Posts tagged with "book series"

Lil Nas X illustration by Kaelen Felix for 360 magazine

LIL NAS X CELEBRATES INDIVIDUALITY

By Hannah DiPilato

Notable musician Lil Nas X has brought his signature style and voice straight to the page in his new entertaining alphabet picture book. C Is for Country follows a young cowboy and his sidekick, Panini the pony, as they use the ABCs to seek out adventure in wide-open pastures, embrace family, and celebrate individuality, all during a single day. The book features bold, bright illustrations from award-winning artist Theodore Taylor III which are sure to keep kids engaged. 

C Is for Country goes out to every amazing kid out there who sang along to ‘Old Town Road’ on repeat and helped change my life forever,” said Lil Nas X. “I hope this book inspires them and makes learning the alphabet a thousand times more fun. I’m so happy with how it turned out, and I can’t wait for the world to see it,” he continued. 

Lil Nas X had a goal to promote individuality in his book so children everywhere are able to embrace who they are. The artist has never been one to shy away from his true self, releasing music that speaks to who he is and instantly creating hits. Soon after releasing the children’s book, it hit number eight across all kid’s books in the world Lil Nas X announced in a tweet

“A is for adventure. Every day is a brand-new start!,” an excerpt from the book on the website says. “B is for boots—whether they’re big or small, short or tall. And C is for country.”

Earlier in the year, Lil Nas X appeared on Sesame Street’s, The Not-Too-Late Show to sing Elmo’s Song with Elmo himself. The artist also made an appearance at Lander Elementry School in 2019 to perform for the children there. These appearances have certainly helped him create a younger fan base and an audience for his new picture book. His hit song, “Old Town Road” ended up being a smashing success with the younger crowds as well. Recently, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” remix featuring Billy Ray Cyrus has officially become 14x platinum and is now the most certified song in music history.

Lil Nas X has been embracing his younger fan base he isn’t necessarily self-conscious about it. “I’m well aware that life and careers and everything goes in chapters,” the rapper said in NPR. “That’s the chapter I’m in right now and I’m OK with that.” C Is for Country was made for kids ages three to seven and is sure to help little ones learn the alphabet. 

Lil Nas X is not the first celebrity to check “write a children’s book” off of their bucket list. Madonna, a well-known star to all ages has written a number of books for kids. Her first book, The English Roses, became the biggest and fastest-selling children’s book by a first-time author. The book, which references Madonna’s personal experiences, features many moral life lessons and has been published in 42 languages. Madonna then went on to write eleven more books in this series which has now flourished into a book series that features 12 chapter books. Madonna lovers can even buy an audiobook version where Madonna reads all of the stories aloud. 

Madonna has also written a number of other children’s books aside from The English Roses series including, Yakov and the Seven Thieves and The Adventures of Abdi. In her stories, Madonna not only references her childhood experiences while teaching life lessons, but she also promotes gender equality and uses her Jewish background to do so. 

Another notable celebrity, Jamie Lee Curtis, has made her mark in the world of children’s books. She has written twelve bestselling children’s books including When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth, Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day and Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born. These books have been a great success in teaching kids important life lessons in a silly and entertaining way. 

Curtis said that her daughter was her first inspiration for writing children’s books. “My four-year-old said something funny to me one day,” explains Jamie Lee Curtis. “She walked into my office, all petulant and sweet, and announced that ‘when I was little I used to wear diapers, but now I use the potty.'” 

“The idea that she had thought about her life in the past,” Curtis continues, “when she was really just four, made me smile. I wrote on a piece of paper: ‘When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth.’ I then wrote a list of things that she used to not be able to do and now could. By the end, I realized I had written a book.”

Although Lil Nas X didn’t grasp his inspiration from any one person in particular, his youthful spirit and young fanbase have certainly set him up to be a successful writer for children. It’s clear the young cowboy in the book is inspired by Lil Nas X complete with a bedazzled, pink cowboy outfit. 

