This week’s spotlight is on a project which, as soon as I heard about it, I just HAD to learn more. I first started chatting to Sandra via Twitter through #WritingCommunity. Her incredible self-published project has touched me and I’m over the moon to have had the opportunity to interview her so I can share more about her project with you.
The Kindness Kangaroo Project is a series of twenty-six picture books, written by Sandra Wilson and illustrated by children. Each one features a different animal showcasing a different emotion. Sandra is half-way through the project and will share with us her insights from the project.
Hi Sandra, firstly, did you always want to be a writer?
I started writing as a teenager and my father suggested I pursue it further so I went to study writing in university – and have always been writing.
Can you tell us a little bit about The Kindness Project and the inspiration behind it?
The Kindness Kangaroo Project has me, in my kangaroo costume, visiting classrooms all around Southern Ontario to talk to kids about my books. With each book I visit a class and talk to the students to generate ideas for the book and then once I have written the story I send it back to the class for illustrations.
Which letters of the alphabet have you already published and do you have a favourite?
Kindness Kangaroo, Empathy Elephant, Lovable Lion, Reckless Raccoon, Determined Dog, Optimistic Octopus, Grateful Giraffe, Jealous Jaguar, Timid Turtle, Courageous Caterpillar, Yakkety Yak, Impatient Iguana and Nervous Newt.
I think of this group my favourite would be Yakkety Yak because it talks about the importance of the words we use, as a writer I also feel words are important.
How long does it take you to write each story? Are they all rhyming stories?
Each story is a rhyming story and it can take anywhere from a day to a week for me to write it. When I first started it took a bit longer for the stories to come to me but as I move through the alphabet the inspirations happen much quicker and the writer seems much easier.
What is your motivation for the project? What do you want the children to take away from the experience?
I want the children to know how important their ideas how, how great their creativity is and how special they are to this world. I strongly believe that everyone should experience a standing ovation in life to give them that boost to keep moving forward, to strive for greatness. I hope, with this project that these kids feel the standing ovation.
Can you tell us a little bit about your project partners Friends 4 Kindness and Roots and Wings?
Friends 4 Kindness is a not-for-profit that believes everyone should feel included, accepted and loved. They specifically advocate for inclusion for children with learning differences or other struggles. We connected because we both believe that Kindness is for everyone and is so much better when shared.
Roots and Wings is an initiative to raise awareness of mental health issues, particularly for our youth. They connected with me because by going into schools and talking to kids about emotions I am helping grow emotional intelligence. By writing about children and emotions I am also creating conversations about how we feel which is a good step towards good mental health.
How do you decide which schools/ children illustrate the books? Do they influence the story itself? Who does the cover and how do you work with the children?
I was connected to the schools I have visited often by parents who wanted their children to be involved in the project. They introduced the concept to the teacher and then I was invited to the school. A few classes were booked after a teacher heard about the project and wanted to get involved. I make sure to use all the drawings sent to me by the class – which usually determines the length of the book. I always tell the children to just do their best and that drawing will be just perfect for me and the book.
The children that draw the front covers are mainly children that I know (or of parents that I know). I felt that because I use their pictures in the books and on my website I needed a more personal relationship with the child that draws the front cover. Also, I didn’t want to have to choose the cover drawing from a class of 25 drawings. Some of the children only had a title to work from to draw the picture, and some did have the story as reference. I left it up to their interpretation as to what they drew.
What kind of reactions have you got from the children when you’ve shared your stories and then later when they’ve seen their illustrations published in the book? How have the parents and teachers responded?
My favourite part of the project is when I go back to the school with the printed book and show it to the children. They are all so excited to see their drawings in print.
I always sign a copy of the book for their school library, and then I have them each sign my copy of the book. I want them to know they were just as important in creating this book as I was.
The teachers have all been excited to be part of the project and many parents have messaged me with appreciation for making their children part of the book. It is a very rewarding project.
How have you found the publishing process for this project?
