Honestly, I never planned to write a children’s book and certainly wasn’t looking to become a publisher! As a therapist and educator in the field of early trauma, I had a hard time finding books that could keep kids engaged
while helping caring adults make sense of really difficult behaviors.
This project was born out of a lack of resources. I have really struggled to find anything playful and engaging that celebrates the strength of trauma-surviving kids while supporting parents and other adults who are helping these tough little munchkins heal, grow and learn to trust.
Studies show the staggering impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). I have certainly found this in my work! Early trauma (including pre-birth)
forces the brain to adapt. But people are incredibly resilient.
We find ways to survive.
If the world seems unsafe to the needy newborn or cute little
toddler, that little one learns to NOT need (literally, on a
neurological level!). So you start seeing the defenses of
… the porcupine puffing out it’s quills, the tiger roaring and swiping it’s claws,
the chameleon blending in, the turtle pulled up in it’s shell.
And those defenses take a looooooong time to come down. In the meantime, loving parents get poked and scratched and rejected over and over and over again. It’s hard to take!
What I have learned over the years (and is supported in emerging brain research) is that acknowledging the need
for kids’ defenses helps them feel safe enough to change.
Taking it a step further and celebrating their strength in using those skills to survive can be even more powerful. But how to do that and help weary parents and caregivers feel supported and encouraged? Enter Riley the Brave.
I chose self-publishing because the facial expressions, body language and general feel of the characters directly impact the therapeutic effectiveness of the book. After the initial shock about all I would need to learn, the biggest hurdle was finding the right illustrator. Until I met Zach. Zachary Kline has put his incredible talent and big heart into this project. He caught the spirit of the story and brought it to life in ways I hadn't imagined!
One of the sweetest moments of this journey came with a dear friend. She had recently adopted two children and was dealing with all the ups and downs that go with that big life change. She graciously read an early draft, and I'll never forget her tearful response: "I feel like someone sees me, sees us." She could see her "cubs" in a new light while still feeling affirmed that things are hard. It honored their "brave like a cub moments" while acknowledging that those tiger swipes and squirrel moments are happening too! She found hope in the story and added it to their bedtime books even before it was in its final printed form.