Books

Aurora program helps girl publish book to let kids ‘know it’s OK to be different’ – Chicago Tribune

By all accounts, Aurora youngster Evelyn Mendoza seems to be your typical 8-year-old until you put her name in the search box on Amazon.

Once that happens, you’ll find she’s a published author with a message that adults like Stacey Montgomery feel is pretty universal.

“I bought the first copy of Evelyn’s book. I found out about her as her mom, Jen Mendoza, and I, are entrepreneurs and that’s how we met,” Montgomery, 56, of Aurora said. “This is a book about how people with differences can respect one another. We need to teach our kids – and adults need to learn this as well – that it’s OK for people who are different to be friends.”

The road to authorship, Evelyn said, began after deciding that “writing a book would be nice for other kids to read and to tell kids that even if you’re different it’s not OK to bully each other.”

“That’s why I wanted to write a book,” she explained as she sat in the community room of the Aurora Public Library’s Eola Road branch recently. “I wanted to make a book and it sounded like it would be really fun.”

According to Jen Mendoza, 38, the opportunity to write and publish a book came after attending a local program known as Dream Scribers that was offered through Talented Tenth Social Services in Aurora.

The Scribers program started last year, she said, and “started a cohort to help publish children’s authors.”

“We went to the first cohort to help support our friend who started the program. Evelyn sat in with me and saw all these kids with their books and heard about their stories and she said, ‘I want to do that’ and I asked her what would you write about?” Mendoza said. “Evelyn said, ‘a pig and a giraffe’ and she came up with the entire storyline – the whole premise of it. It was not touched by me whatsoever.”

The young author said she finished the text rather quickly suggesting that there was a rush of ideas just waiting to come out.

“There was one time in the program where they wanted us to just write and get more ideas, and I just wrote the whole book,” Evelyn said. “It took a couple of weeks. I didn’t make any changes. It turned out just the way I wanted it.”

Evelyn was also part of the book’s design and illustrations.

“She (Evelyn) drew the characters out how she wanted them to look and gave the layout with the color and hair and all the details, and then we submitted the drawings, and the Dream Scribers program had someone do the actual drawings based on the descriptions,” Jen Mendoza said.

The cost of publishing was $500 – an amount nearly instantly recovered after Dream Scribers helped Evelyn and her mother organize a fundraiser using popcorn.

“We didn’t have to pay for the popcorn and we raised $500 in sales in just two hours through social media,” Jen Mendoza said. “That paid for us to be able to go further in the program and start Zoom meetings and get the book project going.”

Now available through Amazon, “Two Awesome Friends” is also available through an Etsy-like platform known as Spots on the Fox at www. https://spotsonthefox.com/

Evelyn said she has always been a reader and wanted to see her project through “because I wanted to have fun in the program.”

Jen Mendoza said her daughter has been known to “write stories and do little doodles” and isn’t surprised about what Evelyn has accomplished.

Montgomery said she is a huge advocate for kids and believes the book’s message will resonate.

“I’m all about encouraging kids to set goals and take action and that’s exactly what Evelyn did — she decided to write a book and took action. And for someone her age it is fairly substantial. I am so proud and excited for her. It’s a huge accomplishment,” Montgomery said.

“We should embrace what is unique about ourselves but also accept that everybody is unique and we can be friends,” she said. “That’s what builds strong, inclusive communities and she captured that concept so well.”

Evelyn admits she already has her sights set on another book.

“Sometimes I think maybe I will be a famous author someday,” Evelyn said. “I want kids to know it’s OK to be different and even if you’re not alike, you can still be friends.”

David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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