Fun books that empower six- to nine-year-olds
ESME’s former Pregnancy Resource Guide, Nicole Caccavo Kear, is celebrating the release of Eyes on the Prize and Three’s a Crowd, the final two titles in her six-volume chapter-book series for children, The Fix-It Friends (Macmillan Publishers). The mother of three authored the memoir Now I See You (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) and is an accomplished essayist whose work has been featured in the New York Times’s Modern Love, Good Housekeeping, New York magazine, Psychology Today, Parents, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Kear recently spoke with our new Pregnancy Resource Guide, Jaimie Seaton, about her work and what inspired her to make the switch to children’s book author.
Author Nicole C. Kear
Q: What was your inspiration for the Fix-It Friends series?
A: I have three children (five, 10, and 12) so my experience with them gave specific rise to the series. I’ve seen them all go through problems, and I’ve seen their friends go through problems. These issues did not feel like small issues to them. They are little kids dealing with big issues. A lot of the chapter books my kids read dealt with small problems, like “My tooth won’t fall out,” that did not reflect what I was watching my own kids and their friends dealing with. I wanted to write a series that my own kids could benefit from. The Ramona book series by Beverly Cleary was a clear inspiration, too. I loved those books as a child. It’s a series that addresses issues in a way that’s fun; they’re respectful but not depressing to read.
Q: For whom is the Fix-It Friends series written?
A: The series is for kids ages six to nine, and that is all kids everywhere. The books are completely mainstream, very much in the tradition of Ramona or Junie B. Jones. I wanted to write a series that reflected the experience of kids who I didn’t feel were being represented in literature for young children.
All kids grapple to some extent with things like anxiety, teasing, loss of pets; it’s incredibly prevalent and widespread. Kids who are having a particularly hard time would recognize their own experience in the books. I started with anxiety because it’s a massive problem, and I didn’t feel like it was being addressed. You see anxious children everywhere, but not on the pages of literature for young children. I thought, Why isn’t this being written about in a way that really normalizes it and makes it seem a part of life for most of us?
Q: Have your children read the books?
A: I read the whole series to my son and daughter, who is the inspiration for the character Veronica. She’s 10 now but was seven when I wrote the first book. My son, who is 12, is a real critic. He read all the books in draft form and gave me really constructive criticism, and I took it most of the time. When you are writing for children, you want feedback from children. He loved the books.
Q: What in your background prepared you to write the series?
A: Well, I wrote a memoir that came out three years ago, and that prepared me as an author. The other training was reading children’s literature, which I’ve been steeped in for 12 years, and I have such respect and admiration for it. I have experience parenting my kids and helping them through these issues. One thing I knew was that I didn’t know a lot of things, so I sought the consult of experts. I wanted the books to have a fun and engaging narrative and legitimate, expert-approved coping strategies. For each book I consulted a different expert in the field. At the end of each book there is an extensive resource page that boils down the technique in kid-friendly form. I’m really proud of those, and they are also good for grown-ups.
Q: Any particular messages that kids of Solo Moms will appreciate?
A: It was very important to me that the cast of characters be very diverse in all respects. One of the main characters has a single mom. I feel like one of the main messages of the books that is easily translatable is the sense of resilience and adaptability. Regardless of what your circumstances are, you can make a tool kit to guide you through. I think that’s an important takeaway. Your family is what you make of it, and we all have different kinds of families.
Q: Why did you decide to shift from writing for adults to children?
A: It was after my memoir. I was thinking of what to do next. Writing a memoir was awesome and very draining. It’s incredibly gratifying, but there’s just a tremendous amount of visceral exposing. I love literature for children, that’s where my mind is, my heart, that’s what I’m reading. This idea came to me, and it felt like that was something that was needed. Then it was an “Aha!” moment. I thought, Oh my God, that is exactly what I want to do.
Q: What are some of the unexpected challenges of writing for children?
A: I found it to be so tremendously pleasant and fun in all respects, but one thing that was challenging was I wanted to make sure I got it right in the sense that I was representing kids with various issues. Some of the issues I had more experience with than others. I wanted to be sure that I was being authentic and that made me nervous. I felt an onus on me to get it right. That’s when I decided to interview kids for the resource section. I thought I’d like to hear from kids who faced these issues and find out how they handled them. Kids are super smart and resourceful. I included some of what they said in the resource pages so kids could hear from other kids and relate.
Q: What is your ultimate goal with the series?
A: My mission is threefold: First, I want to write books that empower kids to handle these common issues. Second, I want to build empathy in my readership at large. Most kids deal with these issues, but even if they don’t, I want them to understand what it feels like for their cousins or friends or whomever they know who does have these issues. So kids can take the “Fix-It Pledge,” which is a little pledge to become a “Fix-It Friend,” and all they have to do is help other kids out. Third, I want to write engaging stories that get kids to read—literally having kids turning the pages. I do not think that kids will even know that they are learning. It’s kind of the equivalent of putting spinach in pasta sauce.
Q: As the new ESME Pregnancy Resource Guide, I am curious: What inspired you to take on the role in the first place?
A: I just loved the idea, the mission of the group, and the website. We can all benefit from community. It can be so difficult, this sense of isolation. Just hearing somebody has the same fear makes the situation so much more bearable. That’s what attracted me.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: One other thing I love about the series are the illustrations. Tracy Dockray, who illustrated the Ramona books, illustrated these books, too. She’s the nicest person in the universe and a local mom with two kids. It was so pleasurable to have a partner who could tell the story visually. Tracy adds so much nuance and humanity to my words, and it’s such a thrill.
Jaimie Seaton, ESME’s Resource Guide for Pregnancy, has been a freelance journalist for more than 20 years. She is the divorced mother of two awesome teenagers and often writes about parenting, dating, and relationships. Her work has appeared in numerous publications worldwide, including the Guardian, the Establishment, Glamour, and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @JaimieSeaton.
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