Tag Archives: Independent Publishing

Interview: Laura Kantor, author of The Colourblind Chameleon

We are so lucky in the Chaos household, we are inundated with wonderful books to read. But it does mean that I get a little backlogged when it comes to writing about them. This isn’t necessarily an issue for large publishers, but I also like to support small indies and I can’t always guarantee a timely review.

I love the look of The Colourblind Chameleon, and I especially love the message that it’s okay to be different and you can be yourself rather than pretend to be someone you’re not (something I’ve personally struggled with, and still not quite there at almost forty, so a very important message for children of all ages!)

With a release date just before Christmas (it’s out now!), I asked Laura if she’d do an interview for Child-Led Chaos about The Colourblind Chameleon and her plans for the future. Luckily for us, she agreed.

The Colourblind Chameleon: Laura Kantor & Sarah Ray

Who are you?! 😉
Hello, I’m Laura Kantor, author of The Colourblind Chameleon and Founder of Squidgy Face Books! I’m originally from Coventry, England but currently live in Singapore with my boyfriend, James.

Can you tell us a bit about The Colourblind Chameleon?
The Colourblind Chameleon is one of the first stories I’ve written, and mine and Sarah’s very first published book! It’s a rhyming story for children which  follows a very special chameleon who doesn’t ‘fit in’ with the rest. At first, he really struggles to be like the other chameleons, but eventually he realises that it’s not just good to be different, it’s a lot more fun! It has an important message for children that being different is a good thing, and not to worry about not fitting in, because everyone will find their place eventually.

I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve with the book. I really think it has something for everyone – colourful, hilarious drawings which will make children and adults laugh, but an important underlying message for the reader.

What inspired you to write this story?
When I first started writing stories, they always starred animals with very unusual features (mostly inspired by friends & family – to their horror!). It is really important to me that each book has a clear message for children, particularly around being different and self-esteem.

The Colourblind Chameleon evolved from several other stories i’d written about different animals, and just popped into my head one day. I grabbed a pen and paper and before I knew it, the story was complete!

The Colourblind Chameleon: Laura Kantor & Sarah Ray

How did you work on character design and the look of the book?
Sarah Ray: I started off by drawing lots and lots of chameleons (from photos, unfortunately I don’t have a pet one) and from there, kept the features that represented the Chameleon and gave it character, i.e the big boggly eyes, funny feet and curly tail.   The main character wanted to be a bit different to the others, so i put him in wellies and pants, for added fun! And also so that he was easily recognisable when he was changing colour throughout the book.  I gave his friends slightly different ‘hair’ styles and linked it all together with colour and humour.

I also drew a little blue bug on most of the pages and had fun hiding him – can you find him?

You’re supporting “Baby Lifeline” can you tell us more about the charity and why you chose it?
When I decided to self publish, I really wanted to make a difference to my local community, as well as give people great books to read! Finding a great charity was easy – Baby Lifeline. When my sister was born, she was 11 weeks premature, and the odds of survival were against her. Baby Lifeline is a local charity (based in Coventry) which raises money for special care baby units and maternity equipment nationwide, and they are the reason my sister is alive today.  As I am abroad so much, I always miss the events and fun runs that my family attend, so this is my way of giving back.

What do you think are the benefits (and drawbacks!) of independent publishing?
Pros: Having total control of the work, from the creative elements to the marketing (which I absolutely loved!) and actually being able to have a book out there for people to buy! Honestly, watching my friends and family read my book is so amazing , and hearing all the positive feedback has been a dream come true.

Cons: It’s a lot of work, and it can be quite scary! I particularly struggled when creating the actual eBook, everything kept going wrong and no one seemed to actually know what to do, so it was a bit of worry. Luckily everything is sorted now!

Do you have any future projects you’d like to share?
Well, we have lots of other fun and exciting stories in the pipeline, featuring snails, bees and worms to name a few! I’d also love to create an interactive children’s book, so if The Colourblind Chameleon is successful, this is definitely something we can work on in the near future.

If you’d like to preview or buy a copy of The Colourblind Chameleon you can click on any of the links below:
iTunes | Amazon | Google Play | Barnes & Noble

For more information please visit:
www.squidgyfacebooks.com,
www.facebook.com/squidgyface
https://plus.google.com/+Squidgyfacebooks/posts

I like to give huge thanks to Laura and Sarah for this interview, and best wishes for The Colourblind Chameleon.

What Do Squirrels Do by Hazel Nutt

What Squirrels Do Trilogy: Hazel Nutt (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013)

What happened to March? Seriously, how is it the eighth already? I was going to share this lovely trilogy of books last week but apparently I didn’t actually post the review. Or write it. Which doesn’t help…

What Squirrels Do is a trilogy of picture books written under the pseudonym of Hazel Nutt, a little girl who is ‘nutty about nature’. Hazel can talk to squirrels and finds out all sorts of things about what they’re really up to when we’re not looking.

The books are available as paperback or e-versions. We were very kindly sent e-versions for review and to whet your appetite you can get the books free on certain days in March. The first book was free on Kindle on 3rd & 4th March. The second is free on 16th & 17th March; and the third is free on 25th & 26th March. They can also be purchased from a variety of places listed on the What Squirrels Do website.

In What Squirrels Do When You’re Not Looking, many of the double page spreads have a lovely set up where you’re shown, for example, an empty swing and asked to think about why it’s swinging; then when the page is turned there’s the cheeky squirrel. We found the squirrel in trench coat doing his shopping particularly amusing! The rhyming text works well and I love books that make you look at the world in a different way, starting a child’s imagination running.

