Children’s books have such a profound effect on so many of us, even into adulthood. I remember my grandfather reading Little Golden Books to us when we were kids. And now my own kiddos love books. My 4-year-old loves story time every night before bed, and has even checked out books at the local library multiple times. And even my 1-year-old loves to look at our books at home. So when I found out that an old theater friend of mine (we did a play together back in 2006) had published her very first children’s book, I was so excited to get a copy and read it to my little ones. And now I’m even more excited to bring my readers this Q&A with her. Jenna Caroline Maddix is a married mother of two. Her oldest, Isabella, is 7, and her youngest, Noah, is 4. Here’s what she had to say about Daniella the Dinosaur has Dinomania.
KK: What inspired you to write Daniella the Dinosaur has Dinomania?
JCM: I was a Public Affairs Specialist at NASA and left in 2009 to care full-time for my son, Noah, who was born with a rare, genetic, condition called Lowe Syndrome. During that time, I began writing more to help cope with all that was going on with my son. I’ve always been a writer to some extent but it was just a fun hobby. Then I came across the word “Dinomania”. It said it can mean that you have the sudden urge to dance, and immediately I began imagining this little girl dinosaur who couldn’t help but dance when she heard music. And that is how Daniella the Dinosaur was created. It went through a lot of revisions, but I’m extremely happy with how the story turned out.
KK: Daniella faced her fear of dancing in front of an audience. All parents have fears, big and small. What fears have you had to face in parenting your children?
JCM: Like many parents, I just always worry I’m not doing enough. I wonder if I am teaching them good manners, how important it is to be honest and polite, to be respectful of others, etc. When it comes to Noah, I worry whether or not I am doing enough for him with therapies (physical, occupational, speech). Sometimes it’s hard to make sure he gets his medicine when he doesn’t cooperate and take it. It’s scary that a few days without his medications can really hurt his kidneys. There is a quote that I absolutely love when I think of my kids. “I love you for all that you are, all that you have been and all you are yet to be.” I think that quote sums up my feelings as their mom quite perfectly.
KK: Any plans for another children’s book? I would love to see more Daniella adventures!
JCM: I am in the process of finalizing another story to begin illustrations. It’s about a princess who DOESN’T like wearing fancy dresses and sings the blues when she has to get dressed for another fancy kingdom party. As far as another story about Daniella, I think it would be fun to use my time at NASA as inspiration and write a story about Daniella getting the chance to go to space and do her silly dance in zero-gravity. I’m also considering a book for older children about kid spies. My daughter wanted a spy party for her 7th birthday, so I created “Kidfox Investigative Division”, also known as K.I.D. The party was such a hit that Bella tells me a couple kids still wear their K.I.D. badges they got from the party to school and play spies during recess. When Noah is in Kindergarten I can put aside even more time to write and see where it takes me.
KK: What message are you hoping for children to get when they read this book?
JCM: The message I want kids to come away with after reading “Daniella the Dinosaur has Dinomania” is that they should never be afraid to try something. My son faces challenges doing things every day that we all take for granted. He has to have multiple therapies each week to “catch up” to other kids his age. I revel in the fact that my son tries and tries and tries until he gets it. He’s taught me so much about not giving up and being happy with who I am, and he’s only four. Noah marches to the beat of his own drum and he does it with a smile, every single day. Shouldn’t we all be like that with no worries of judgments or negativity? Like Daniella, we should all dance happy, no matter how silly we may look, as long as we smile while doing it.
KK: How do you teach kindness in your home?
JCM: It was important to me to start out teaching them to say “please” and “thank you” and to always respect other people around you. There’s never a time when it’s necessary to be mean. If someone else can’t be nice to you, walk away and choose to hang out with someone who does appreciate you, even though that can be hard when you are seven and just want to get along with everyone and can’t understand why someone doesn’t like you. This year, I want to find ways of spreading kindness in surprising ways. Not long ago, I came across an idea to put money in a Redbox case with a family movie and leave a note that snacks are on us. I think that’s such a great idea even though I won’t be able to see their reaction when they receive their movie. To receive unexpected kindness and thoughtfulness when you least expect it. Those moments are the best and stay with you for a long time
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