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The Royal Palm: multi award-winning children's book!

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Good Morning, World!:Multi Award Winner

The Trees Have Hearts:Multi Award Winner

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A Beautiful Tribute From My Fans

Monday, November 24, 2014

Should Every Children’s Book Have a Happy Ending?

When I was a little girl, I grew up on the classic children’s books from countries around the world. Translated into Ukrainian or Russian, these books hardly had any illustrations, or they were hidden in the middle or back of the book. Most of them were black and white, leaving my imagination to fill in the details. Books like that left me yearning for more. I tried to re-create the characters on paper, coloring them with my old pencils. They may not have looked the way I wanted, but their images stuck in my mind for months. They fed my hungry imagination from the time I opened my eyes, making me reread the book many times.

Not all the books I read as a child had a happy ending. They were written in different times and countries, reflecting the reality of the Old World and the culture of the countries they were from. Sometimes the stories were too cruel and sad for my tender years, making me sob in the closet. I disliked it when my favorite hero or heroine died or didn’t turn out the way I had expected. After I stopped sobbing, I sat in my hiding spot and thought about what went wrong with my heroes. Why had they made mistakes that caused them to be killed? Why didn’t the prince kill the dragon or marry his princess? Why did the wolf eat the cute goat, which was so kind and happy?

Thinking about the story I just read, I had more “whys” than answers. That is when I learned to analyze the characters’ behaviors, actions toward others, and missteps they made throughout the story. Scrutinizing facts, I found the answers, which made me feel better. To my surprise, my heroes and heroines weren’t always as positive as I thought at first. I understood they finished badly because they did not learn from their mistakes. Sometimes I did not find anything wrong with the characters, and I felt angry that the sneaky fox had eaten the adorable chicken I had fallen in love with. But that is how life worked on our farm, in our village, and in the world I knew. I accepted my loss with tears in my eyes and moved on to the next book. 

Did I really yearn for the bad dragon to turn into the good kitten and start twirling around the princess’ legs? Not really. I wanted the dragon to be a dragon—powerful, bad, and scary—so I could compare it to the good prince and powerless princes. I wanted to understand the difference between life and death, good and evil, power and powerlessness, kindness and selfishness. I wanted to read between the lines and make my own statement about the story and characters. I am sure millions of children who grew up on those types of books did the same. Did we all turn out to be bad or outcasts because we read books that did not have happy endings? I am sure those books did not make us killers, robbers, or dreadful human beings. But then it was a different time and country.

Times and books have changed dramatically since I was a child. Books with unhappy endings are no longer popular. Now critics and most readers favor books with happy endings. They think that this type of book is good and right for children. And they are, but these books are not the only books that show good examples and teach useful lessons. Today children’s books are heavily illustrated and the words have shrunk almost to nothing. Are we robbing our children of their imagination? Why are we afraid to write books close to reality? God forbid that the story should make a child upset or cry.

I do not remember the name of the book, but I remember a story I read to my daughter when she was four. It was about a dog left behind by his owner, who could not take him to Siberia, where he had been relocated for his job. Missing his owner, the dog broke free. Looking for his owner, he covered thousands of dangerous miles in bitter weather, sleeping in the snow, fighting wolves and bears, getting caught in traps and escaping bad people. Many months later, he finally arrived at his destination, but sadly, the owner had gone to the train station to return to his hometown to bring his dog to his new place. The train was picking up speed when the dog, scenting his owner, whirled around the corner, to see the disappearing train with his owner peering through the window in the other direction, not realizing that his dog was chasing the train.

I was screaming, “Stop that train! Turn your head, jerk! The dog is here!” But my little girl had a different opinion. “It’s not the owner’s fault, Mommy. He didn’t know the dog was looking for him,” she said, sobbing. I was stunned at such wisdom. She did not see the negative side of the ending as I did; she saw the misfortune of reality. Yes, the story had a very sad ending and we both cried, but it gave us a great opportunity to discuss many things about loyalty, love, compassion, bravery, bad and good choices, and why not every story has a happy ending.