The Squirrel Olympics is a lot sillier, and I love it for that! There’s bungee jumping, limbo dancing and pigeon curling! More seriously it introduces a range of sport names to small children and shows how fun being active can be. I think this is my favourite of the three and I usually dislike sport!

What Squirrels Do For Fun features more of the author herself telling why she knows so much about squirrels and sharing some of their relaxation activities. It also sneaks in some more education in the form of talking about spreading seeds from flowers with some lovely funny images of squirrels waving flower pom-poms!

These books will appeal to young children due to their rhyming text and silliness. They were published to celebrate the real Hazel’s second birthday, what a lucky little girl!

What Squirrels Do Trilogy: Hazel Nutt (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2013)

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of these books by ‘Hazel Nutt’ for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.

Learn with Auntie Toks

I live in a very monocultural part of the world. Fortunately there is a wonderful Montessori nursery very close to us which is a perfect microcosm of multiculturalism with children, teachers and assistants from around the globe working and learning together; this is where my daughters spent 30 hours a week from when they were 5 months old until I stopped working (age 2 for DG; and 4 for MG.) Our local village school is wonderful and inclusive, but it’s hard not to notice the sea of mainly-white faces on stage at their end-of-year assemblies. This is not the idea of ‘normality’ I want my children to absorb. Fortunately their very early years nursery experience; their close friends; their parenting; and their school’s excellent teaching counteract the overly monocultural environment they could be experiencing.

Given my worries on the lack of multicultural experiences, I was more than happy to be offered the chance to review this set of story and activity books based on African folk tales and published to supplement the not-for-profit work of The Lighthouse Children’s Workshop. There are two story books and each has an accompanying workbook.

The Elephants Who Always Forgot (Tokunbo Ifaturoti: TOWAT Publishing, 2011)The Elephants Who Always Forgot (Tokunbo Ifaturoti: TOWAT Publishing, 2011)
This is based on a Kenyan folk tale. The storybook includes a CD with three tracks – one is the Lighthouse Children’s theme and the other two are slightly different versions of “We Love The Elephants” from the story, which is simple and catchy. There is also a recipe for Kenyan Kunde, a black-eyes peas and tomato dish. I haven’t attempted to make this with MG and DG but it looks like a straightforward recipe to follow with slightly older children due to the frying and chopping involved.

The story follows a village where people and animals live in harmony, and hunters come to try to steal the tusks from their elephants. Being forgetful, the mummy elephant who runs to warn the villagers forgets why she was running but all ends well – not so much for the hunters! The storybook is set up to be educational so on each page there are questions. These range from observations on the pictures to thinking about other knowledge children may have e.g. “Why did the farmer pick up the knife carefully?” It’s possible to read the story and leave out the questions, or to only use the questions that are most appropriate for the audience.

The activity book to go with the story contains large black and white outline pictures of every picture from the story, with activities on the opposite page. The activities include wordsearches, instructions on how to colour the picture in, counting, talking exercises etc. There is such a variety that you can pick and choose what to use with a particular child, or just use the book for colouring in. There are lovely big pictures of elephants to colour which should appeal to any age.

The Monkey and the Peanuts (Tokunbo Ifaturoti: TOWAT Publishing, 2011)The Monkey and the Peanuts (Tokunbo Ifaturoti: TOWAT Publishing, 2011)
This is based on a Nigerian folk tale. The storybook includes a recipe for Kunu Zaki, a ground millet drink. The ingredients for this would probably require a trip to a more specialist store than a supermarket but I know of many in Oxford (Cowley Road seems to have food shops for almost every culture from Halal supermarkets to Polish and Russian; there’s a Chinese supermarket somewhere more central; and just because I can’t think of an African one offhand just means I haven’t been past it on a bus) so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one in cities at least, and would be a good educational experience for children unfamiliar with these cultures.

The story follows a king who loves every part of his kingdom and a naughty monkey who steals peanuts and learns his manners. Again there are questions on every page of the story, which cover observations and knowledge. I feel this is a calmer story than the Elephant one and is the one I prefer for my children’s age group. A lesson on manners is always a plus!

The activity book is similar to the Elephant one with a colouring page on one side and various activities on the facing pages. In both cases the story books are approximately A5 sized landscape and the activity books approximately A4 sized landscape.

There are many positives for these storybooks and activity books. The font used is one with easily distinguishable b/d; p/q; I/l; a as a circle. I keep pointing out easy reader fonts in books, but they do help early/struggling readers and people with dyslexia so it’s a plus point in my mind. The copyright page says the font is Baskerville, which it isn’t, but that’s a plus! There are so many different questions and activities that it covers a wide range of education and age ranges, from early years to late primary / early secondary.

However, the packed nature of the questions on every page of the story and the different styles of questions on each page of the colouring book may be overwhelming to a struggling reader attempting to read everything. It might be worth taking the activity book apart and using as worksheets if that is an issue. The story and activity books are more of a workbook / reading scheme format, these are really for educational use than just stories even though you can read the stories as stand-alone folk tales too.

I have some reservations about some of the artwork, especially the pictures depicting the hunters and their knives in the Elephant story which may be a bit too frightening for small children and the scary cyclops monkey on the front cover of the Monkey story! But on the whole children should find the stories and pictures amusing, the Monkey one especially with MG and DG. These are designed as educational books, and as such they are good value for money. It’s worth getting the story and activity book for either (or both) tales together.

All four books can be bought from Lighthouse Children for £5.99 each with free shipping. They would be perfect for home educators, youth groups, schools and other educational establishments as well as home use.

Disclaimer: We were sent copies of these books by Tokunbo Ifaturoti for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.