A unique children\’s book that started as a \”what if\” question

Sometimes, creativity comes from the most unexpected places.

But that\’s the thing about creativity…one minute your brain is void of any ideas and the next, creativity sneaks up on you and catches you by surprise.

Some people call it their \”ah-HA\” moment.

The \”ah-AH\” moment for new authors Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard started as a “what if?” conversation between the two long-time friends. It was the summer of 2018 and Beth Ann (B.A.) Norrgard and Rebecca (Becky) Flansburg were enjoying some much-needed catch-up time over lunch.

The conversation soon turned to B.A.’s lifestyle of “living tiny” and how leaving her paralegal career in 2012 had led to a personal lifestyle change as well as a career within the tiny house community. BA had become involved in the movement nationwide through teaching others about going tiny and empowering others to downsize through leading by example.

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Photo credit: Tiny House, Giant Journey

The tiny house movement, a social movement that advocates for living simply in small homes of 399 square feet or less, had been steadily growing for years, and B.A. had actively made that lifestyle her reality for the past six years.  During the conversation, Becky wondered out loud what the process of “going tiny” might look like through the eyes of a child and how scary that could actually be. The question lead to an in-depth discussion and the idea for an innovative children’s book was born.

The ironic thing was that neither Becky or B.A. had any aspirations of being authors at the time. Even as a project manager for the global non-profit, Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Becky\’s time was largely spent helping to shine the spotlight on other authors of diverse books for kids.

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\”I loved the idea of being a children\’s book author, but I have to admit, no solid book ideas had ever caught my interest,\” Becky admitted. \”I had deep knowledge of the children’s book world and great connections, but no story ideas were popping into my head. Writing a children\’s book wasn\’t really a priority in my already too-busy life. \”

But as the two chatted, it became clear they each had something very unique to bring to the table. Combining B.A.\’s knowledge of living tiny and her own knowledge of the children’s book publishing industry with Becky\’s experience in the children\’s book publishing world became the \”secret sauce\” for a unique and innovative book for kids to be born. Immediately, the pair used their imaginations and talents to hatch a plan for a beautiful children’s picture book that would help the smallest members of the family see the big adventures in living tiny.

“The tiny house movement has been around and accelerating in popularity over the last ten years,” Becky noted. “There are several popular shows on TV and Netflix that follow the journeys of individuals and families who have opted to ‘do more with less.’ However, all of the shows and books available on the subject are all geared for adults. We both strongly felt that kids needed to be part of this lifestyle change as well. Through that discussion between us over the course of a few weeks, the story of Sissy Goes Tiny came together.”

While in creation-mode, the duo agreed that the children’s picture book would need to have a deeper purpose and lesson beyond helping youngsters understand the importance of going tiny.

“We knew we wanted this book to be a captivating and fun read for kids, but we also wanted to have some subtle lessons within the pages as well,” B.A. shared. “We wanted parents and kids alike to understand the process of downsizing, repurposing, and how ‘stuff is just stuff’ in a positive way. We also wanted to share the message that living unconventionally is full of big possibilities, and wherever Sissy and her parents went on their journey, they would always be home.”

She went on to share that, when downsizing to prepare for tiny living, a rule of thumb is to reflect upon your \”needs and wants,\” and to choose to keep only the items that serve a purpose, meet a need, or bring you joy by being beautiful or sentimental.  “However, Becky and I realized how different that might look to a child, and we wanted to make sure we addressed that in a creative and comforting way in the book.”

The main character of the book is an eight-year-old girl named Sissy; a name that was chosen to pay homage to B.A.’s Tiny House, Sisu.

Sisu is a Finnish word meaning having grit, determination, and perseverance in the face of adversity,”  she recalled. “I had my tiny home a few years before I named her and at first, I couldn’t think of a fitting name. Then my mom died. She was Finnish and she had a lot of sisu. The name for my 78-square-foot home suddenly became clear.”

