No matter what circumstances you find yourself in, it’s fair to say that ‘uncertainty’ is a universal sentiment at the moment. From a global pandemic to ever-advancing artificial intelligence, it feels like things are changing faster than ever.
And while it’s difficult enough for us adults to keep up with it all, it’s important to remember that children are also experiencing the same sense of instability.
While kids of generations past might have been raised to be polite or obedient above all, these skills come secondary to the flexibility and resilience that children of the 2020s must develop.
In her upcoming book, An A to Z of Dreaming Differently, debut children’s author Tracey Dembo zooms in on this idea. By telling an inspiring story in a familiar alphabet format, the author wants to encourage kids to be themselves loudly and proudly – no matter the circumstances.
“The book is about living without constraints or limitations,” says Tracey.
It’s about not letting the outside world stop you from listening to your inner voice.
And while it’s clearly a great message for children to hear, it’s surprisingly absent from the conversation.
After becoming infuriated by the seemingly never-ending moral deluge that other picture books dispelled on her daughters, Tracey began searching for alternatives that taught what she considered to be more important lessons.
Rather than teaching her daughters blind obedience, Tracey wanted books that would inspire them to think differently. But when endless searching yielded very little, she realised that perhaps the book she wanted to read to her kids didn’t exist yet. Determined to change the story, she decided to give her long-time dream a go and write the book herself.
In-between her legal career and parenting duties, Tracey found pockets of time in which she could hone her writing skills. In addition to working directly on An A to Z of Dreaming Differently, she also dedicated time to mastering her craft. “The journey involved going to several courses and working hard on my writing over a couple of years,” she says.
Once she felt that the book was publishable, Tracey took the chance and pitched it. With only three minutes to present her idea, she admits that experience was ‘not for the faint of heart.’
“In that way, my lawyer background is fortunate,” Tracey says. “I have to do a lot of that in my day job. Not so much pitching, but distilling things into sound bites.”
Once the deal was signed, Tracey then continued working on the book alongside illustrator Lucia Masciullo until it became the gorgeous picture book it is today.
Along the way, Tracey’s two daughters have continued to influence her. Beyond inspiring the book, they’ve also read it and offered up reviews to their mum along the way. “It’s been really exciting for them to see a book come together,” says Tracey.
While the author is glad that her children approve, the aim of the book extends far beyond her immediate family.
“This book is more relevant than ever because children should be encouraged to be critical thinkers with curious minds who can adapt to change,’ says Tracey. ‘That feeds into so many things, like conflict and environmental change, but also just the fact that the jobs of today aren’t going to be there tomorrow.
“Kids need to be taught how to think rather than what to think. So I think trusting their instincts and developing their own way of thinking is going to be more important than ever because they need to be adaptable and resilient. They don’t necessarily know what’s coming in the future, and they need to be prepared for that.”
However, it’s not all business. In addition to setting kids up for the future, Tracey also hopes that the book can be somewhat of a reprieve from the outside world. ‘At the same time, I just wanted to give something that could give kids a flood of feel-good emotions when they read it,’ she explains. ‘It’s also a comfort, and I hope it gets the message across that you’re enough as you are and that you matter’.
Whether you’re hoping to inspire a child in your life or simply give them something beautiful, An A to Z of Dreaming Differently does the job.
With gorgeous illustrations, an uplifting message and a bundle of warm-fuzzies inside, children of all ages will be enamoured from the first page.
An A to Z of Dreaming Differently comes out on 8 August 2023 but is available for pre-order now.
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