When reflecting on her four children’s books, Joy Shepherd considers her biggest accomplishment creating a platform.
“We created a platform with the hope of parents, teachers and educators reaching out to those who have not yet found their own voices, so that’s my biggest success in all of this,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd’s fourth book, “Wrapped in a Blanket of Blue,” went live Jan. 10 on Amazon.
The books tells the story of a young boy coming out as gay to his family. Her first three books also deal with subjects that parents can find challenging to discuss with children. The first one, “The Monster in My Room,” deals with “inappropriate touching,” and explains to kids that saying no and telling another adult what happened is OK.
The second one, “Rosie and Me,” is about a little boy learning how to come to terms with the fact that his dog, Rosie, is getting older and will die soon. Third was “Grandma Doesn’t Know My Name,” which explains to children what might happen if their grandparents have Alzheimer’s.
Shepherd, who splits time between Longboat Key and Canada, has personal experience with each of the subject matters. She worked in Toronto hospitals for more than 30 years and retired when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“From all the wonderful people I’ve met and worked with, I had an idea about writing about these childhood issues that are very important,” she said.
To help parents, each book is accompanied by a letter written by a professional who works closely to the subject matter. For example, the letter in “Wrapped in a Blanket of Blue” was written by a psychiatrist in Toronto. “Rosie and Me,” has a letter written by a veterinarian in the beginning.
"If you don’t bring these topics to the table, it’s hidden, and so that’s why these stories are unique.”
Aside from the letter, the professionals often offer feedback to Shepherd.
“They’ve given me great suggestions on how to talk to the kids and how to make it a story so that there’s an ending that gives peace to all of us and most importantly the children,” she said.
When writing the books, she didn’t want them to feed any stereotypes. She wanted to write something that would bring awareness to serious issues but also comfort for parents when talking about it. For the newest book, it was all about acceptance.
“This is probably one of my favorites because you see this boy who doesn’t know where he belongs and how he found himself,” Shepherd said.
For her previous books, Shepherd has held several book launches where she was able to connect with readers. She ended up connecting a parent to a therapist after the parent told her “The Monster in My Room,” saved her son’s life.
When she hears feedback from readers saying her books have helped them and their children, the feelings of parenting her own children come back to her.
“I’m a mother of three children, and when I know they’re all in good places, that’s just my goal,” she said. “That’s my goal because I feel at peace, and I feel like I’ve done something.”
At the end of each book, which all rhyme, there are a few extra pages so kids can color or write to express their feelings, which could help parents with conversations.
“If you don’t bring these topics to the table, it’s hidden, and so that’s why these stories are unique,” Shepherd said.
Going forward, Shepherd plans to sell the four books as a series, though they can be purchased separately on Amazon.
She isn’t working on any books currently, but she has been asked to write one about adoption, so she’s still considering it.
“You don’t make money making books,” she said. “It’s a passion, and I love kids, and these, like I said, are very important issues for me to help people learn and to teach.”