In Sissy Goes Tiny, eight-year-old Sissy and her parents make the bold choice to downsize their life and embark on a journey of living tiny and doing more with less. At first, Sissy struggles to get used to the idea of living in a tiny house on wheels and traveling around the U.S, but as she and her mommy and daddy learn about downsizing, repurposing, and how “stuff is just stuff,” she soon understands that a life of “living tiny” will be filled with the big adventures and learning.

After several weeks of brainstorming and getting the story put on paper, Becky decided to tap into the wisdom of a close friend and Audrey Press Publishing’s CEO, Valarie Budayr. “I emailed her our very rough manuscript with no other intention other than finding out if this project had potential or not. I was blown away when she messaged me back 48 hours later saying, ‘this book will be a home run… and I want to publish it.’ And at that moment the idea of being children\’s book authors, an idea that wasn\’t even in our wheelhouses 30 days prior, became very real and very possible. It was a happy dance of glee moment for both of us!”

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Becky and B.A. get an Audrey Press book deal!

The months that followed were a flurry of editing, rewriting, and searching for an illustrator with the right look and feel for the book. During this time, the women applied for and received an artist’s grant thanks to Five Wings Arts Council with funds from the McKnight Foundation to help temper the costs of hiring a quality artist.

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After several frustrating months of having no luck finding an available illustrator, Becky visited an artist portfolio website and was immediately enamored by the work of New York-based children’s book illustrator, Penny Weber. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Weber’s digital illustrations that mimic the look of watercolor and traditional painting was a perfect fit for the project.

“It was like she plucked Sissy from my brain,” Becky added. “There was an illustration of an adorable, curly-haired biracial girl in her portfolio that fit our vision for Sissy to a ‘T.’ I knew she was the one to bring our book to life.”

Sissy Goes Tiny\

That sentiment continued as Sissy Goes Tiny came to life with Weber’s artistic talents, the design skills of Andy Meaden, and the experienced eye of book publisher, Valarie Budayr.  Bang Printing, national book printing business that also happened to be in both Becky and B.A.\’s hometown, was tapped to bring the hardcover book to life.

The result is a vibrant and colorful children’s book that includes a story of love, patience, sisu, and the desire to live the best life possible in a small setting.

“Watching this project come to life thanks to the idea and vision of two good friends has been such a gift,” Budayr acknowledged. “Both B.A. and Becky have such talent and plenty of sisu themselves! It’s been an honor to publish this book that I know will enchant readers of all ages.”

Copies of Sissy Goes Tiny are available at The Crossing Arts Alliance, the Downtown Farmers Market, Amazon, and AudreyPress.com

 


Looking for a beautiful and unconventional diverse picture book for kids? Check out the upcoming, Sissy Goes Tiny!

Sissy Goes Tiny\
Sissy Goes Tiny by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard

In Sissy Goes Tiny, eight-year-old Sissy and her parents make the bold choice to downsize their life and embark on a journey of living tiny and doing more with less. At first, Sissy struggles to get used to the idea of living in a tiny house on wheels and traveling around the U.S, but as she and her mommy and daddy learn about downsizing, repurposing, and how “stuff is just stuff,” she soon understands that a life of “living tiny” will be filled with the big adventures and learning.

This gorgeous diverse picture book is available in hardcover on the Ap website, on IndieBound, and Amazon.

This book is also available in Kindle ebook form!

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You can read the full story of this journey here.

\”I believe that Sissy Goes Tiny is going to open so many minds for people! A tiny house is absolutely not for everyone, but we all like to dream and step into the shoes of another lifestyle in our minds. Learning about this lifestyle I think will help people be more supportive of people who do choose to live unconventionally. Sissy and her family are a great example of that.\” Co-author, B.A. Norrgard

Join us in celebrating the idea of Tiny Living and BIG Adventures!

This ​diverse picture book is now available on IndieBound and Amazon!

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