My daughter is 33 years old now, and we still cry when we talk about this story. I will always remember my little girl’s summary of this book: “Sometimes things happen because that is how things are.” This book probably taught her more than a dozen books with happy endings. It taught her to look differently on our world and younger friends, the animals. Since we read that book, she has wanted to take home every stray cat and dog. Some of them we did…

Critics often criticize children’s books that do not have happy endings. Good Morning, World!, my award-winning book, falls into this category. It almost landed me on the “Grandpa’s Hit List” because I made the character of the grandpa slightly grumpy and negative. This story takes the reader to the park, where Grandpa and his little grandson are taking a walk one fine morning. The day was hot, and Grandpa did not enjoy the outdoors as much as Baby Thomas did. Every little thing that amused Baby Thomas bothered grouchy Grandpa. Obviously, Grandpa woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. However, his little grandson had a wonderful time, while collecting “good mornings,” meeting people, animals, birds, and other creatures in the park.

Baby Thomas looked at the world through the eyes of an innocent child. Beautiful examples to all of us: Open your eyes and celebrate each moment! The world has so much to offer; we just must look for it as children do. Grandpa, on the other hand, did not share the baby’s happy attitude. He did not like the hot sun baking him like a cupcake. His negative disposition robbed him of the fun his grandson enjoyed so much. Sometimes we grown-ups fail to see the beauty this world has to offer. Often, I am as guilty as Grandpa.

Recently I submitted GoodMorning, World! for the 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. I am perfectly okay that this book did not win an award. I am sure there are many great books that deserved this award. What I am not okay with is the judge’s statement about Grandpa’s character.  Why must Grandpa awake to the fact that he is missing the beautiful world around him? I purposely left this part for the children to discover. I want them to see what Grandpa is missing by being grumpy and unhappy. I want them to have a healthy conversation about their choices and behavior.

Judge’s commentary:
Good Morning, World! is an optimistic look at the world through the eyes of a toddler. The author has created a whimsical story full of positivity and humor that parents will no doubt appreciate. The illustrations are WONDERFUL and greatly support and contribute to the sense of beauty throughout the story. The ending is particularly rewarding as the reader experiences all the main character’s joy at once, all the “Good mornings” he picked up during his walk.

The repetition in the story is great, as is the contrast between Grandpa and Baby Thomas. That said, the reader is left wanting to see some character development/transformation in the Grandpa’s character. As scene-by-scene transpires, you can’t help but think that Grandpa’s eyes are opening to what he’s missing, especially when he sees himself reflected in the strolling mother-on-a-cellphone. But his eyes never do open, leaving the story feeling as though it stopped short.

Nonetheless, children will enjoy this title and LOVE the accompanying pictures. The author should be proud of this title!

I strongly disagree with this judgment. Grandpa experienced everything Baby Thomas did, but he chose not to see what his grandson was seeing. I am sure at one time he enjoyed this world as much as his grandson did. If he changes his mood and starts screaming “Good Morning” to everyone and everything he passes, will kids learn a greater lesson than if he complains about everything he sees? What is left to the child’s imagination and discussion if we chew every word for them? Recklessly, Grandpa already punished himself for missing all the fun that Baby Thomas had.

I am glad Good Morning, World! touches critics’ and readers’ nerves. I love mixed reviews. They prove that we need these types of books. We are often afraid to teach children real things. We want them to see the world through rose-colored glasses. But reality is not always rosy. I think we should be more honest with children about the real world, so they can be more prepared to face it one day. Children are like sponges, and of course, children’s writers must be very careful with their words. Like my kids and me, children will learn how to benefit from both types of books.

Readers have different tastes and views about the books they read. Writing this book, I wanted to show a different side of human nature. Busy with many things, we grown-ups often forget how to see the world through the eyes of a child. The character of Grandpa was exaggerated for a reason. The key message of this book is simple: each of us has a choice, whether to wake up happy or dismal. I also wanted to show children how two people seeing the same things can draw totally different conclusions. And, of course, I wanted children to have fun with the Grandpa character, which will show them how they may appear to others when they are grumpy.

Good Morning, World! is a book for children and parents who like to have a good discussion. This book is meant to spark a conversation about the attitudes we have and the choices we make. I hope that Good Morning, World! will remind people about the beautiful world outside and that we should let our children interact with nature more often.

PS. GoodMorning, World! was my observation of people and nature during my morning walks in the park. As a children’s writer, I try to create books that will mold the minds of children, forcing their brains to read between the lines, which they must do throughout their lives.

Good Morning, World! is a two time award-winning children's book 

Thank you very much for reading my post! 
Best wishes
Mrs. D.