At first I struggled with the process, there was a lot of production work – scanning drawings, sometimes a bit of editing, putting drawings with text and getting it all together for the editor. I work with One Thousand Trees (their children’s branch Saplings) and they do editing and formatting ready for the printer. I pay the printing costs for all the books, which is quite a bit to handle right now, but as the books sell that money is replenished. Now that I have done quite a few books the process is getting much easier and I have figured out the flow.
Now you are half way through the project, what do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?
When I originally started with Kindness Kangaroo it was going to be just one book. The idea for the series developed shortly after and then spun into action quite quickly. It definitely would have been better to plan it all out a bit better. (Organisation has never been one of my strengths). As I make plans for a new project to start with schools in the fall I am taking steps to be better organised and planned out.
Finally, can you share some of the titles we can look forward to coming up?
Coming soon are:
Pleasant Penguin, Whiny Walrus, Victorious Vole and Question Quetzal
I have another 5 books in the classes right now getting illustrated. They are Unique Urial, eXcited Xerus, Bravo Bear, Messy Monkey and Hopeful Hippo.
There are a few more classes I am booked into in April and May so the rest of the books can be finished up!
Thank you so much for telling us about your project, Sandra. What you have achieved is wonderful and it is heart-warming to hear how inspirational this project has been for the children involved.
Here is a quick summary of the books in the series so far:
Kindness Kangaroo the first book in the series, showing how easy it is to show kindness.
Kindness is a kangaroo
That has a special job to do
She comes around to help remind us
That everyone needs a little kindness
Courageous Caterpillar is about facing your fears.
Courageous Caterpillar had to go in the woods
But she did not know if she could
She was afraid of the dark you see
And all the scary creatures there might be
(Created with the help of a group of kids brought together specifically for this project.)
Determined Dog is about struggling to learn but being determined that you can do it.
Sometimes things are harder to do.
Not for everyone but maybe for you.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be done,
or that you are less than anyone.
Empathy Elephant teaches about how you can help your friends by understanding how they feel.
Have you ever met someone who is feeling down?
Instead of a smile their face has a frown?
Something is making this person feel sad
And you want to help them and make them feel glad
You will help them if you can
Because empathy means you understand.
Grateful Giraffe is a book about self love.
I am grateful for my home, my friends, my family.
But most of all I am very grateful for the things that make me, me.
Impatient Iguana is about how to curb our excitement.
How much longer do I have to wait?
Impatient asked while swinging on the gate.
“Please get down before you fall.
You are not being very patient at all.”
Jealous Jaguar is about being small for your age.
Jealous Jaguar is smaller than his friends
And on their height he must depend
To reach for things that are just too height
Even when he goes on tiptoe to try
He often gets frustrated that he always needs help
If he were just taller he could do it himself
Lovable Lion talks about all kinds of love
Lovable Lion spends his day feeling good
With his loving heart he really should
Love is so nice to feel
It can make you happy and make you heal
Nervous Newt is about helping easy your nerves in order to participate.
Thanks Dad for our talk
I’m still nervous but I am going to walk
Onto that boat and sit in my seat
I will say hi to each person I meet
Optimistic Octopus is all about planning for a positive day.
Optimistic says it is important to know
to take each day as it flows
Always believe it will work out in the end
and share your optimism with your friends.
Reckless Raccoon is a book about making safe choices.
Reckless learned some lessons today
About being safe when you are at play
Hopefully you know these things too
And know that being reckless is not good to do
Timid Turtle is too embarrassed to come out of his shell.
Timid Turtle was hiding in his shell.
“What’s the matter?” asked his friend
“Are you not well?”
“I’m fine,” Timid said. “That is I’m not sick.
I’m just having trouble controlling my tic.”
“What’s a tic?” wondered his friend. “Will it go away?”
“It is something I can’t control,” Timid cried,
“and it happens every day.”
Yakkety Yak is about the importance of words.
“Words can be weapons,” his mother once said
“or words can be helpful if you use your head.
Negative words just weign the world down
So we need to spread positive words around.”
About Sandra Wilson:
Sandra is a writer, educator and photographer looking to bring positivity, inspiration and fun into this world. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and History and over 35 years of working with children. Sandra’s stories are relatable, and they help children understand their struggles a little bit more. She loves to include the children in her stories and therefore most of her books involve a young illustrator.