In September of 2009, I received an email out of the blue.
"I am working on a special children's book project for a charity," the sender wrote. "(More specifically, my goal is to continue to support orphaned children in Kenya through this and other similar projects). I have admired your illustrations and so have my children. Your illustrating style is a perfect fit for this short picture book that will excite children and parents/narrators from all cultures while fulfilling a worthy cause. I would be honored if you would be available for the project."
Published illustrators are regularly approached by strangers who, knowing nothing about the field, want them to illustrate their book. (Here's a funny take on such an interaction, courtesy of Melissa Sweet). We tend to respond with extreme skepticism. The chances of the manuscript being a good fit with the illustrator's actual work, not to mention of the project being viable, are slim to none.
But for every rule, there's an exception.
I responded to the email with a long list of questions. Author Wamoro Njenga had all the right answers. She wanted to produce a print-on-demand book with the profits from the project benefitting children's homes for AIDS orphans in Kenya.The more I learned, the more I felt I was indeed a "perfect fit" for this book.
Fast forward fourteen months, and the vision Wamoro laid out in her emails is a reality. Our book, Goodnight Kuu-Kuu: My Cozy All-Day Village Safari, is now available on Amazon, and through her project website, Prop-Abilities.com.
The story follows a young child from morning to night, as he experiences life in his Kenyan village from his perch on his
mother's back. In our email exchange, Wamoro spoke of her appreciation for the Kenyan custom of carrying babies close to their mothers' bodies throughout the day, and her wish that she could give this experience to every child orphaned by AIDS. I was moved by her impulse to create a book to transmit this essential human and cultural bond, while raising money to support homes for these children.
The first thing that the Kianjogu Mercy Home in Limuru, Kenya, hopes to do with proceeds from this book is to build an underground tank to supply water for the home and adjacent medical clinic. I hope the book sells millions of copies.