Simon and the Sad Salad
Ethicool Books (2020)
Teigan Margetts is the Co-Founder of Ethicool Books, a children’s book publishing company who create heartwarming kids’ books about the world’s big issues, and encourage children to create change. Teigan has published three children’s books, as well as countless articles in print and online through her work as a journalist. She founded Ethicool after she unexpectedly lost her mom when her son was just 5 weeks old, and hopes that Ethicool’s books can help little ones all over the world realise that they, personally, can help make the world a better place.
Hi Teigan, Welcome to Reader Views Kids! We’re delighted to talk with you today. First, tell us a bit about Simon and the Sad Salad.
Simon and the Sad Salad is a cute, colourful and inspiring story about a situation far too many kids are experiencing at the moment: not having enough food at school. In the book, Simon can’t afford to bring much to his class party, and he’s teased as a result. Little Asha is worried about him, so asks her mom why he always looks so sad. Once she discovers why, she immediately jumps in to save the day … you’ll have to read the book to find out how!
What was your inspiration behind the story?
My mom was a much-loved schoolteacher and she would always tell me the most heartbreaking stories of children who would go to school without any food. She would always make sure she shared what she had, and would try to source additional food for them. But often, it just wasn’t enough.
Kids naturally fear what they don’t understand, but at the same time, I genuinely believe that there’s a kind heart inside every child. So I thought to myself, what if we could get children to understand disadvantage from a young age? It might lead to a shared lunch and a few less hungry bellies.
But as kids grow up, it could lead to far more than that. Helping others who are less fortunate than us is so important, all throughout our lives.
What kinds of challenges does Simon face and how will young kids relate to these challenges in their everyday lives?
One of the challenges Simon faces, something I think every kid experiences at some point, is being teased by other kids for being different. Whenever kids are asked to do anything, from bringing food to a class party to competing in school sport, there’s always an element of competition and it’s really heartbreaking for people who don’t fit in for whatever reason.
But the more serious challenge Simon faces, and something we really need to talk about in the current climate, is that he’s disadvantaged. In the story, we talk about why: it’s that his mom has lost her job and she can’t afford to provide for Simon anymore. Honestly, this is something a lot of kids may experience in their lifetime, or know someone who has. Having it in a picture story book helps kids understand that it’s normal, but at the same time, we can all rally around those who are struggling and help them to the best of our ability.
Poverty, social inequity, bullying – these are pandemic issues as widespread as the ongoing Corona virus. What can we do to reverse this trend?
The issues you mention sure are widespread. But unlike the coronavirus, we don’t need a vaccine to eradicate them. We just need a change in how we think about things.
A strong theme in Simon and the Sad Salad, and in all of Ethicool’s books, is the idea of personal responsibility. The idea that anyone – and in fact, everyone – can make a positive change in the world.
Say, for example, I was a young person and I had a Simon in my class. I could choose to ignore the problem, or I could choose to ask my mom for a bit extra to help him out, which is exactly what Asha does in the book. Sure, I’m just one person, helping one other person. But if everyone chose to help, couldn’t all the Simons in the world get what they need?
Poverty, social inequity, bullying. These are not someone else’s problems. These are everyone’s problems, and if we so chose, we can do something about it. I think educating kids at a young age about these issues is key to making that mindset shift.
How do we approach teaching young kids about these issues?
A big part of it, I think, is putting it into a context that kids would understand and simply having those conversations. For example, “poverty” in and of itself might be a challenging topic to explain, but if you have it in picture story book form, with an example from the classroom that kids can understand, suddenly it becomes not so much a concept, but an emotive story that they can relate to.
Our young reviewer said she didn’t know anyone like Simon. Do young kids really understand the concept of poverty?
I saw that! In this current environment, I think she’s quite lucky then – a recent article on CNBC reported, terrifyingly, that just under half of the US adult population are now unemployed.
Even if our little ones don’t know someone like Simon right now, I think, unfortunately, they’ll come across someone like him sooner rather than later. Being able to approach that with their eyes open, and with empathy and the desire to help, will be a real advantage for them, and of course, for the Simons everywhere.
What can kids do to mend the gap?
I think when we talk about the world’s big issues, people often don’t do anything because they feel it’s too hard. And if we’re talking about something as big as solving world poverty, sure, it sounds nearly impossible.
But it isn’t. Kids can start with small things, like perhaps sharing their lunch or inviting a friend over who might have insecure housing. Small things can lead to bigger things, and if we all choose to help, we can collectively solve these problems.
What is the most important message you hope young readers take away from Simon and the Sad Salad?
If you’re in a position to share, share and care. Be the superhero in your own story!
Tell us a bit about Ethicool Books. How did you come up with the idea? What is the mission behind the company?
After I lost my mom, I really evaluated my priorities in life and thought deeply about the fact that I wanted to leave the world a better place than when I entered it. That, to be honest, was the motivation behind Ethicool. With a couple of the world’s big issues at the moment, for example climate change, mental health, and increasingly, poverty, I think the next generation will reach a critical turning point where they can no longer ignore it and will need to act.
I wanted to empower little ones everywhere with the knowledge they needed, and the desire to create change.
Aside from poverty in Simon and the Sad Salad, what are some of the story topics supported by Ethicool Books?
We focus on the world’s big issues, but that’s pretty broad!
We’ve got titles that focus on anxiety, climate change, preserving nature, gender equality, and many more.
Who can publish their books through Ethicool Books?
Anyone! We’re a traditional publisher, so if your book is selected, we cover all publication costs, from illustration to printing and marketing. Here is our submission criteria, if anyone is interested: Become an Ethicool Children’s Book Author.
As an author, what do you find is the biggest challenge writing for a young audience?
For our books in particular, the biggest challenge is finding a meaningful (and not terrifying) way to explain some of the issues that we talk about. But in the end, having those issues exist and never understanding what’s behind them is what is truly terrifying. I remember I was scared of homeless people when I was growing up, and I wish that someone had explained some of these issues to me much earlier so I could have approached them with empathy and understanding instead of fear.
Where can readers purchase your books? Are they available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble?
We retail exclusively through our online store, Ethicool Books.
Do you have any advice for aspiring/emerging picture book authors based on your own experience?
We have lots, which you can find on our blog. But my best piece of advice is to do some research before you submit a manuscript, both on the company you’re submitting to, and the topic you want to write about.
Publishers, and especially small publishers like us, are looking for stories that are brilliantly written, but also conceptually different from what is currently on the market. For example, incredibly, we’ve received at least twenty manuscripts that talk about gender equality and are about a princess. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find that there are already a number of books out there like that. Even if the story is brilliant, if there are already many like it, we really can’t afford to publish it as it will simply be too hard for us to compete.
Teigan, thank you so much for joining us today on Reader Views Kids! We enjoyed learning more about you and your books!
Connect with Teigan Margetts and Ethicool Books!
Website: Kids’ books that change the world