A new picture book plunges a young reader into a world filled with misadventures and trials beyond her control. When her little brother draws on his favorite sweater with a marker, how does she react? Not with anger, but with affirmations repeated daily: “I am strong, I am kind, I am awesome, I can do anything.
“I Am Inspired: A Day of Children’s Affirmations” by Dylan Mills (East 26th Publishing, 2022) uses rhyming lyrics and whimsical illustrations by Mills’ sister, Shelby Koehler, to captivate readers. Meet the author and illustrator at a 1-3 p.m. book launch Saturday hosted by Hearth and Soul, 1410 Market St., D1, Tallahassee.
Based on the daily affirmations the author repeats with her own daughter, “I Am Inspired” teaches children how to turn negative situations into daily experiences of growth and inspiration. From the story’s brave narrator to the pointy-eared dog and the crawling brother, this cautionary tale hooks any new reader with the promise of trial and triumph.
“When we were growing up,” Mills said, “my mom always found ways to foster our creativity — and keep us out of trouble. Any ideas we had, she immediately encouraged. games, filming made-up news programs or performing sketches that we wrote ourselves.
“Our road trips took us on adventures through books read aloud as we traveled the mountains. She instilled a love of reading and poetry at a very young age. With that kind of support and atmosphere, there’s no doubt that we all have that crazy creativity.”
Mills’ mother is award-winning author Susan Koehler, a retired teacher who has written four professional books for teachers and five non-fiction books for children. She has also published two novels for young readers. The three women support each other and collaborate on each other’s creative endeavors. Shelby Koehler also illustrated Susan Koehler’s latest mid-level novel, “Nobody Kills Uncle Buster and Gets Away with It” (Turtle Cove Press, 2021).
Mills’ first book, “Inspired: 7 Steps to Living Your Most Inspired Life” (East 26th Publishing, 2019) became Amazon’s number one bestseller. “I sent Mom the first chapter and she encouraged and encouraged me every step of the way. I decided to take the positive self-talk teachings from my first book and combine them with the daily affirmations I do with my children, this is how my second book was born.
To illustrate her children’s book, Mills turned to her sister. “When I wrote this book, I knew there was no other choice for the illustrator,” Mills said. “Shelby has always been the artist in the family – effortlessly excelling in every art form she attempts. She perfectly captures the essence of this book and gives it the exact light and playful, colorful feel that he deserves.
Mills also praises her mother. “It was so inspiring to see her in her element — encouraging writers of all ages along the way, just like she did with us our entire childhood,” she said.
In addition to “Nobody Kills Uncle Buster and Gets Away With It”, Susan Koehler is the author of “Dahlia in Bloom” (Turtle Cove Press, 2019), a work of historical fiction which won first place at the Royal Palm Literary Awards and received a star-studded review from Kirkus Reviews. “Uncle Buster,” a fun, quirky mid-level mystery, has a great cover and dream-come-true interior artwork by Shelby Koehler.
“To me, there is no greater gift we can give the world than the beauty we create,” said Susan Koehler. “Our family could never claim to have the cleanest, neatest house on the block, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more creative team. There were always multiple projects going on here. It’s just the way we live , and I wouldn’t change a thing.
“Each of our children has developed an appreciation for literature, art and music, and they have each found their own unique and authentic brand of creativity. They make the world a better place, and I couldn’t be prouder.
Both Susan Koehler and Mills began their teaching careers in Gadsden County and work with Ferst Readers to provide books to preschoolers in Quincy. “It’s a small seed right now that we hope will grow into something wonderful for local children,” Susan Koehler said. The three women nurture the seeds of creativity in their own families, resulting in literary and visual delights for young readers.
Meet author Dylan Mills and illustrator Shelby Koehler at the “I Am Inspired: A Day of Children’s Affirmations” book launch from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, hosted by Hearth and Soul, 1410 Market St., D1, Tallahassee.
Award-winning author Faith Eidse has published five books of fiction and non-fiction and recently submitted her memoir, “Deeper than African Soil,” to TouchPoint Press.