Kid LIt Reviews welcomes the author of Maks and Mila on a Special Journey. Born and raised in the Netherlands, Ms. Bakker is a writer for Huffington Press, mindfulness coach, and now a published author. Currently, Ms. Bakker lives in Switzerland with her husband. The Swiss Mountains are around Ms. Bakker’s home and the mountains partially led her to write Maks and Mila on a Special Journey. In writing her picture book, Ms. Bakker hopes it will “contribute to a world where children feel Happy and Strong and know how to take care of themselves, others and the world as a whole!”
Please welcome Ms. Merel Bakker.
Hi, Merel! Welcome to Kid Lit Reviews. Please tell us what inspired you to write a children’s book?
I already wanted to become a writer when I was a little girl; I loved books, I was always reading and I remember writing my first ‘book’ when I was about seven years old.
Books for me, are an amazing way to share information while speaking to the reader’s imagination. As an author you share (an) ‘experience’ and I wanted children to experience how powerful it is to reflect on the positive and to share kindness.
I commend you on the book donation program. If I understand correctly, for every six books sold, one book is donated to a developing area where kids and schools cannot afford to buy the book. Where exactly will the books be going and how much has been donated (or how many do you expect to be donated)?
One of the organizations I donate the books to is Books With No Bounds. Founded by two teenage girls, Julia and Emma, this organization already collected more than 21.000 books and brought them to First Nation people and schools in Canada and the USA as well as to children in Africa. I hope all of you will take a look at their website (www.bookswithnobounds.com), these girls are amazing!
I hope that I will be able to donate at least a thousand books a year to them but it depends on the sales of “Maks & Mila”.
You have a Masters in International Law. How has that helped you in your daily life?
To enable me to use the special ‘dyslexie font, as well as to donate a large part of my profits to children and schools in need, I founded my own publishing company to publish “Maks & Mila On a Special Journey”.
Having a Master degree in Law, doesn’t make me a lawyer, but it did provide me with the necessary skills to run my company. Also my degrees to teach mindfulness, are very useful in this regard: they help me to focus and plan my activities, as well as to keep my energy level high. Taking care of Maks & Mila is a full time job:)
You have stated that the Dyslexie Font “makes the book easier to read for children with dyslexia”. What is the font, who devised the font, and how does it work to make reading easier and more “accessible for children with dyslexia?”
The font ‘dyslexie’ is amazing! It is designed by Dutch designer Christian Boer from studiostudio and it uses specific design rules which help the ‘dyslexic brain’, not to confuse or mirror letters, amongst others. Scientific research showed, that people with dyslexia make less mistakes when they read a text in this font (you can download the scientific report at: www.studiostudio.nl). It is my hope that more publishers will start using this font, so that reading will become more accessible to the 15 to 20% of the population with dyslexia.
The press release for Maks & Mila On a Special Journey states, “the storylines of Maks & Mila use a special technique providing the perfect tool for children to embrace Wise and Happy thoughts.”
Please explain what this “special technique” is and how it works.
It’s the combination of focussed reflection and repetition, that helps children to develop Joy, Kindness and Self-Confidence in their lives. By repetitively asking specific questions (reflection), and by repetitively asking them to share kind wishes, children are experiencing, and remembering, how good it feels to do so. This process of focussed reflection and repetition is what helps them to embrace Wise and Happy thoughts.
What was the most difficult part of getting your story to a finished book?
I would say that the process to get the book printed was the most time consuming and challenging because I still had to learn so much about the technical aspects of it.
And the easiest?
The easiest part was writing the story, even though the thinking process took more than two years!
What is the best physical place for you to write?
It doesn’t really matter where I write. For me it’s more a matter of the ‘flow’ I am in and on how inspired I am and this could be everywhere: from the quiet of our house to a busy coffee shop.
How involved were you in the illustration process?
Very involved! The illustrations are an important part of the book and I spent quite some time to find the perfect illustrator and to develop a vision for him or her to work with.
When I found Anne-Sylvie, I immediately felt ‘she was it’: I liked her style and she got right to the essence of the story. After she made the primary design of the characters, I consulted children to determine the final colors. This was an interesting and fun process!
I understand that you have an app for the iPhone and iPad called the SECRET SUITCASE. This app “empowers children to be creative and provides a unique platform for child development.”
Would you please tell us how the app empowers children’s creativity,
The SECRET SUITCASE app stimulates children to send kind wishes to friends and family members that are listed in the contact list of their parent’s iPads. The app also encourages children to fill their SECRET SUITCASE with happy thoughts. In both features, children can first ‘explore’ what these ‘happy thoughts’ and ‘wishes’ can be, by giving them the option to choose from a list. Later, children have the option to either record or write a happy thought or wish themselves.
What makes this app “a unique platform for child development?”
By starting with giving children examples of ‘happy thoughts’ and ‘kind wishes’, their vocabulary increases as well as their ‘ideas’ of what happy thoughts and kind acts actually are. At the same time, children are encouraged to put these new ‘ideas’ into action by actually sending a kind wish or by filling their SECRET SUITCASE: new thoughts and ideas are created and children are stimulated to formulate their own thoughts and wishes.
When you were a child, what was you favorite middle grade book? Do you remember how did the book made you feel?
Oh, yes I remember! My favorite middle grade books were from Jan Terlouw, a Dutch author, and the stories of those books connected me to feelings and different circumstances of other people.
And your favorite picture book?
My favorite picture book was from another dutch author, Annie M.G. Schmidt and is called “Floddertje”. It’s about a little ‘untidy’ girl with her dog and I remember mostly how much the book made me giggle.
Is there anything you would like to say to everyone who reads this interview?
That I hope you will all be ‘healthy, happy and proud!’!
What does the future hold for Merel Bakker?
During my school visit in New York last week, the children asked me about my next books and they wanted to know if I was going to make a Maks & Mila television show! Both are things that I wish to bring to you in the future!
Thank you Ms. Merel Bakker for answering our questions.
A review of Maks and Mila on a Special Journey will be online this Saturday (tomorrow). For those of you reading this interview after that date, the review can be found HERE.
Interested in learning more about Merel Bakker and her picture book, please follow these links:
Ms. Bakker’s Blog at the Huffington Post
Ms. Baller’s monthly TV Show at Mom TV
- Study Finds E-readers can Help Children with Dyslexia (counselheal.com)
- Font Dubbed Dyslexie Can Make It Easier for Dyslexics to Read (news.softpedia.com)
- Small e-readers help people with dyslexia read faster, comprehend more (cbsnews.com)
- Dyslexie: the typeface designed for dyslexics (wired.co.uk)
- The Causes and Symptoms of Dyslexia (specialeducation.answers.com)