Updated: Oct 31
"...It's exactly what young people need to hear."
With that endorsement from one of our reviewers from our First Readers' Club (who also happens to be a psychologist) we felt ready to hit print and publish on the third book in our Willow the Wonderer picture book series - Space Odyssey.
But let me rewind a little bit and introduce our First Readers' Club properly.
Our First Readers' Club : how it all began
Our First Readers' Club began quite organically back in 2021 as were finishing up our first Willow the Wonderer book. It was our first book so understandably we felt a tad nervous about releasing it into the 'wild'.
We thought it best to share the book with a few folks to see what they made of it - before hitting print on a 1000 copies!
So we sent our newly minted eBook to different people in our lives who we knew, would tell us like it is. And no, our mums didn't quite make the cut ... ;-)
A very 'wise as' group
Darren and I have lived a life that comes in chapters, with each chapter telling a different story, in a different setting, with very different characters...
Darren grew up in the Western industrial world of cardiff before migrating to Australia when he was 14. Darren's professional life has been in the illustration, design and fine arts. His early career was in the very commercial arena of advertising but with time this inspired him less and less. As he matured and sought to understand life more deeply, he found himself gravitating towards the East, finding respite in Buddhist philosophies and meditation proactices. In his latest chapter, he has left the commercial city life behind for a quiet life in a country town known for its community of artisans and hippies.
I grew up immersed in the hybrid Eastern and Pacific cultures of Fiji but with a decidedly Western education. I bought into the Western ideals of individualism and independence during my youth and pursued this single mindedly through my early adult years. I built a corporate career in the world of strategy, banking and finance - but I always carried with me a deep sense of curiousity about life. I used every opportunity to explore the world, with its different traditions and belief systems, and try to figure out it! In my latest chapter I had gravitated back to my Eastern roots and felt a strong draw to the raja yoga teachings and buddist meditation practices.
By the time we met at the beginning of 2020, our lives had come a full circle. Through this journey, we had met all sorts of 'weird and wonderful' people (noting that I am using the word weird as high compliment). These folks brought colour, friendships, comfort and wisdom in our lives, and it is them that we ended up reaching out to.
As Darren and I pulled together our list, we realised that what we had was a fairly eclectic bunch: They came from all over the world with very different educational, professional, education, socio-cultural and economic backgrounds.
Best of all, they all had different outlook and philosophies on life and living.
It is this difference that made their feedback all the more interesting - and why we have kept returning back to this group before releasing our books out into the wild.
The verdict on Space Odyssey
As we read through what everyone came back on for Space Odyssey, we realised that the overwhelming sentiment was that this was the book for our times.
Whilst everyone loved the story, rhymes, illustrations and theme it was the feedback from two of our reviewers that stood out to us.
Both came from the world of counselling and psychology and shared their feedback independently of each other. What they had to say though was very similar : The wisdom in Space Odyssey was exactly the right message that young people and kids need to hear today.
Once again, this gave us the confidence to go to print.
Reviews for Space Odyssey from our First Readers' Club
I've shared a 'smorgasboard' of reviews from our First Readers Club below that will gives you a sense of the different aspects of the book and story - Hopefully it is one that you choose to buy and share with your little ones.
"I love it! Was expecting the story to just focus on individual differences being OK and all, but it went in a whole new direction and opened up to a vaster view of our common humanity. It's a fantastic message for children today."
- Sian (counsellor) -
"I really enjoyed this book and loved the meaning. Everything rhymed and went together like two peas in a pod, and the pictures were spectacular!"
- Sofia (11 years old, currently sailing the high seas) -
"Oh wow! It is beautiful!!! Got a bit teary over it, so it definitely hits a spot ;) Please keep doing what you are doing."
- Silke (enjoying a well deserved sabbatical) -
"Loved the new book
Pictures are blazing
Great perspective of earth
The story's amazing."
- Drew (recruiter, yogi, budding poet) -
"The book looks great. One thing I love about rhyming is that it helps my 3 year old remember words. We read Willow the Wonderer tonight and she remembers so much of the story. This way I hope the story stays with them and helps form their way with dealing with the world."
- Paola (pilates instructor, yoga teacher) -
"Absolutely beautiful, both the narrative and illustrations. Your own stories at the back speaks so nicely to the theme ... it's exactly what young people need to hear."
- Kristi (psychologist) -
"This is one of my favourite themes yet! Superb writing along with fantastical illustrations that evoke the feeling of being part of the whole. Loved the awe inspiring views from space ... Would have been cool to have that as wallpaper in my bedroom when I was a kid!"
- Vijya (accountant, massage therapist) -
I end with expressing our gratitude to all our reviewers for taking their time to share their thoughts on our books and more importantly, enriching the various chapters of our lives with their presence. Thank you :-)