Thursday, July 14, 2011
“Meem’s Little World” Just Got Bigger
Book Review and Author/Illustrator Interview
Texas-born Lori Rolie has created a children’s book of verses, Meem’s Little World, that’s unlike anything else on your child’s (or for that matter, your bookseller’s) shelves. Rolie has an uncanny ear for the voice of a child and a sensitivity to children’s joys, fears, and concerns. There’s a disarming sweetness to her poems, a gentleness and a lack of “wink, wink” edge that’s refreshing. This book serves its audience—young children—and doesn’t have a snarky, pop-culture-referencing second layer for the grown-ups. It’s for kids, through and through.
Rolie crafts poems around well-observed kid “issues” like why it’s not in a bumblebee’s best interest to sting you, all the while holding her rhyme scheme:
I shoo’d him away and off he goes
He’s a smart little bee “bee” cause he knows
He’ll lose his stinger if he stings me
And no longer be a honey bee!
And then there are the illustrations. These are not slick and air-brushed. They look as if they were drawn by a talented middle-schooler and that’s the charm. This book speaks directly to children in their own language. It’s folk art that depicts a kid’s idea of the world, accessible and recognizable. Rolie created and published Meem’s Little World on her own dime and on her own terms. One of the great things about the Internet is that a small, self-published book like Meem’s Little World can find its audience; or not. Like anything else hand-made, some appreciate the effort; some don’t. I highly recommend this book. My three-year-old won’t let it out of her sight and has declared it, “really cute.”
Lori lives in Texas with her husband, Gregg Rolie, co-founder and original lead singer and keyboardist of the rock bands, Santana and Journey and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their two children were Lori’s inspiration for Meem’s Little World. Lori recently answered a few questions for us:
Media Darlings: Your book is self-published. Did you go to publishers with this project?
Lori Rolie: I knew I had something different, something special. I took my time creating it and focused on my reader. I never let the “business” come between me and my creative work. With my husband being in the music business, I knew what I would be up against if I tried to submit it to publishers because it’s a highly competitive world out there. I may go to publishers in the future, but I wanted to test it myself on the local level. This was created for the child and the parent who need to escape from the fast pace of life at the end of the day.
MD: You’ve written that it was your “lifelong dream … to create stories for the very young reader.” What inspired this dream?
LR: When I was very young I had an imaginary friend because I was frequently alone. The smallest worlds that are easily overlooked became my playground. I found beauty and appreciation in the smallest things. I remember watching a line of ants and the way they communicated with each other in their world. I enjoyed my grandmother taking me out to her garden to show me what she had planted and grown. My dad taught me about bugs and how not to be afraid of them but understand them. I was nurtured by the smell of dirt and getting it all over my hands. The love and respect I had for animals was immense. Everything had personality. Modern times are busy and filled with agendas. Simplicity is sometimes lost. In a young child’s mind the world is going pretty fast. I wanted to write a book that would be on their level of understanding simple things. One that was soothing and allowed a good half-hour to calm down and let the world out there go by. The most special times with my children were quiet, one-on-one moments, usually at naptime or the end of the day. My children liked the way I told stories and inspired me to pursue that dream.
MD: For what age group is the book created? Have you received feedback from this group?
LR: It is written for ages 2-7. The feedback has been a unanimous “thumbs up.” Parents have told me how it has become their child’s favorite book and how they love finding the mouse in every story. I’ll never forget my first library reading: five-year olds gathered all around me, fascinated. The moms all bought books from me and the kids gave me big hugs, thanking me for coming. That feeling is the essence of why I created it.
MD: The subjects and ideas explored in your poems seem anchored in a child’s world. How did you discover these subjects, and how do you home in on a child’s perspective?
LR: I never lose sight of how important a child’s view of the world is. I respect it. It’s pure and natural. It can be easily thwarted if it isn’t nurtured. A child has an opinion of the world around him. His perspective shapes his personality. The subjects in my book are ones that I find children to be generally curious about.
MD: Which children’s authors and illustrators do you admire?
LR: I admire Shel Silverstein for being so brilliantly clever. I admire Eric Carle for his incredible imagination and color with illustration. Charles M. Shultz for his precious illustrations and stories.
MD: Have you noted any disturbing trends in children’s media?
LR: We are quickly becoming a computer-oriented society for the sake of convenience and the human element is somehow getting lost in the translation. There seems to be a trend that more is better. It’s bewildering. I would prefer to see less confusing graphics and more meaningful content in books for small children. There is a quality that’s disappearing. Who made the decision that a child has to grow up so fast?
MD: Have you received any formal training as an illustrator?
LR: When I began writing my book, I couldn't draw a stick figure. I tried to con everyone in my family to do it for me. I quickly became frustrated and even tearful. One day my husband said to me calmly, “Close your eyes and really see it. When you open them, draw it.” Out of necessity, I did. That inspired me to develop my own style. Now, I look forward to illustrating my next books.
MD: Who’s your favorite animated character?
LR: Disney’s Dumbo.
MD: What’s your next project? Will we see more of Meem?
LR: I've written two more books and have started on the illustrations for Meem’s Little World II and III, with more stories just like this one. I’ve also written three additional stories that will someday be individual books.
MD: How can people buy your book?
LR: Go to my website, lorirolie.com for links to purchase the hardcover book through Amazon or BitVibe as well as the e-book through PayPal. While you’re there, download the free Meem’s Little World coloring book!