Hao and Sabine Buy the World’s Currencies
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views Kids (05/2021)
SB Hilarion is the author and lead illustrator of the narrative nonfiction children’s books in the Raising Young Scholars Series. She is passionate about showing the similarities among world cultures and broadening the world knowledge of young readers to encourage curiosity, tolerance, and confidence in all children. In her dream world, she has traveled to every country on the planet, has a private chef to whip up exotic cuisines, and has a courtside seat to every high-profile tennis match. In her real life, she curls up with Nordic noir novels, visits museums around the world, and constantly lightens the mood with a dry joke or two. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, their two children, and 196 houseplants. She is an advocate for the environment, for glaciers, and for our oceans and rainforests.
Hi SB, Welcome to Reader Views Kids. We’re delighted to talk to you today! Tell us a bit about Hao and Sabine Buy the World’s Currencies.
H&SBWC is a seven-month globe-trotting adventure with philomath siblings Hao and Sabine, their family and certain friends to experience the world, but most importantly, to learn and buy currencies, albeit on a very limited budget. The adventure starts July 2019 in North America and ends in mid-February 2020 in Oceania, and throughout the journey they’re blown away by all their discoveries of enticing world foods, languages, cool slangs, animals, flora, ecosystems, different cultures, and of individuals who have made tremendous impacts throughout history. They learn all of these through CURRENCIES. This is what makes H&SBWC unique—it’s not about the dimensions, watermarks, and security threads of banknotes and coins. It’s about the designs on the currencies themselves. Also, most currency books are in black and white (which of course would have been way less expensive to publish). I wanted readers to see the true color presentations of the currencies covered in H&SBWC and their vibrancy.
What was your inspiration behind the story?
Four years ago, my son asked me about some US banknotes. My limited knowledge and then search for the answers are what triggered me to write a book not just about US currencies but to dive deeper into the currencies of all countries and territories in the world. At the time, I was working on Humongous (& Cool) Words For Kids (H&CWFK) so I already was intrigued with words used in other countries. A world currencies book concept seemed a natural continuation.
Tell us about Hao and Sabine – they are thirsty for knowledge. What motivates them?
Hao and Sabine are multiracial siblings from the Caribbean. Hao was born in 2010, and Sabine was born in 2013. My characters are growing in age with their adventures. I believe all kids are curious and inquisitive, so Hao and Sabine are not different in that regard. Their parents and grandparents also foster their curiosity by encouraging them to think from a world and not solely nationalistic perspective. They’re reminded constantly of Rumi’s quote that “Every story is us.”
I love all the big words you introduce to young readers. Tell us, what is a philomath?
Well, when I started writing Humongous (& Cool) Words For Kids, I read at least four dictionaries (Oxford and Merriam-Webster were my primary sources). I did not want to refer to Hao and Sabine as sages or wise ones, because frankly, they’re not—yet. I came across the word “philomath” in one dictionary and not only did the word sound cool, but I saw that it’s not often used. That appealed to me. A philomath is a seeker of knowledge; a person who loves learning and studying new facts and acquiring new knowledge. That was exactly what I was doing in researching words for H&CWFK and, later on, words for I AM Manifesto, my self-empowerment book of mantras for children—I was seeking knowledge and new facts. Since 2017, I too am a philomath.
How do you recommend young readers tackle all the information covered in this book? It’s definitely not a read-in-one-sitting adventure!
Take their time. Slowly digest and enjoy each chapter—don’t rush the experience. The book is divided by continents, and regions within certain continents. Also, as this is a narrative nonfiction, they will learn more about the characters within each chapter, and given the abundance of information, there’s humorous dialogue within the chapters. Read each chapter in their order, admire the images of each currency, and if readers have access to the internet, look at the currencies online as they read about them in the book. A philomath reader might even discover something that I’ve not covered about the currencies. There is a lot I deliberately did not include because I want readers to be part of the adventure, especially since there’s a sheet in the book where Hao and Sabine inquire which currencies would a reader be interested in owning after having seen and read about them.
What is the most important message you hope young readers take away from Hao and Sabine Buy the World’s Currencies?
We live on an amazing planet and throughout history, many have sacrificed and contributed a lot to their countries and to the world in general. I want every reader to walk away with a sense of pride about their home country AND a greater sense of appreciation of other nations. I also want young readers to see that there’s a lot of damage that we adults have done to our planet, especially to its fauna and flora, and by learning more about this through H&SBWC, these readers would aspire to do things differently, i.e., they’d respect and better protect our environment and planet.
