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Animal Authors Unite: A Day at the OC Children’s Book Festival (and giveaway!)

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.

Me with Sunshine, a kitten available for adoption!

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.

Sophie posing proudly with Cooper from Love Me Gently.

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 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.

Henry and Cooper, an image from the book.

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I purchased my copy of Love Me Gently.

What was your favorite book as a child?

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Looks like Sophie has a new BFF.

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  1. I will definitely show this to my granddaughter who is an aspiring artist and author at 7! Pretty much every story she writes involves cats in some way. And at least one of her library books each week is about cats. Our favorite book or series is Pete the Cat or SkippyJon Jones! A real cat lover!

  2. I’m be super thrilled to read this book to my daughter’s kindergarten class next month! Love and compassion needs to be taught and shared with the youngest of children. <3

  3. OMC We luv dat foto of Sophie. She’s so cute. Great post, great cause. Fanks fur sharin’. We’s all ’bout cats, so ifin somepawdy really really wants to win, give our chance to them. Have a pawsum weekend.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Raena

  4. I would love to visit that festival–cats and books? Such a purrfect combo! I hope some adoptions come from it. I love children’s books. My favorite as a child was probably the Curious George books. I wanted a pet monkey. :-) I’m working on some children’s stories, too, featuring cats, of course.

  5. What a great event! I love that they combined the book festival with adoptable pets and animal presentations. Love Me Gently sounds like a wonderful children’s book.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  6. One of my favorite books as a child was Pumpkin, Ginger, and Spice, the store of three Dachshunds. I was already a dog-crazy girl and the book cemented it! This event sounds really wonderful and I love that kitties were involved. And Love Me Gently sounds like a fabulous book!

  7. That sounds like a fun time. This book looks great too, I would love to win it for my great niece, we are always showing her how to pet the dog and 2 cats she has nicely.

  8. The event sounds really fun, and how great to have such an opportunity to promote cat adoptions, and a great way to teach kids compassion. So nice of the author to invite a kitty rescue to come along.

  9. Oh wow that looked like such a great event and day out! Plus promoting kitty adoption, awwwwww just purrfect and thank mew so much fur sharing we really enjoyed reading all about it!!!


    Basil & Co xox

  10. Children’s book about pets are the best! This one sounds fun as well as educational. Believe it or not, TW’s fave book growing up was Jenny Lind and her Listening Cat and she also loved Charlotte’s Web. I think she still has both of them.

  11. I can’t enter your giveaway (being overseas) This is more than fine so don’t stress :-) I wanted to say how much your own love of animals shines though, in your post and the talented aauthors you interview. This is a fabulous festival and if it is not worldwide news I want to know why the heck not!

  12. I had too many favorite books to pick just one but one of my favorites (I’m totally dating myself as I doubt this book is even in print anymore) was called The Poodle Who Barked at the Wind. It was about a poodle who barked at everything and the father in the family finally comes to understand that the barking was the poodle’s way of communicating with the family that she loved them and was trying to protect them. I love books that really encourage compassion and understanding for animals starting at a young age.

  13. I love it when children’s books feature animals! Kids learn a lot about compassion and empathy from animal characters. I think there is just something about it that makes it less socially intimidating for some kids than human characters. These books sound great! It is awesome that she is teaching lessons about treating a dog nicely with her books.

  14. It sounds like a wonderful event! I’m so glad the cat rescue was invited. I’m sure they inspired people to think about adopting one, if not this weekend then in the future. The signs you made are great! I loved so many books as a kid, one of my favorites was “The Animal Family” by Randall Jarrell which I got in 5th grade.