Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with Ruth Maille, author of The Power of Gratitude: Unlocking Hidden Treasures.
FQ: So far you have focused on the power of positivity and kindness with the first two books in this series. What made you decide to focus this book on the topic of gratitude?
MAILLE: My preschool children are always inspiring me with new ideas for my books. This time we were outside playing when one of the children pointed to a cloud shaped like a heart. She shared how we could find more things in the clouds if we used our imaginations. That turned into a conversation about gratitude. After researching how children experience gratitude with over 100 children, The Power of Gratitude was born.
FQ: How did you develop the main character of this series: Orbit, the globe?
MAILLE: While working on the cover for The Power of Positivity, we were trying to find the perfect picture to represent the book— something that encompassed the message and spoke to both girls and boys. While working on the page "O is for Optimistic" with my illustrator, I fell in love with the image of the globe and the little girl. The image inspired me to hold a contest on Facebook to suggest a possible name. That led to many choices that were all good, but something was still missing. None of them popped — until one day, someone suggested the name Orbit. I knew "Orbit" could be the main character for the series of books I wanted to write about character traits. Being a globe, Orbit encompasses all children and the many different facets of wisdom. From the uncountable hours I have spent reading with children, I knew it is always fun to have a main character who can share his knowledge in a fun and entertaining way with a great message.
FQ: What is the significance of the bandages on the top of Orbit's head?
MAILLE: Orbit was created during the Pandemic, and our world was hurting at the time. The bandaid represents the earth's healing. Maybe someday, his band-aid will come off, but I think the world has a lot of healing still left to do.
FQ: This is the third book in the "Power Of" series. Can you share if you have any more books planned for this series in the future?
MAILLE: Currently, I am working on research for a new book, The Power of Empathy. Empathy is an important character trait that is a learned behavior. It begins by helping children recognize and label their own emotions. That empowers them to recognize similar emotions expressed by others around them. As parents, we can ask them frequently how they are feeling, talk about their feelings, and point out where they see someone being empathetic. Eventually, as children practice this over and over, it becomes natural.
FQ: Along with your other books in this series, you have also authored a coloring book and two activity books that feature Orbit. Do you have any plans for a coloring or activity book based on The Power of Gratitude: Unlocking Hidden Treasures?
MAILLE: Not at this present time. I am busy learning more about marketing and expanding my email list. I want to promote my next book through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, as I did with The Power of Kindness. I learned a lot through that experience. Hopefully, I can incorporate some of what I learned to create another even more successful campaign with options that include coloring books and activity books.
FQ: Explain more about crowdfunding, please.
MAILLE: Crowdfunding is an alternative way of fundraising for projects through an internet platform to help support individuals with a vision. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are popular crowdfunding platforms. Backers give money to support the project in return for a "REWARD" or "PRODUCT." It is a limited-time campaign, usually between 7-30 days. This type of campaign is an "all-or-nothing" campaign which means if your fundraising goal is not met, the project is not funded, and no one gets charged. Crowdfunding can help authors print their books in larger quantities and make the project more cost-effective. Using crowdfunding also created the opportunity for me to donate over 200 books as one of the rewards being offered.
FQ: Your "Power Of" series is a collection of social-emotional learning books for kids, focusing on teaching them traits that are vital to helping lead to emotionally healthy adulthood. What led you to want to write these types of stories for kids?
MAILLE: Thirty-one years of working with children in my preschool have taught me that it is essential to teach children at a young age these character traits. I have been lucky to help the children I care for learn these lessons one-to-one. The Pandemic made it even more apparent to me that ALL children need to be taught these tools to navigate what life throws us. Writing became my instrument to reach more children. Also, it allowed me to help my many friends who are teachers that are constantly working to help their students with social skills. My goal was to create fun, entertaining books and convey important life lessons. My personal experience has shown me books are a great way to help children learn these valuable skills they will need as they grow up.
FQ: What is the single most important lesson you want kids to remember after reading The Power of Gratitude: Unlocking Hidden Treasures?
MAILLE: No matter what, there is always something to be grateful for. The way to discover the treasures all around us each day is to use the magical key of gratitude.
FQ: How do you choose the topics on which to focus your books?
MAILLE: Many times my ideas come from my children. When I wrote The Power of Kindness, my children and I were having a snack. One of the children said something that wasn't kind to another child. That was a perfect opportunity to talk about kindness and how they could make a difference by choosing to be kind.
FQ: The words you chose to represent each letter of the alphabet are extremely varied. With such a wide assortment of words in the vocabulary to choose from, how did you pick the words that appear in the book?
MAILLE: I interviewed over 100 children ages 4-8 and asked them three questions.
1. What does gratitude mean?
2. What is something you are grateful for?
3. Where do you see gratitude in your life?
I learned so much from these children. Their answers were unique. They gave me more information to work with than I could have imagined. You see, I enjoy listening to children. They are more intelligent than many adults think. When I listen to what matters in their lives, I feel like I get to know them deeper, which is a gift to me. I hope my focused listening gives each child the message that they are important and that what they share is valuable.
FQ: Are the children that Orbit visits within The Power of Gratitude: Unlocking Hidden Treasures characters who have appeared in your previous "Power Of" books, or do you create new characters for each story?
MAILLE: I introduced three new characters in this book plus used some of my previous characters. All of the characters have personalities, and hopefully, as children read my stories, they can identify with one of the characters. The three new characters are Rosie, Trent, and Kim.
Rosie is a bubbly, sweet, and curious little girl who is up for any adventure. She loves nature, especially Lady Bugs and Honey Bees. Rosie loves jumping in puddles and singing with her friend Dominic. Trent loves helping his mom in the garden. His favorite vegetables are lettuce, carrots, and peas. He loves trains, and someday, he hopes to travel around the world on a train. Kim loves to learn about new things, especially birds. She can tell you all about why an egg is an oval. Her favorite thing is flying a kite with her good buddy Trent.
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