and ideas on my grocery list!
If there’s one thing you want readers to take away from the book, what would that be?
I want readers to know that I firmly believe we can make a difference in this next generation by teaching them to simply be kind to all living things. Compassion and empathy are learned at a very early age, and if we teach children to treat their animals kindly, they most often will treat people kindly too. It just makes the world a better place!
Do you plan to write other books about Cooper?
I just completed my second book about Cooper growing older and paralleling the experience of having an aging dog and how to treat him to that of an aging grandparent. Again, teaching a life lesson about compassion. I have another book in the works about bullying and Cooper is also the main character.
What’s a fun fact about yourself?
Before my role as a stay at home mom and writer, I was a fitness model.
More on Love Me Gently
Love Me Gently is currently used as the main tool for a humane education program in the Los Angeles school district. It is also included in the ACT Learning Project kits that were developed and implemented by Gabriel’s Angels of Phoenix, which serves 13,700 abused, neglected and at-risk children in Arizona through the application of innovative pet therapy.
If you are interested in purchasing Love Me Gently, you can do so at the book’s website. The book by itself is $9.95. Or, you can purchase the Cooper Plush and Book Combo (pictured above, minus the cat) for $24.95. I purchased the combo because Cooper is just too cute!
A portion of all proceeds from each book or combo set sold goes to local animal shelters and organizations!
While Love Me Gently centers around a puppy named Cooper, I know that many cat lovers either love dogs too (like me!) or have a dog lover in their life. And this book teaches valuable pet ownership lessons in general. So, why not enter the giveaway to win a copy for a young reader in your life!
Lisa has been kind enough to let us give away one copy of Love Me Gently to a reader. Simply leave a comment below to be entered! The giveaway closes on Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at noon Pacific. One winner will be chosen via Random.org. U.S. entries only. If you are an international entrant and the winner, you can choose a U.S. friend to have the book sent to.
Note: This is not a sponsored post. I purchased my copy of Love Me Gently.
What was your favorite book as a child?