The news today is that Myrtle has made “The List” — CQI Magazine’s list of must-read books. This is thrilling news indeed and we are very grateful.
At the end of the year, I also want to warmly acknowledge:
Reviewers and journalists who’ve shone a spotlight on Myrtle the Purple Turtle and helped make it a bestseller
Book-buyers who purchased a copy for their family, friends, local schools, libraries and charities — and some who sent me such delightful photos
Teachers who are using Myrtle to instil in their students the value of compassion, respect, self-acceptance and friendship
Librarians who have bought copies of the book for their members
All of you who have supported my family and illustrator Jo Robinson along our unusual journey to publishing the story of Myrtle. That includes you — my blogging, Facebook and Twitter friends, who have cheered us on.
I never know how much to tell you about the journey that Myrtle is on! (Are you bored yet?)
But many of you have hung in with me through the rough times, so I figure you are more than overdue for good news. And right now, some of my ‘goodest’ news is about Myrtle.
When Paula de Ronde wrote about Myrtle on Facebook recently, I was delighted.
“Yesterday I read Myrtle the Purple Turtle with three of my ‘honorary’ grandchildren. Myrtle got three thumbs up, some giggles and big smiles.
“Cynthia Reyes has written a book for parents and friends who love to read and love to read to children.
“We had quite a talk about it and it is a hit. Zoe, who is only 2, sat through the whole thing and wanted me to go back to certain of the very colourful pages. She was the illustrations critic and by her response they certainly did what they are supposed to do – engage through colour.
“Dylan Damien (8) and Charlie (6)… talked about ‘friends’ and that ‘it’s OK to be different.’
“I have told many friends about how much I like this book. However, these are the best critics as the story is for them. I bet this becomes a go-to, cuddle-up book on those long Winter nights.”
Stefan Steen took the photo above of his wife Stephanie, their 3 children and Paula.
Paula and Stefan go way back to his childhood, when he and her son Damien were close friends. Sadly, Damien died young, but Stefan remained close to Paula and her husband Bert.
Stefan and Stephanie named their first child for Damien. Damien was known for giving the greatest hugs, and Paula says she is delighted that the kids have learned to give her “Damien hugs” too.
They are the grandchildren of her heart, she says.
Today, Paula and Bert are close to all three children, who call them “Oma”, and “Opa” (Dutch for “grandma” and “grandpa”).
A retired librarian and cultural connoisseur, Paula has an eye for great stories. She was the first person outside our family to read the draft of Myrtle, and therefore was its first reviewer.
She said this about Myrtle:
“It is a long time since I have been so effusive about a children’s book. Now we have something other than The Ugly Duckling, et al, for this age group with a nice dollop of ‘how to’ for adults facing this dilemma too.
“Children will love, relate and respond favourably to the humour and that light, underlying silliness that is their everyday language. I was smiling as I read some of the lines, descriptions and Myrtle’s thoughts.
“There are many teaching moments and issues in this book and you present them in such a warm and lovable way. It is simple but not simplistic, ethical, tackling issues that we so need to tackle today but without being pedantic.”
I respect Paula a lot, so you can imagine how much her critique encouraged not just me, but our whole family. And now, we’re glad to know that she has read it to her ‘grandchildren’ too.
Thank you, Paula, Stefan and Stephanie — and special thanks to our young critics!
Paul Nicholas Mason is an actor, playwright and novelist. He’s acted in multiple films but confesses he has few photos of himself because he is bad at self-promotion.
So I told him to have some taken! He sent a few, apologizing:
“With nearly 35 projects (including ten feature films) under my belt, you’d think I could offer you more.”
I wanted to introduce Paul on my blog for three reasons. He’s created a new career in film for himself after taking early retirement from teaching; he will be appearing at the Festival of the Arts in Cobourg, east of Toronto on Friday Nov. 3 and Saturday Nov. 4; plus he has a new book on the market.
The new book, A Pug Called Poppy, is his first chapter book for children. It’s illustrated by artist Sarah Berrino.
Paul says he’s excited about the book because he feels its central characters — Poppy the Pug and Smudge the Maine Coon Cat — “will meow and snuffle their way into a great many hearts.”
“I have such fond and powerful memories of the books I enjoyed as a little boy — Winnie-the-Pooh, Paddington Bear, The Borrowers, Swallows and Amazons, the Narnia Chronicles. It would make me happy to feel that I had introduced a character into the imaginative life of children.”
A Pug Called Poppy is meant to appeal particularly to 8 to 10-year-olds. But then there are adults like me, who love it too.
“There are a lot of little grace notes, little touches, that will amuse adults,” Paul says.
Yes! I stand amused.
But let’s head back to Paul’s acting career. He has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard, and as a result, does a great variety of voice-over work for film. (One of his first roles was playing the part of a “lecherous duck”.)
To be closer to his beloved family and have greater access to movie shoots, Paul recently moved from Peterborough to Newcastle, a quaint lakeside town east of Toronto. Though he misses his Peterborough friends, he says he’s delighted with his neighbours, with the town’s library and swimming pool, and by being closer to family.
Discovering that becoming a blogger meant I was joining a worldwide community. A community that cares, and helps.
I became a blogger because my daughters thought I needed to “get myself out there”. I was struggling with the effects of a head injury and damage to my body; I’d become ashamed of myself and extremely reclusive.
Blogging helped pull me out of hiding by giving me pen-pals all over the world. As I read their stories — or their comments on mine — we started getting to know and care about each other’s projects and well-being. They inspired and uplifted me.
Connections: The best story I know is my own. Chris Graham connected me with Jo Robinson to illustrate Myrtle the Purple Turtle. A great partnership was born. I’ve been recommending Jo as an illustrator and editor ever since.
Deliberately Buying each other’s Books: All my purchases/requested Christmas gifts from family are books from small presses and especially by indie authors who blog. I borrow books by the big-name authors from the library.
Giving feedback on Manuscripts: When the draft is done but you’re still not sure and a blogger gives feedback, that’s a major gift.
Spreading the Word: We spread the word about each other’s books in circles beyond blogging. Lavinia Ross and Gallivanta: Thank you for spreading the word about Myrtle in your own circles and beyond.
Praying/holding faith for each other: We celebrate other bloggers’ “wins”. Invariably, we also learn about their life struggles. When my husband was critically ill, bloggers around the world expressed concern. Many were praying. And when my blogger friends or loved ones face troubles, I do the same.