It’s not just actors and singers becoming authors, famous athletes such as LeBron James, Alex Morgan and Mia Hamm have also become authors. LeBron James’ book, I Promise, was recently published in August of 2020 and encourages children to strive for greatness. This book coincides with the I Promise School, a school powered by the LeBron James Family Foundation. This school helps students that are in danger of falling through the cracks to succeed. I Promise shares a common goal with this school in helping children strive to be the best they can be. 

No matter which celebrity is behind writing the pages of these books, they all have one thing in common, they hope to promote positivity and important life lessons to all children that read them. Lil Nas X is no different when it comes to C Is for Country. When celebrities use their platform to write children’s books, they are using their fame to promote life lessons to kids. This is especially useful for an artist like Lil Nas X who already has a relatively young fan base.

C is for Country is available now for purchase and can be bought in hardcover, Kindle or audiobook version. If you know a child that has been blasting “Old Town Road” on repeat, then this book is sure to be a success.

Book illustration

The Stranglehold Series

By Katherine Jeffries

Lenient and non-existent criminal sentences have given rise to movements such as #metoo, #yesallwomen, #whyididntreport, #protecteverychild, #endmodernslavery, #blacklivesmatter to name a only a few. The growing unrest of a rigged justice system is rightly being met with a “burn it down” sentiment.

The Stranglehold Series was inspired by the very frustrations and inequalities we, as a country, are currently attempting to voice and rectify. While the BlackLivesMatter movement, as well as others, focuses on horridly heavy-handed punishments, even deadly uses of force for petty detainments of people of color, Stranglehold was birthed from the growing disgust of certain privileged offenders getting little-to-no consequence for acts so inhumane that most people cannot process the monstrous details.

We have privileged perpetrators such as Brock Turner, who, in 2016, brutally assaulted an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Even with witnesses to the heinousness of his attack, he got little to no punishment for the various and twisted injuries he inflicted. Not a year later, the #metoo movement against prominent men who assault women and men alike went viral. Because of public outcry and the bravery of those willing to share their stories in solidarity, some semblance of justice is beginning. More recently, in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, actual video evidence of the murder did not result in the arrest of the killers until that footage was made public months later, demonstrating that if you are well-connected, you could commit the coldest atrocities and skate back into life-as-usual—so long as someone is incentivized enough to keep your secret.

These kinds of non-existent or delayed sentences doled out by those in the criminal justice system who don’t want to “ruin” the lives of predators has only emboldened some institutions into not only hiding those who commit certain crimes, but also continue to allow perpetrators access to more victims (as we’ve seen with the Catholic and Mormon churches, to name only a few). Despite complaints and investigations filed, some organizations even reward and promote harassers, as we’re discovering with the military and hundreds of women being demoted or discharged for reporting while their attacker is unscathed, such as the recent and upsetting murder of Vanessa Guillan.

Much of the same issues are at play in the society in my thriller series, Stranglehold. Unknown US politicians are funneling money into legal organizations set to keep violent, even sadistic criminals on the streets, all in hopes of growing government power in the name of “safety.” Although I’d quickly condemn anyone enacting vigilante justice against any suspect or convict, Stranglehold does offer a satisfying outlet as Grant Steele, Gemma Pearl and Trent Roth deliver swift and ruthless deaths to those who find pleasure or triumph in the pain of the innocent.

That said, Stranglehold isn’t a typical bang-bang-you’re-dead thriller. After all, Gemma Pearl can hear—down to the word—if someone is lying. That she can decide—on the spot—who is guilty isn’t the sole determiner, it sure helps them focus on who’s a threat and find what they need to decide who lives and dies. (In our current political climate, how handy would it be to have not only a sign-language interpreter sharing the stage with any given talking-head, but someone like Gemma calling bullshit. Not sure it would change much, but it would add some comedy to it all).

Beyond that aspect of magic realism, which allows for many polite phrases and the motives behind them to have moments of examination (imagine being around someone who knows every little white lie you tell—every.single.one), Stranglehold takes on the emotional toll trauma exacts. After all, Gemma Pearl isn’t only an assassin, but a woman who has endured years of isolation, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her husband. The two of them were corralled into their marriage for the sake of Gemma’s safety, which inspires Gemma to ask, “Safe from who?” After Gemma murders her husband and while under Grant and Trent’s protection, Gemma is allowed to unearth and begin to unravel the trauma she’s not only endured, but also caused.

