Many children's books not only spark young imaginations, but also offer lessons for growing minds, whether it's social skills like learning how to share or big-picture things like caring for the environment. Palo Alto author and community activist Evelyne Keomian wants to make sure there's a book for kids that encourages the development of an important skill that's not commonly taught: resilience. Keomian is hoping that children can take inspiration from her own childhood with a story that encourages kids to find their inner strength.
The book, called "Lioness E," draws from Keomian's upbringing, with a story about a young girl called E growing up in the Ivory Coast and having to overcome many obstacles, including her family's cultural beliefs, in order to learn to read and write.
"The book was born from the struggles that I had as a child in West Africa," Keomian said. As a child, she sold water at the market to pay for pencils and notebooks.
Though the challenges that children face may vary broadly, Keomian noted, it's still important for every child to learn to be resilient — they can draw on inner strength and determination to overcome challenges big and small, a skill that will serve them all their lives.
"I need to tell the story that every child struggles. As a child, you need to learn early on that life is going to give you lemons and you just have to learn to turn them into lemonade," she said, noting that while the phrase may be a cliche, it also reflects the way life is.
In addition to encouraging resilience, as a Black author, Keomian said she wants to give representation to children of color, so that more children can see themselves in books.
Keomian assembled a diverse team to help her realize her vision for "Lioness E" with Brazilian children's author Fernanda de Oliveira writing the book and illustrations created by Italian artist Laura Dall'Agata.
Late last month, Keomian launched a campaign on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to help with production costs of "Lioness E."
The campaign reached its initial $5,000 goal in pledges within a couple days of launching and has now more than doubled its original goal, with 125 backers as of press time. The additional funds will help the book project reach its stretch goals, such as producing a musical version of the book with traditional African rhythm drumming. Keomian said that the aim is to have the book printed in time for this year's holiday season.
Once published, the book will raise funds for the Karat School Project, a school for impoverished children in the Ivory Coast that Keomian founded.
In addition to her support for education in her native country, Keomian has also spearheaded projects in the Bay Area to promote education and help young people.
In the early months of the pandemic, Keomian gathered donations and distributed "edu-kits" — care packages of school supplies and books — to children of low-income families on the Peninsula and the South Bay, and she led a project during the holidays last year to provide gifts and food to families living in RVs.
For more information about "Lioness E" and its creative team, visit theksp.org.