Mr. McCoodle Shares a Secret
Melissa Kerry (author) Yana Zybina (illustrator)
Melissa Kerry has her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in English from Stanford University and her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law. She is a former staff writer at The Stanford Daily and a published poet. She is also a former Adjunct Professor at the Pepperdine School of Law. Melissa’s poetry has been published in the poetry journals Dialtone and, most recently, in Pratik. In her spare time, Melissa enjoys digital photography, painting abstract art, practicing yoga, songwriting, writing poetry, and playing tennis.
Hi Melissa, Welcome to Reader Views Kids, we’re delighted to talk to you today! Tell us a bit about Mr. McCoodle Shares a Secret.
This is a picture book intended to foster emotional intelligence in children and to prompt children to talk about their feelings. It is the story of a man who faces challenges identifying and expressing his feelings, who finally recognizes fear in himself and does not allow it to stop him from experiencing fun at a fair. The main character has many friends of diverse backgrounds, including animals.
What was your inspiration behind the story?
I was always a high achiever as a kid and even took many so-called “Gifted and Talented” classes, but no one really offered a sounding board for me to process my emotions. This is what motivated me to write the book—to provide a bridge to share and process emotions.
Tell us about Mr. McCoodle. What motivates him in the story?
Mr. McCoodle is motivated to enjoy his life just like his friends appear to be doing at the County Fair. It is this desire which leads him to discoveries about his own internal feelings.
When is the best time to start talking to kids about their feelings?
As the mother of a 5-month-old baby boy, I think that s soon as you start reading to them, it’s a great time to talk about feelings. I started reading to my son at 3 months old and have reflected his feelings for him even before then. It is something advised by both psychologists and early childhood education experts.
How do Mr. McCoodle’s friends help him tackle his fears?
His observations about his friends, and his discussion with his friend Flora the Fish are what eventually aid him in processing his feelings and being able to get on a scary roller coaster.
What is the most important message you hope readers take away from Mr. McCoodle Shares a Secret?
I hope people see the importance of learning to identify their feelings and then, talking about their feelings so they can process them and they don’t become like an albatross weighing them down.
What kind of feedback have you received from readers?
Parents have told me the book is their child’s favorite book because anxiety and discomfort are little talked about in picture books. They have also said their kids are riveted by the colorful illustrations.
How did you find your illustrator?
I found my illustrator through the referral of a friend, which was very lucky for me.
What was it like working together with your illustrator to bring your story to life?
It’s challenging when you are a writer and maybe somewhat artistic (but certainly not an illustrator) to convey in words what you want to convey to the illustrator in artwork. To capture the essence of a character by describing it in words is more challenging than communicating about illustrations with an illustration.
What is the biggest challenge writing for a young audience?
I think that making the book the right length so as not to bore young readers is imperative.
What do you like to read and what are some of your favorite children’s books authors and stories?
I love this old kids’ book called “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble”. I have my M.A. and B.A. in English and have always adored reading. My favorite authors are Willa Cather and Thomas Hardy.
Which writers have inspired your own work as an author?
Most recently, I have listened to a few books by Matt Haig on Audible, and I find his honesty and perceptiveness to be very touching, especially in his shorter book titled “Reasons to Stay Alive”.
What do you enjoy outside of writing?
I write poetry and music and in fact, recently published a book of poetry that’s on Amazon, called “The Blue of the Fire”. I also practice yoga and love to paint, play tennis and go scuba diving when I have the time.
Do you have a website or blog (or both) where readers can learn more about you and your works?
The website for my publisher is www.bookwrangler.com where my two books appear. I also post under mrmccoodle on Instagram.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing or about life in general?
Write about what you know and always do your best so you can look at yourself in the mirror each night and feel good about yourself. The latter piece of advice came from my Norwegian grandmother.
Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging picture book authors?
It’s not easy to go through the whole process on your own, but it’s a valuable learning experience. You will have to learn about copyrights, how to communicate with illustrators, what ISBN numbers are and much more. However, once you have your first book published, you can use what you have learned to publish more.
So, what’s next for you? Will we see Mr. McCoodle in more adventures?
I intend to write more books about all of the various characters in Mr. McCoodle’s universe.