The Children’s Book Review Interview in partnership with Bears for Cares
School and friendships haven’t always been easy for youth writer Lotus Kay. She knows it’s not easy for many kids, and that’s why Lotus has put her efforts into writing a book for children that encourages them to lift each other up. Here we share our conversation perfectly timed ahead of National Bullying Prevention Month. Read on!
With kids across the United States starting a new school year, anxiety levels are surely high for many young students. What would you like them to know about Friends Lift You Up and how it might help to ease anxieties?
Lotus Kay: School was challenging for me. As much as we want to think we can just focus on our schoolwork, school becomes just as much about our peer relationships as it is about learning. And it could be hard to focus on schoolwork if you are having a rough time socially.
We will run into more people in our lives than we will math problems. And the math problem we get wrong won’t be upset or have long-term effects on us getting it wrong. But the people we treat wrong may, and that’s why you could say it should be just as, if not even more important, that we teach and encourage healthy and kind interpersonal dynamics.
Friends Lift You Up tells the story of April and her best friend Tyla and how sometimes they don’t treat each other the way best friends should. What or who was the inspiration for these characters? And what do you think it is about April and Tyla that young readers will relate to the most?
The characters were inspired by situations like I had known and saw many others go through around me. I think most people can relate to having a friend who isn’t always nice to you. There’s also a character Janelle who comes at the end who I hope people can find themselves in too, who is an example of standing up for your friends.
There is a strong focus on building healthy and happy relationships with bonus tips included in the end pages on handling bullying. Do you imagine teachers using your book in the classroom to begin meaningful anti-bullying conversations?
Yes, I would love to see conversations happening in classrooms surrounding this book. It’s a hard thing to know how to talk about conflicts and bullying, and I hope this book can start a dialogue reflecting on how we treat one another and addressing any drama within the class. I know kids have great insights and I would love to hear what they would have to say and what type of conversations this book would start if read in classrooms.
The title itself, Friends Lift You Up, speaks a thousand words. How did you settle on this title? Did you have other titles in mind at first?
When I write a book or song sometimes the title comes first or it comes later. With Friends Lift You Up the title came first.
I wanted to call it that because it captures the support of a good friend, and if a friend is tearing you down then they aren’t acting much like a friend.
Something quite notable is that the Bears for Cares series came about with the support of Jane Goodall Institute’s “Roots & Shoots” youth service initiative, and a portion of proceeds from the books go back to “Roots & Shoots.” Will you talk us through what it means to you to have the support of “Roots & Shoots?” And how is it working with your sister Jazmin as a co-founder of Bears for Cares?
I’m really happy to be part of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program. I’ve always looked up to Jane Goodall, and through being a part of Roots & Shoots, I love having my work linked to her and being able to support her with a portion of the proceeds of all my books and toys going to the Roots & Shoots program and the Jane Goodall Institute.
My sister Jazmin and I came up with the idea for Bears for Cares together. She came up with the name and made the Bears for Cares logo: and she also encouraged me to write the books. And we had the idea for the stuffed animals that go with the books. Now the project is mostly a thing of my own, but it originally formed with her. And it’s really cool for us to see the idea we had come to life!
One of your prior books, Jenny the Chimpanzee, was released in 2020 with rave reviews, a Mom’s Choice Gold Award, and an endorsement from Dr. Jane Goodall. How did this make you feel? And what other accolades have you received since 2020?
It’s all amazing. I would say the way kids react to the books—when I hear they really like them, or I’ve gotten letters and drawings from kids. Or their parents telling me they read the books before bed or that the kids bring the stuffed animals from the books around with them throughout the day.
Are you working on any more books that we should know about?
I have so many drafts of book ideas! Definitely stay tuned. I love having this art form of writing books to express things I find important.
Is there anything else you think we should know about Friends Lift You Up, the Bears for Cares series, or yourself?
Anything else you want to know you can find at my website lotuskay.com where you can learn more about my books, my music, and writings. At bearsforcares.com you can find information specifically about the books and the Bears for Cares project. And you can follow me on my social media: Instagram/Twitter/TikTok: @lotusrkay and Bears for Cares: Instagram/Twitter @bearsforcares Facebook: @bears4cares.
About the Book
Written by Lotus Kay
Illustrated by Chey Diehl
Ages 5-9 | 34 pages
Publisher: Eifrig Publishing
Publisher’s Book Summary: Friends Lift You Up by Lotus Kay is the newest title in the award-winning Bears for Cares book series. It tells the story of April and her best friend Tyla and how sometimes they don’t treat each other the way best friends should. Young readers will learn about what it means to be a good friend, how to prevent bullying, and how to be kind to one another. The book delves into a number of issues kids deal with at school and includes “Tips on Being a Friend” and Lotus’s “Note from the Author.” The book is illustrated by artist Chey Diehl and published by Eifrig Publishing on recycled, acid-free paper.
Buy the Book
About the Author
Lotus Kay, a 21-year-old writer, has been published in many publications, including Green Child Magazine, Natural Parent, Thrive Global, and many others. She is a recipient of a grant from Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program for her work creating the Bears for Cares campaign to educate kids on the importance and beauty of nature and motivate them to help protect the Earth and everything on it. She is also a singer/songwriter and poet.
For more information about Lotus and her books and Bears for Cares, please visit www.bearsforcares.com/team.
This interview—Lotus Kay Discusses Friends Lift You Up—was conducted between Lotus Kay and Bianca Schulze.