Local co-authors want new children’s book series to unite cultures

Two office workers collaborating on a children’s book series that celebrates different cultures say they want to promote unity to contrast political division in the U.S.

Last year, Julie Anne Cooper and Wendy Brant featured Hanukkah in the first of five books for ages 4 and above, highlighting customs and culture.

They will introduce the book, Hanukkah Veronica: The Mitzvah Fairy, to hundreds of families during a free day camp festival at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) in Dunwoody on Nov. 13.

The story of the book follows the mitzvahs, or good deeds, that the title character inspires. At the upcoming event, an actress appearing in costume as Hanukkah Veronica will read the book and listen to the children tell of their planned mitzvahs, said Pam Morton, MJCCA director of Arts and Authors.

The children’s book includes Hanukkah and related information on Jewish culture and traditions; and each book is accompanied with a Hanukkah Veronica rag doll.

Hanukkah Veronica will be followed by books in a similar format and dolls representing Kwanzaa, Diwali, Christmas, and Halloween, the authors said.

“I think a lot of people have respect for other holidays and cultures only if they know about (them).” Cooper said. “Growing up in the South, I didn’t know about other holidays.”

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Cooper, an Alpharetta resident, and Brant, of Cumming, are both Jewish and work for the same firm in homeowner management services. The two met in 2019 and discovered they both had an interest in writing children’s books.

Cooper is also an artist and created a rag doll 14 years ago that would be the model and inspiration for the first installment of the book series. She made the doll for her then-kindergarten age daughter who came home from school during holiday season asking for a Christmas elf as a toy, she said.

“Her dad said, ‘Well you’re not getting one like the other kids at school.’” Cooper said. “I grabbed a bunch of stuff and made a rag doll. At that time she was really into fairies so we made Hanukkah Veronica.”

The women wrote the first book during the 2020 Presidential Election season and said they decided the message of all the books would counter negativity they were watching in the news.

“Just this message that people don’t get along and they really don’t like each and appreciate other cultures, I was really affected by that,” Brant said. “...That’s not true. All of the books will have a theme of kindness and love.”

The other books will feature such characters as Kwanzaa Keisha, Diwali Deepa, Christmas Chloe and Halloween Hannah.

“In the stories, they’re all best friends,” Brant said of upcoming stories. “They all kind of teach each other about their holidays and the best parts of our world ... Kwanzaa Keisha goes over to Hanukkah Veronica’s house to light the menorah. Christmas Chloe is friends with Halloween Hannah.”

The authors said they are consulting with experts and people from each culture to accurately present the stories and accompanying dolls.

“Their input has been vital in helping us write the other books because we’ve never been through some of the other celebrations and they’re helping us write about it,” Cooper said.

For more information visit bontafriends.com.