Author Interview with @RandaHandler
About the Author
Randa Handler is an international journalist, publicist and publisher. Her interview with actor Rock Hudson (his last) was published worldwide. In 2003, Handler moved into publishing, successfully launching an educational series of children’s books used as ‘lesson plans’ by elementary school teachers. She is currently dedicated to writing and illustrating children’s books. She almost always tries to encompass multiracial characters to instill, in her early readers, acceptance and tolerance of diversity.
About her books:
A selection of her books, which all include a message of inclusion and diversity are as follow:
If I were King (Buy on Amazon)
In this brightly illustrated fun tale, a feisty zebra befriends unlikely jungle friends, and learns in the process, what makes each unique, the true meaning of friendships and the need to set some boundries.
Cubbie Blue and his Dog Dot (Buy on Amazon)
Three multiracial seven-year-old boys with varied backgrounds befriend a super-wise visitor from an enchanted part of Antarctica, tiny Cubbie Blue and his minuscule dog, Dot, who have accidentally landed in their hometown. Even though Cubbie is only three inches tall and therefore appears vulnerable, he has supernatural powers. He can read minds, make himself invisible, or stop time when needed. He also has the uncanny ability to only see things in a positive light.
Throughout the series, this new friendship leads to important discoveries for both the boys and Cubbie. As they fly over cities in a magical bubble and explore realms near and far, Cubbie and Dot learn the true meaning of friendship and how to solve small and big problems while feeling protected in their scary new environment. The bond between them proves that sometimes unlikely allies are found among beings who seem to have the greatest differences. The tiny creatures are effective vehicles for conveying subtle messages, about rights and wrongs within the frame of an exciting and entertaining story.
The Thanksgiving Dinner Platter (Buy on Amazon)
It is 1941, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt has just made Thanksgiving a national holiday in the United States. Takari’s family is coming from near and far to celebrate together. While helping her mother prepare Thanksgiving dinner, eight-year-old Takari breaks a platter that belonged to her Japanese grandmother. The platter had been an important part of her father’s family heritage, used traditionally by Takari’s grandmother to serve chestnut rice on the Japanese day of Thanksgiving. Angry, her mother shoos her away, telling her to go visit her best friend, Little Sparrow, whose family is Native American. He is making a special cornbread just like the one served at the first Thanksgiving dinner eaten by the pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth Plantation. In the process, Takari learns about the history of the holiday and that a similar day of gratitude, when people give thanks for their blessings, exists in many countries, including in her father’s homeland, Japan. “Ms. Handler has delivered another beautifully illustrated and engaging story that should be a hit with young readers for years and years to come. Ms. Handler manages to provide a history of the origins of Thanksgiving, a description of how other cultures and nationalities also give thanks and, at the same time, promotes the importance (and possibility)of tolerance, friendship and sharing across cultural and national divides. Using kids from mainstream American, Native American and Japanese American families to tell her story, we learn that Thanksgiving is more than just another self-indulgent holiday!” James Loud. CO “Children will easily relate to this story which is educational as well as wonderfully inspirational: Educational, because many historical details of the first Thanksgiving are interwoven…and inspirational, because a little girl’s adventures on Thanksgiving Day enable her to understand and feel genuine gratitude when her conflicts and experiences resolve.” Jessica Warne. CA “I really like the way the author brought in multiple cultures to help share in the true meaning of giving thanks for all we have. Randa Handler did a great job of making the storyline interesting and easy to follow. Children of all ages will find it fun and informative. I highly recommend this book. I give it my “Grandpa Seal of Approval.” Larry B. Gray. FL
Randa, you have written a series of books now for the younger readers, which incredibly, are also used as lesson plans in elementary schools. Can you tell us a bit more about your books?
Having worked as a journalist and at the United Nations, I was able to experience many cultures. This also made me realize that there is a void in children’s literature when it comes to diverse characters. I decided a couple of years ago to write and illustrate 5 children’s books to try and instil a love of diversity. I went for elementary school age but kept the books as picture books. The word count though is similar to chapter books. I’m so happy that parents and teachers are giving them good reviews.
One of your books “If I were King won the “Mom’s Choice Award” How did it feel to win this award for your book?
The administrators of Mom’s Choice Award had heard and read the ebook version of If I Were King and it was wonderful to get an email from them. It was also so cool to hear that it won! When teachers started requested printed versions of my books, If I Were King was printed and is now available in hardcover wherever books are sold.
What has been the inspiration behind writing your books?
There is a common denominator behind my writing; colourful and multi-dimensional characters that children can relate to. I tried to have them reflect all the rainbows of our society. I wasn’t going after educational only nor entertainment only. I am so touched when kids write about them or share something about them. If I am able to hold their attention while driving home the message, ‘that being different is cool’, I’m happy!
Your books aren’t just about colourful animals. “Cubbie Blue and his Dog Dot” tells us about multi-racial friends who befriend a tiny dog. This tale really helps show young people that no matter who you are, where you are from or what you may look or sound like we can all be friends. What other messages do you want to teach young children?
Here’s a brief premise description of each; The ‘Thanksgiving Dinner Platter’, explains, when and why, Thanksgiving became a national holiday. I did include an international twist as I highlighted Japan’s Day of Thanks. The story revolves around a Japanese American girl and a Native American boy. The Thanksgiving book is educational and has a historical reference at the end. ‘Cubbie Blue & His Dog Dot’, Book 1 and ‘What’s up with Mike?’ (Cubbie Blue- book 2); focus on the friendship between three multiracial boys and their tiny friend and his even smaller dog, Dot. This is the first 2 instalments in a series of books that are entertaining and fantastical. The story follows the boys as they learn about the world and about each other while protecting their tiny friends from danger. ‘If I Were King,’ is an animal tale about a feisty zebra who doesn’t want to hang with other zebras. And finally, ‘The Boy Who Spoke To God’, is the story of a young boy, in a non-religious folk tale, helps feuding tribes find peace during their diverse celebrations of the holidays! An introduction to elementary school children to all the different beliefs out there. In addition to entertaining children, I’m trying to convey that differences make us unique and special.
More info at any of my author pages:
Many authors are often asked if any of their characters represent them or people they know. Out of all your books, which character is your favourite, and which do you think you relate to most.
I guess I relate to Cubbie Blue the most! He’s what I call an international citizen and doesn’t really see the negative in any situation. My mom used to always remind me as a kid that ‘Not to always look at the positive side of things or people! Sometimes true intentions are hidden!’
Is there any particular book from your own collection that you would promote above all others when speaking to parents?
They all have a special place in my heart. But, Cubbie Blue would be the one that would suggest first.
Tell us a bit about your background, how did you end up writing and publishing this successful collection of stories?
I guess writing stories is an organic progression! I graduated with a degree in journalism and started as a journalist, then became a publicist, a publisher and now a writer.
What words of wisdom could you share with our readers who would be interested in writing for the younger market?
There is a misconception out there that writing children’s books is easy. It looks easy but it really isn’t. First, you need to decide your target audience (age) and second, you need to justify how you’re telling your story and why. Then, you need to figure out how you’re going to get your book noticed among the sea of new releases and titles. If you believe in what you’re saying and feel that no one else is saying it, then, by all means, go for it. But, no matter what, try and have your work professionally edited!
Where can our readers find out more about you and your work? And is there any method that they could contact you if needed?
I’m on social media and can be reached via Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin
What will you be working on next? Do you have any more books planned or will you be working on something different?
Yes, there are a couple of books planned and a continuation of the Cubbie Blue Series too!
I have also illustrated a book by a young author as his premise goes along with my diversity and inclusion message