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Britta is a writer and educator passionate about raising resilient kids and writers to find their own voices. She is the author of Look at Me. Who Do You See? and Raina’s (UN) Happy Birthday, a picture book with a timely and empowering message—the importance of voice—to our children and youth. Raina’s story received the Gold Seal of the Mom’s Choice Awards and the Reader Views Literary Awards Honor for 2018-2019. It was also a StoryMonster Inc. Award recipient. Kirkus praised Raina’s story as “an excellent book for sensitive young readers.”
Britta is an editor for Tuxedo Literature & Arts Journal and the former assistant editor for FastForward Magazine, a publication written by and for kids. She teaches creative writing workshops for adults and kids. She is an MFA graduate from Dominican University, CA, holds a Masters in International Communication from American University, and a Certificate in Novel Writing from Stanford University.
Britta is a member of the National Writing Project Council, the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, and the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge.
Her short fiction was a Finalist for the Bellingham Review Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction 2021.
When she is not dreaming, drafting, or discovering new characters, she enjoys time with her family, horseback riding, and reading picture books, fantastic middle-grade adventures, and social justice YA novels with her kids
“A playful allegory of self-expression and acceptance.”
– Kirkus Reviews
Unice was born into a family of rhinoceroses but feels like a unicorn inside and, with the help of a new friend, embraces that identity in Esmail’s picture book.
Everyone around Unice tells them that she’s a rhino, but when alone, Unice sees a beautiful unicorn reflected in the mirror. That sense of identity brings joy until the rest of the family condemns it: “Unice, we all agree. You look like a rhino. You are a rhino.” The thought of not being a unicorn makes Unice miserable, but then she meets Snyder, who she initially thinks is a tiger but who identifies as a snow leopard. Following Snyder’s example, Unice once again embraces her unicorn-horned self. Esmail and illustrator Cooke craft a beautiful story. The writing is simple and should be easy for independent readers to follow, and plenty of white space leaves room for text and vibrant rainbow spatters that play across the full-color painterly illustrations whenever Unice or Snyder assert their inner identities. These bursts of color effectively contrast with the grayness of Unice’s family and their inculcating, off-page calls of “That’s what rhinos do”; also notable is the murky, watercolor smudge that accompanies Unice when she briefly despairs. The effect is striking, and the message, while unabashedly overt, is one that will stay with children.
A playful allegory of self-expression and acceptance.
Publisher: Beaver's Pond Press
Review Posted Online: May 26, 2023
Not all kids love hugs, and one little girl learns that it’s OK to speak up about it in Esmail’s debut picture book with watercolor images by Cooke.
Raina doesn’t like celebrating birthdays, and instead of getting excited when her mother mentions gifts she might get, “her stomach is in knots.” Specifically, Raina isn’t comfortable with her family members’ hugs and kisses on such occasions. Old Pa gives her a close hug and his bristly beard pokes her face, and a large uncle’s squeeze makes her feel embarrassed. Auntie’s touch makes Raina think of tentacles, and a cousin with a runny nose is told to give Raina a kiss. It’s all too much, and she yells that she hates her “unhappy birthdays.” Alone in her room, she speaks to her stuffed rabbit, who encourages her to tell the truth because her own feelings matter. She finds more comfortable ways to express love to her relatives, and this may inspire similarly sensitive readers to ask others to meet them on their own terms. Esmail offers a protagonist with whom cautious youngsters will identify, and the soft pastels of the watercolors create a comforting tone. Cooke also deftly creates unpleasant images from Raina’s imagination that readers won’t find threatening.
An excellent book for sensitive young readers.
Page count: 15pp
Review Posted Online: June 12, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018
Why I wrote this book
Writer and Chief Family Organizer
Too many to list but here is a sample of a few I like: Andrew Sean Greer, Anthony Doerr, Daniel Kehlmann, Ruta Sepetys, Todd Parr, Michael Ende, Goethe, Tom Rob Smith, Virginia Woolf, Günter Grass, Thomas Mann
Too many to list ...
Favorite line from a book
"Recognition, as the word itself indicates, is a change from ignorance to knowledge, leading either to friendship or to hostility on the part of those persons who are marked for good fortune or bad." - Aristotle's Poetics
Yes, I can! (Ok, that's 3 words, but they are great words:-)
Passion in life
Reading and horseback riding
Unexpected skill or talent
RAINA’S (UN) HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Story Monster Inc/, 2019
RAINA’S (UN) HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Readers Views Choice Honoree, 2019
RAINA’S (UN) HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Mom's Choice Awards Gold Seal, 2019
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