5.0 out of 5 stars “Very inspirational!"“Great book! I am reading this to all my young relatives."-- customer review on Amazon.com
Have you read the children's book “Hey Jasmine! Let's Go to the Park"? It is the uplifting story of an 8-year-old girl with cerebral palsy – and a zest for life.
The author, Amber Nichole Harrell-Tobey, is a math instructor at Mission Middle School who has taught at Jurupa Unified for seventeen years.
Ms. Harrell-Tobey's book, published in April 2019, depicts her daughter, Jasmine, at Andulka Park, a playground in Riverside adapted with equipment for children with special needs.
“She wears leg braces (because cerebral palsy affects movement, muscle use and motor skills) and loves to go to the park," Ms. Harrell-Tobey said of her story's protagonist. “Kids don't understand why she looks different. Jasmine meets a curious friend and the story is about their adventures at the park."
The teacher and her colleagues promote such understanding, on campus and off. In one example, Lyle McCollum, a robotics teacher at Mission Middle, assigned a project this year in which student groups created, modeled and demonstrated a foot orthosis.
The project increased awareness of students with special needs and enhanced understanding of student differences. At JUSD, educators help ensure that every student can achieve, transcend barriers and learn without limits.
For insight into the book about Jasmine – including how it came about – we share the following Q&A with Ms. Harrell-Tobey:
What prompted you to write this book?
A. I would go to the park with my daughter. Jasmine loves the park. Kids did not understand that my child has cerebral palsy. They could tell she was different and so often times they would run away. My daughter thought they were playing and so she would chase them. Some called Jasmine a monster. As a Mom, I wanted to protect my child, but as a teacher I just wanted to educate them.
How did Jasmine react to the book?
Jasmine loves the book. Yes, she is sad when she comes to the part when others make fun of her. But when we go together to book fairs, Jasmine loves to tell the story. She will grab the microphone and we will read the story together. It makes her very proud.
How long did it take you to write it?
The entire process took three months. I would write it – step away – and then go back and add something else. When Jasmine and I would go back to the park I would spot extras I wanted to add. Then, when I began working with an illustrator, I realized that he could draw things that I observed, and this changed the story even more.
What is the key message you would like readers to take away from the story?
There are several messages I hope people will get from my book. First of all, parents should talk to their kids and tell them that others may look or act a little different. Children should not be afraid to ask questions so they understand. Please encourage your children to do that. Also, it is important that parents celebrate what kids can do. Jasmine has many struggles, but she can do things that others can't.
Also, I intentionally wrote my story with a main character that has special needs. The person with disabilities is rarely the main character. All children can be the central figure of a story.
What was the most rewarding aspect of completing and publishing your book?
At book fairs, moms often come up to me and say, “Thank you for telling our story!" It is incredible how many families have a child with special needs and we all want our children to have a voice. Recently, I received a letter from the U.K. The letter said that her child asks to read my book every night. It is very touching.
A company named “Just Like Me! Book Box" ordered 430 copies of my book. They purchase books written by African-American authors and with African-American characters. They box up two to three books and ship them out to their subscribers.
What was most challenging, or would surprise people, about the writing and publishing processes?
It was difficult getting started and believing that I could do it. The cost of writing a book was quite a surprise. An author has to pay for an illustrator, copywriting, preassigned number from the Library of Congress, layout, business license, sellers permit, photo shoots, advertising, and book fair fees.
Where is the book available?
The book is available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, WalMart.com, and typically wherever Amazon distributes. I sell at book fairs and also buy my own books and personally sell them to interested people I meet.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who might want to follow in your footsteps?
I learned a lot from writing my first book and others can learn from my experience. First of all, write as it comes to you. Don't try to write the story in order. The story can be pieced together later once your thoughts are written.
Also, stay authentic to your story. Write the tale you set out to tell, not what others want to hear. Finally, some of the best stories come from your pain or your challenges.
5.0 out of 5 stars “Just absolutely amazing!
A must read!"“This is just an amazing book! It's not just for kids; adults can learn a thing or two about being kind. I absolutely enjoyed reading this book. I can't wait to share it with others."-- customer review on Amazon.com