I am back today with another installment within my Kids’ Corner division of my blog! I was given the opportunity to read & review Dana Salim’s Beautifully Different, a children’s picture book that teaches children that our differences are what make us special & beautiful. Dana was also gracious enough to answer a few questions for me about her writing, her publishing company (DS Publishing), and diversity within children’s books. There is also an opportunity to win a copy of Beautifully Different!
Author: Dana Salim
Illustrator: Pavel Goldaev
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Publisher: DS Publishing
Yousuf wonders if being different is a good or a bad thing. Kids who are different get teased, bullied and picked on. It would be a lot simpler if everyone were the same. Yousuf’s dad suggests that he play the Time Travel game to see if he can find some answers. Yousuf loves that game. He settles back in a comfortable position, closes his eyes, clears his mind of distracting thoughts, and before he knows it, he is on a boat heading towards a far-away island.
Why are people different?
Why can’t we be the same?
Find out with Yousuf,
in the Imagination Game.
Get yourself ready
to sing, swing and shout!
The Weeds are coming,
and there’s only one way out.
Beautifully Different is the second installment in Dana Salim’s Yousuf’s Everyday Adventure series. Reading the first installment, Dreamland with Mommy is not a requirement in order to read & enjoy Beautifully Different, as each book can be treated as a standalone.
In Beautifull Different, we begin with Yousuf posing a very important question to his father…
Daddy, some of the kids in my class are different than me. Why is that? Why can’t we all be the same?
Yousuf’s father invites him to play the imagination game to find the answer. Yousuf then journeys to “imagination land” with some help of a few friends, a boat captained by a baboon & inside a blanket carried by two colorful birds. Once Yousuf arrives in a field of beautiful flowers, but the weather quickly turns and the weeds seek to destroy the flowers that are so beautiful & different.
What will become of the flowers?! Will Yousuf be able to save the day?!
I know, I know. You all are sitting on the edge of your seat, but you are going to have to pick up the book for yourselves to see how this tale ends 🙂
Beautifully Different celebrates one of my favorite themes to see in children’s books: differences are what makes us beautiful. I think the author does a wonderful job of getting this message across through a story that young children can understand. Another positive message in Beautifully Different is that we need to stand united against adversity. We are stronger when we stand together. This is the type of picture book I look for when looking for new books to read to my children: books that can be used as tools for learning and that have the potential to open up a dialogue.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the “Did you know?” section at the end of the book. In this section, the author shares some quotes from famous individuals throughout history who were not afraid to be different. She quotes three amazing people in our history, but what stuck out to me the most about this was that these three people were from three different religions: Islam, Christian, and Hinduism. To me this solidified the message in the book that our differences should be celebrated and should unite us, not divide us.
The illustrations in Beautifully Different are very bright and colorful, so I feel they will definitely hold a child’s attention throughout the book. I would have liked the illustrations to have a little more depth and texture to show more dimension. This isn’t to say the illustrations are not well done, just very simplistic. Obviously illustrations are very subjective, so this is just my personal taste.
There were a few hiccups with Beautifully Different. This story goes back and forth between sections that rhyme with sections that do not. I think this was a little disruptive with the flow of the book, and would have preferred to either have the entire book rhyme, or to not rhyme. Furthermore, I feel the journey to “imagination land” was too big a part in the story and took away the potential to dig deeper (see what I did there? I do love a good pun) into “flowerland” and to explore all the differences in the flowers, and why those differences make the flowers beautiful.
Beautifully Different is a sweet children’s book that has a positive message for children that I love to see in a children’s picture book.
*Big thanks to DS Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Dana Salim loves singing silly songs, standing in the breeze and eating chocolate cake. But most of all she loves spending time with her son, Yousuf, and her husband. From row-boating, walking on frozen lakes, hiking to caves and waterfalls, to reading new books and learning new things; everyday holds an exciting adventure for the family!
Her first children’s book “Dreamland with Mommy” is the first book in the series “Yousuf’s Everyday Adventures”. The second book “Beautifully Different” will be coming out April 2017. (So stay tuned!)
Dana’s childhood adventures were split between Amman, Jordan and Vancouver, Canada. She finished Industrial Engineering at the University of Jordan before moving to Ohio, which was home for four awesome years. And now she resides in McAllen, Texas where she is always on the lookout for new adventures with her family.
