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Jumping into a children’s picture book…

This was not my plan. I have never even considered writing a children’s story before last summer. I certainly can’t draw, and I hadn’t read a children’s book in ages. However, everything changed when I was asked to write a story for a friend about her beloved dog. She had an excellent concept, but needed help developing her story. She provided me with photos of her dog taken all around the city of Boston.  Surprisingly, with each photo, I created words and rhymes to match the scenes in the photographs.  It came naturally and effortlessly. I imagined a child reading along with the story, pointing to the colorful illustrations, and rhyming and repeating the lines that he or she had memorized. I ended up writing several books for this friend, a series, and through this experience I realized:  I absolutely love this genre!

I knew exactly what story I wanted to write, I just needed the permission from my husband and daughter first. It was their real-life story that inspired me to write the The Seal with a Pink Bow. It all began several summer’s ago in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. We owned an old sailboat and went for trips along the coast with our three children. Our two sons were around 10 and 13, while our daughter Jillian was only 4 or 5, much too young to keep up with her big brothers. While they could help as crew members, or play cards, read and swim independently, Jillian could not, and therefore was not included. As the summer wore on, Jillian became more and more bored on long sails, and didn’t want to go on the boat anymore. But one day, my husband came up with an idea. He said, “let’s go to seal rock and see if we can find a seal with a pink bow.” Jillian thought that was a fun idea, and she searched and searched and sometimes they were sure they saw Mary in the water or on the rocks. The boys thought the game was silly and never took part.  They were busy with their own interests. The “hide and seek” seal game continued all summer, and eventually my husband named the seal Mary. Then, without any prompting, Jillian decided to take the game and make it her own. On long sails she would search for her imaginary seal friend Mary and together they would play games, or have tea, or find exciting sea adventures. She had created a perfect playmate that provided her with endless entertainment! Even in the winter months, when Jillian was alone in her room, she would entertain herself with creative play using her stuffed seal Mary (we sewed on a pink bow). And at one point she and her brother Liam wrote their own Mary the Seal story, but they had creative differences after page three, so it was never finished.

I wanted to write a story that illustrated the value of encouraging imagination. It’s a “super power” that all children have in them. Imagination is a creative outlet that has no limits, only possibilities.  Likewise, imaginary friends offer children something they can rely on, someone who will always be there. Whether it is a stuffed animal that comes to life, or a friendly monster that lives under the bed, imaginary friends provide comfort and entertainment to children when they feel scared, alone or bored. In today’s world, with ready-made digital entertainment (iPhones and iPads) children are not being encouraged to use their own imaginations to provide self-comfort and entertainment. They are sitting and staring at a digital screen. Why not create a “friend” and start building a fort, reading a book, or set off on a wild adventure! Imagination can take you anywhere… without having to leave your room!

My story celebrates the gift of childhood imagination! I hope you like it. Preorder will be available soon, and Mary the Seal with be available for purchase on my new website and in stores!  You can find more information at www.ellenaldenkids.com 

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