Did you illustrate your book as well?
I have illustrated all of my books and designed the covers. In H&SBWC, I illustrated the continental maps and certain diagrams. But I am not a professional or trained artist. So knowing my limitations, where I wanted images to be accurate depictions of the currencies, I leaned on Anastasiia Turkot. She’s a teenager artist from the Ukraine who plans to study art and Information Technology in university. In my first two books, I collaborated with her and her elder brother Maksym who’s now in university, but for H&SBWC, it was mainly Anastasiia. They also took my cover design concepts of each book and brought them to life. Anastasiia and I plan to collaborate again on my next project where most of the illustrations will likely be by her and my son.
It’s obvious an extensive amount of research went into creating Hao and Sabine Buy the World’s Currencies. Can you describe your research process?
LOL. First, I had to learn the names of all the countries and territories in the world and where they are located. Then on various foreign exchange websites, I learned what the names of their currencies are, their currency codes, and the currency symbols. Following that, I went on the websites of the central banks, the majority of which have a section dedicated to their country’s currencies. I focused my attention on the front and back of the currencies. Where I then wanted to learn more, especially something peculiar or unique, I did further research in books and the internet, depending on the subject.
What is the biggest challenge writing for a young audience?
My target audience is middle-school kids, and kids even Sabine’s age. I admire the intelligence of children. I think we adults tend to underestimate what they can comprehend. I respect their honesty and desire to learn. Again, they are natural philomaths. The challenge is where I want to reveal truths to them but need to balance with some truths that are painful and too harsh to read at their age. To elaborate, some individuals on currencies are being honored by their countries, but not all of them during their lifetime were so lauded. Some suffered or were ridiculed or were killed. But these aspects I didn’t wish to dwell on, given my primary audience.
What do you like to read and what are some of your favorite children’s book authors and stories?
As stated in my bio, I read mainly Nordic Noir–-that is my favorite genre. I read also a lot of scientific and environmental articles. For a while, I was into YA dystopian, but haven’t read such in a few years. If I am to be honest, it’s been a while since I have read new children’s books because all of my “spare” time is spent working on my books. But my favorites are J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.
Which writers have inspired your own work as an author?
J.K. Rowling, Astrid Lindgren.
What do you enjoy outside of writing?
I really enjoy traveling to other countries with my family—with must-visits to museums, landmarks, and monuments. I like to eat different foods from other cultures (though insects aren’t my thing). I’m a huge tennis and soccer enthusiast (but I am not good at playing those sports). And I’ve become an avid plant-mom during the last two years, inspired mainly by Hilton Carter.
What topics do you cover in the other books in your Raising Young Scholars Series?
I AM Manifesto is a self-empowerment children’s book with 366 mantras (one for each day of the year) for all genders. It’s my first book published but my second book written. Humongous (& Cool) Words For Kids—the book that started this writing journey—covers words perhaps not ordinarily known to kids. What’s fascinating (at least to me) is that words that are in H&CWFK were mentioned in H&SBWC because they appeared pictorially on currencies from around the world.
So, what’s next? Do you have another story in the works?
Supposedly Hao and Sabine Compare World Mythologies—you see the “world” theme again. I am a sucker for punishment! I am starting the research on Boxing Day 2021. I also want to write a children’s book on financial literacy and investing, and one on world games/sports. Maybe in about seven years, there’ll be a sequel to H&SBWC with Hao and Sabine at their then-age and Currencies again the star-attractions! The last book I will ever write in the Raising Young Scholars Series I already know the theme but I’ll not reveal until that time as it could be considered controversial.
Where can readers purchase your book?
Currently on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and BookBaby Shop—all online. In time, I am hoping brick and mortar bookstores would carry them as well.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing or about life in general?
We are all on our own journey, and you can’t “save” everyone but you can give them at least one tool that could inspire them.
Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging children’s book authors?
Follow your dream, though I know that’s cliché. I’m writing later in life while I have my full-time career so it’s difficult to juggle. However, where you are passionate and determined, you’ll find the way to dedicate the time, energy, and commitment that your writing requires.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I hope that readers see the sincerity and purpose of my works–that they are intended to encourage positive change and tolerance for the good of all of us and our Earth.
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