Dana founded DS Publishing, LLC with her husband in August, 2016. Their mission is to provide products that instill and encourage diversity, acceptance and confidence in one’s self and dreams.
What sparked the desire to become a writer & why children’s books?
I’ve had this dream since I was a kid in elementary school and I always wrote poetry and stories on the side as a hobby. However, I never actually went after it until I was pregnant with my son. I became motivated with the idea of writing a children’s book with a character named after him so we can read it together during bedtime. Little did I know, there was so much more to publishing a book than writing it. But as hard as this path of becoming an author has been, it’s also been rewarding and I’m thankful for that.
What is your writing process?
Honestly, it all starts with an idea or a moment of inspiration and then it goes from there. I get the urge to write and then keep at it until the end of the story. Once it’s written I go back and edit a few times before having it edited by others, after which I send it to the illustrator. Once the pictures are done I do one last edit to omit any words that can be seen through the illustrations. Then off to the printers it goes.
When you are not writing, where can we find you?
Usually spending time with my little munchkin. I’m always looking for new activities that he can enjoy whether it’s programs at the library, trampoline park or just biking around the neighborhood. And every now and then I leave him with my husband to enjoy some “Me” time either getting work done at Barnes & Noble, watching a movie at the theater or out with my girlfriends.
I see you have a son named Yousuf, why did you decide to name your main character Yousuf? Is Yousuf the character modeled after your son?
I wanted my son to have a book he can read with a character named after him. Since I knew I was pregnant with a boy when I wrote the book, I named the character with the name we had chosen for our son. I didn’t know it at the time, but to some extent Yousuf the character has a lot in common with my son. They are both adventurous, energetic and imaginative.
Do you have another book in the “Yousuf’s Everyday Adventures” series in the works? If so, can you tell us about it and when we can expect it to come out?
At the moment the series has two books; “Dreamland with Mommy” is the first one and “Beautifully Different” is the second. I haven’t started on the third book yet but I am keeping an eye out for something inspiring to use.
What are some of your favorite children’s books? (Past & Present)
Off the top of my head there’s “Oh, the Places You’ll go” by Dr Seuss, “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein and “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein (he was – and still is – a favorite of mine growing up), “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B White, Roald Dahl books…so many more both picture books and chapter books. I’m a reading addict so I can go on and on.
Tell us a little bit about your publishing company, DS Publishing. What prompted you to start your own publishing company? What is the mission behind DS Publishing?
I took the self-publishing route from the beginning of my writing career and along the path I noticed that I was basically doing everything a publishing company would do. At the same time I was getting emails from different people out there interested in self-publishing and needing guidance or answers to certain questions. All that led to my interest in using the experience I gained (and still gaining) to help other authors out there who may not have the time to do all the work needed to publish the stories they write. So DS Publishing was founded by my husband and I.
Right now our mission is to create a variety of products (books, games, apps…etc) that will encourage diversity, acceptance and confidence in one’s self and dreams. Our future goal is to find authors out there whose stories fit our message and help them publish.
What have been some of the challenges and accomplishments of DS Publishing?
I published my first book in September 2015, one year before establishing our company, DS Publishing. During my publishing journey the biggest challenge was and continues to be marketing. Your day-to-day life changes from a person caring for family or working with others around you to someone trying to get their name and book out there.
I think what helped the most in overcoming it was two things: persistence and having supportive people around (especially my husband) when I faced self-doubt or discouragement. It’s not easy when you are doing your best without immediate results or benefit. But after persisting and finding new ways to market, it finally started producing results.
So you can say overcoming the challenges has led to accomplishments such as hosting successful Storytime Events and Youth Talks, reaching out and interacting with kids in many different places and spreading the message of acceptance between the young generation.
There has been a demand for more diversity in books through the We Need Diverse Books movement, what does this movement mean to you? Why is diversity in children’s books so important?
I’ve followed this movement on Instagram for a while and I really applaud the work they are doing. Books shape who we are and how we think, so as kids we need to be exposed to the many differences out there so they become normal and part of our everyday life. Diversity in books is not just needed so that kids can find themselves in books and relate to the characters, it’s also needed so that each kid can understand what is out there, accept and even learn to love what makes this world beautiful.
One lucky winner will win a copy of Beautifully Different by Dana Salim! This giveaway will be U.S. only and will end on 5/26 @ 11:59 EST.