For Multicultural Children’s Book Day, (Jan 31, 2020) we’re highlighting a picture book series that celebrates diversity. This series is the result of a (genius!) collaboration between author, Lois Petren and entrepreneur, Jackie Bunn, founder of LifeMadeSimple, a company that sells children’s books and products online. Together, they’ve created a line of party supplies and a series of books that give a back story to their multiracial cast of characters.
Q. Hi Lois and Jackie and thanks for joining us today. First, Lois, can you tell us about the books you write?
A. Sure! My current writing project is a series of picture books featuring a group of racially diverse mermaids called the Five Enchanted Mermaids®. They help young children learn social skills and develop emotional intelligence. The Five Enchanted Mermaids are the main characters of our brand and we are the only company that has a range of books, party supplies, and products featuring multiracial mermaids.
Our readers love our unique message of diversity, inclusion and living in a multiethnic world. In addition to loving the cute mermaid characters and their underwater friends, adult readers of our books appreciate that we present age-appropriate and valuable lessons that are gentle conversation starters. Child readers are simply mesmerized by the stories!
Our books are for young children ages three to seven. We’ve received positive feedback from parents of children at various ages within that range that our message resonates well across this age group.
I am also the author of the Lulu and Lainey series of children’s picture books. These books are about a little French girl named Lulu who loves to knit with her Grand-mère and has a favorite ball of yarn that gets lost and has adventures.
Q. Wonderful. So, where did each of you grow up, and where do you live now?
Lois grew up in New Jersey and moved to Pasadena, California in the early 1990s. Jackie is British and she grew up in the UK and then moved to the USA in the early 1980s.
5. What is the goal of the mermaid series?
Both Jackie and I have a commitment to telling stories involving diverse characters. We believe that every girl deserves to have a mermaid that looks like her. Our goal is to provide stories and products that reflect the diversity in our world. This has been the overarching philosophy of the Five Enchanted Mermaids.
We have so much fun creating a world with unique characters and stories that resonate with children and families on multiple levels.
6. This is such a great way to get children to think about multiculturalism. Can you tell us more about the books?
The series name is Tales of the Five Enchanted Mermaids. There are currently four books available: a coloring/activity book and three picture books plus a Spanish version of one of the picture books–yes we want to appeal globally! Our group of mermaids is multiracial: African, Latina, Asian, Caucasian and a redhead. They live, along with their sea creature friends, in a magical underwater kingdom called Atargatis. In addition to their diversity, each mermaid focuses on a specific attribute: kindness, confidence, bravery, honesty, or independence. They use these attributes to teach social skills, such as how to handle frustration and the fear of doing new things.
You Can Do It! features Otto the octopus, who is frustrated that he can’t make a house out of blocks at school. The mermaids help him learn to manage his emotions and successfully complete his project.
¡Puedes hacerlo! is the Spanish version of You Can Do It!
Sally’s First Day of School follows Sally the whale shark as she prepares for her first day at a new school. The mermaids help her manage her fears and develop a plan for first day success, while her new teacher works with the children in the class to prepare for welcoming a new student.
In Happy Birthday, Miss Molly! while celebrating their teacher’s birthday, the mermaids share birthday traditions around the world with the children in the class. Each mermaid presents traditions in the parts of the world that they represent.
…This is a wonderful book…[showcasing] the attributes of bravery, honesty, kindness, independence, and confidence. The illustrations are wonderful, colourful, and charming, sure to attract children’s attention. This book will provide those teachable moments that help children grow. ~Amazon review, 5 stars, for Sally’s First Day of School
We also have a great line of children’s merchandise, all sporting images of the five mermaids. Our product line-up includes a Party in a Box for 12, adorable backpacks for little girls in pink or lavender, and a minky child’s throw in pink. You can find all the books and merchandise in here in our Amazon store.
0ur customers love our unique message of diversity, inclusion, and living in a multi-ethnic world. They have thanked us for offering party materials that reflect the backgrounds of their child’s party guests and their family members!
7. What was the motivation behind these books and products?
Jackie recognized the lack of diversity in the area of children’s party supplies and also in the children’s book genre. She reached out to me to explore possibilities to close this gap and I was very enthusiastic about partnering with her in this project. The plan that evolved was for her to develop the merchandise line and for me to write and market the books. We published the first book in 2018 and have been moving forward ever since.
9. That was a stroke of brilliance, if you ask me. What plans do you have for the future in terms of writing books?
Thank you, Shana. We have many stories to tell! In 2020 there are plans for a set of five books that allow each mermaid to fully express her special attribute. Each book will focus on one mermaid and will continue our mission to use these adorable characters to help children achieve social and emotional milestones in their development. There will also be Spanish translations and hardcopy versions of all the books.
We also have a new YouTube channel and are exploring story ideas to create and add to our page.
On the merchandise side, we’re exploring new product ideas. The best way to keep up with our news is to join our community. It’s very easy to do on our website at www.fiveenchantedmermaids.com and we offer some sweet welcome gifts as well. We also offer special member discounts from time to time! Follow our blog as well, for helpful posts and some special goodies!
Visit LifeMadeSimple’s Amazon store to see the party supplies, backpacks, books, and more. The books and supplies are also available on other retailers such as Walmart.com.