Putting pen to paper
Émilie Cossette worried how her son Thomas would take the move to Bermuda.
The three-year-old had never been to the island and didn't know anything about it.
Worse, he'd have to leave all of his friends and much of his family behind in Montreal, Canada.
As it turned out, Ms Cossette's concerns were needless, but they got her thinking about what she could do to help others faced with the same situation. She decided to write a children's book, The Great Adventure of Tom to Bermuda.
“In brief, the story is about a little boy, age 3 or 4, who is about to move to Bermuda with his family,” said Ms Cossette, who came to the island in July 2018 with Thomas and his sister Stella after her husband, Sebastien Senechal, was hired by a reinsurance firm. “He's a bit anxious and doesn't understand everything that is happening.
“He happens to meet a Bermudian lizard, George, and with him travels to Bermuda and discovers places that are great for children here: the beach, building sandcastles, the Botanical Gardens ... It shows him how life is great on an island and at the end the boy is confident and really happy for his [upcoming] adventures on the island.”
The idea came to her while hunting for a house here. With Thomas in mind, she'd searched for a book about the island that would be appealing to a child, but was unsuccessful.
“I wanted something with pictures of beaches, so he could see there was a railway trail for biking; something more concrete so when he got here he could [visit those places and think], ‘I remember this place'. But I couldn't find one and so I created the book to help future families, and also as a souvenir after the adventure.”
Especially appealing to the stay-at-home mother, a self-described “hard worker”, was that it gave her a project to work on, although she had to wait to write until Thomas and Stella were asleep.
“I studied biology,” said the first-time author. “I did an undergraduate degree in biotechnology and a master's in biomedical science. But when I was younger, I was really split between literature and science.
“I always loved books and I liked to write, so my dream was to write a book, although I didn't know it would be a children's book, and once I had children I read so many books and really enjoyed them.”
She started writing The Great Adventure of Tom to Bermuda in November of 2018 and finished the book roughly a year later.
“I believe that children's books can deliver powerful messages to share and explain important things in life in a unique way when we don't know how to do it ourselves,” she said.
“My daughter was only 11 months old, so I didn't worry about her so much, but my son, Thomas, was then 3. [The move] was a pretty big deal for him.
“We had a beautiful house at home, near our family and friends and he was anxious. He couldn't understand why we were doing this.
“We have a close family at home that we had to leave behind and when you're 3, 4 years old, you are confused by [such things]. Even now, he doesn't really always say how he's feeling, but he shows it.”
She decided to self-publish, a route that's “becoming more and more common with children's books”.
“I found an illustrator through Upwork,” Ms Cossette said of the global freelance platform. “It's great. You can find really professional illustrators and editors.”
Her choice was Merve Yildiz in California. To help the artist get a feel for Bermuda she “sent lots of pictures”.
“We also worked with street views,” she said. “I really wanted people to recognise the places in the book and am really happy with [what was done].”
The book launches officially today, although people had been able to pre-order copies and donate $1 of the purchase to MAMA.
“When I moved here MAMA really helped our family,” said Ms Cossette, a member of the charity's executive committee. “It's a great community based on volunteers who organise lots of things for families as well as Beyond Blue, a support group for mothers with depression.
“It really helped me. I was introduced to people here and made friends really fast so I wanted to do something in exchange, something to support their mission.”
Feedback so far has been positive, Ms Cossette added.
“People have said they really liked it, that they were impressed. Not everybody knew [I was working on a book], but everyone has been really supportive.”
•The Great Adventure of Tom to Bermuda is available for $18 on www.book-bermuda.com. Shipping to Bermuda is free