Mascot Blog

July Featured Title: Emerson’s Exquisite Eyes

This month’s featured title is Emerson’s Exquisite Eyes by Nikki Hennek!

In this storybook with coloring pages, Emerson’s exquisite eyes are what make her unique! Although she grew up learning how to do things differently than her friends, they all admire and like her for who she is. Emerson’s happiness and bravery show how children of all abilities are superstars! Emerson’s Exquisite Eyes lets the reader color along with Emerson as she experiences the world around her.

We chatted with Nikki about the benefit of storytelling through an activity book, the challenges she faced in her publishing journey, and more.

What inspired you to write Emerson’s Exquisite Eyes? Did you always know you’d be a writer or was it a new discovery?

My family was my inspiration for writing my new children’s book! My nephew loves books and it has always been a fun family bonding experience getting to read with him, especially knowing that it had a beneficial impact on his development. Knowing my love and interest in creative writing, my family suggested and supported the idea that I pursue writing one myself. As I brainstormed book concepts, I knew I wanted to write something more inclusive and unique than many of the popular books kids have been reading for decades, which is when Emerson’s Exquisite Eyes was created.

I have always had an interest in creative writing, which was verified after taking a few classes in high school and college. I never thought I would officially publish my work or pursue anything this far, simply because I never really knew the process. However, I am so happy and proud that I can share my story with families across the nation!

As an HR professional, how did your work influence the themes and content in your book?

One of the things I have always enjoyed about working in HR was that part of my job was focused on initiating a more inclusive workplace to welcome different perspectives and influence a kinder culture. When I started to write Emerson’s Exquisite Eyes, I thought why not bring this same passion and message for kids to learn and enjoy as well. 

Emerson’s Exquisite Eyes is both a children’s and coloring book. Why did you choose to do both? What’s the benefit of storytelling through activity books?

As I wrote my children’s book, I wanted it to stand out from others, not only with an inclusive storyline but also with the overall experience for the reader. I wanted my book to be interactive, providing a fun experience for the book lover and peace of mind for parents knowing their child is spending time expressing themselves creatively as an alternative to watching TV or playing video games. I felt the benefit of this would show the value of spending quality time together, as well as ensuring my book wouldn’t sit on a shelf after a few weeks and instead be an ongoing favorite based on their contributions to the illustrations. Also going along with the inclusive storyline, the reader could bring the characters to life how they would like to interpret them! If the reader has light or dark skin, blonde or red hair, freckles, a scar or birthmark, they can bring their representation to life. The fun part is that there are an infinite amount of looks my book could have!

What was the publishing process like for you? What were your favorite parts and what challenges did you have to face?

As a brand-new author starting from scratch, Mascot Books has been very helpful in navigating me through the publishing process! Everyone has been extremely friendly and knowledgeable, which has taught me a lot about this new and exciting journey. One of my favorite parts was identifying my illustrator. I got to look through dozens of amazing artist portfolios Mascot partners with and then narrow down my selections from there. Eventually, the finalists got to bring my character, Emerson, to life, which was incredible, fun, and rewarding to see!

A challenge that I faced during the process was in the early marketing stage since I’ve never marketed a children’s book before. I created my Instagram page, @Emersons_Exquisite_Eyes, and advertised it across other social media pages to kick it off. Along the way, I have been able to connect with many other children’s book authors and learn where they have had successes, too. Now, I get to come up with fun, creative content to help spread the word about my book!

What advice do you have for parents to start teaching their children about disabilities and special needs?

I believe it is important to expose children at an early age to an inclusive environment where everyone is treated equally and those who may be slightly different than them can still succeed! My book has a message that can help parents raise kind people. Have open conversations about how being different is nothing to be afraid of or uncomfortable with, but rather an opportunity to learn. Encourage your kids to always be a friend to anyone in need and lead by example to remove any stigma associated. I would also recommend researching some very accomplished disabled individuals to prove how they have done great things in their lifetime for inspiration!

What do you hope young readers will learn from Emerson’s Exquisite Eyes?

I truly hope that my message about the importance of inclusion resonates with my readers and teaches them that Emerson is capable of living a normal life despite not having her sight, just like millions of other disabled people in the world. The goal for this book is also to encourage readers to ask more questions, especially if this is their first exposure to someone with a disability, so they can understand that many people with disabilities can achieve as much as anyone else.
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