Most thrillers don’t attempt to unpack the damage done to their characters, portraying them instead as revenge-driven-until-revenge-satisfied. Stranglehold is far more thoughtful than that and readers who have survived abuse and trauma deserve a character who is strong, graceful and vulnerable at once. Trauma survivors have earned a character who is wounded but wanting more for herself, who is writhing out form beneath the feelings of unworthiness and invisibility abuse causes, who is learning to voice her hopes and carefully venture back into trust and love with someone who is just as embattled, just as scarred, just as determined to be healed as she is.

As a society, as a world, we have a long way to go, but with the discussions in Stranglehold about punishment, honesty, government roles and trauma healing, we can hopefully step into deeper interactions with ourselves as we heal and with each other as we demand a better system of actual justice.

“Two Reasons Why I Won’t Report My Child Abuse”

Excerpt from The Teenage and Young Adult Survival Handbook By Steve Simpson

“The first reason is I know that I could be better in school. I know I mess up at home. The clothes I wear. The way I have my hair. The attitude I have. The trouble that I get in. I bring it on myself. If I were a better person these things probably wouldn’t happen to me. Ever since I can remember, I have been told by my parents that all the problems at home are my fault. People have it worse than I do.” These are the thoughts of many who are being abused and the first reasons why they won’t report it.

What I discovered was that even children who do fantastic in school, never get in any trouble, and do everything “right” still get abused by their parents or abusive adults in their home. Their parents even called them the same names as me and they were model children. I’ve found it has nothing to do with the way I act at all. It has nothing to do with who I was. It has nothing to do with the children. It has to do with the adults. Child abuse and discipline have nothing to do with each other. People who abuse children do it because of their own sickness, be it alcoholism, drug abuse or other problems they have.

“I knew my father or my mother’s boyfriend had no right to abuse me but I always felt that my mother would get in trouble for it.” This is the thought of many abuse victims and the second reason why they don’t report it. Even though they are getting abused they still try to protect the non-abusing/co-dependent parent. What I offer to those children is you would not so much be getting your parent in trouble, but you would be getting them help. Most authorities get them to go to therapy, which would stop that parent from allowing abuse to themselves and others in the future, therefore making their life better. So by protecting yourself you’re actually not getting anyone in trouble but protecting them and getting them help as well. Even the abusive adult could end up getting help as a result of you reporting it. Nobody should abuse you, period!

If you are being abused in any way, sometimes the abuse looks like it’s becoming less frequent. Don’t be fooled by this. It could suddenly pick up again and get worse. It will not stop unless you do something to stop it. Speak to a teacher, guidance counselor, school social worker or psychologist. Counselors from community centers and sometimes even people from local churches will know what to do and how to get you help. You can call Child Protective Services for your local area. Nobody should be abused in any way. You are no exception. You are worth getting help.

Approximately 5 children die a day as a result of child abuse. For those who suspect child abuse whether it be a relative or neighbor, it always amazes me how people will call 911 simply because someone parked in the wrong spot or put the garbage out on the wrong night, yet they won’t get “involved” in possibly saving a child’s life or at a minimum their childhood (not to mention the problems they will have as an adult as a result of their abuse). As responsible people we are already “involved”.

If you suspect child abuse it probably does exist. Don’t make excuses or protect and enable the abuser. Protect who you are supposed to protect, the children.

 

About Steve Simpson
Steve Simpson is a child advocate, child abuse survivor and media commentator who just released The Teenage and Young Adult Survival Handbook — a small guide that is modestly tucked inside in all four of his YA adventure novels which covers most of the topics plaguing young people today—suicide, bullying, sexual abuse, physical abuse, verbal abuse, self-worth, being the child of an addict, living in a dysfunctional home, surviving school and more. Simpson was even recognized by President Barack Obama, former New York governor David Paterson and the County Executive of Nassau County for his efforts on behalf of abused children.