The Children’s Book Review Interview in partnership with Medea Kalantar, author of Honeycake: A Helping Hand
Medea Kalantar is a Reiki master and practitioner, a Guinness World Record Holder, and a multi-award-winning, best-selling author of the Honeycake Book Series(TM). Inspired to write these books when she became a grandmother, Kalantar’s stories are based on her own family, whose members come from many ethnic backgrounds. This unique mix is a perfect recipe—just like the spices in a honey cake. That is why she calls her grandchildren her little Honeycakes.
With all the negativity in the world, Medea Kalantar’s series is a much-needed glimmer of hope and positivity. The Honeycake Book Series(TM) teaches valuable life lessons, giving children the tools to overcome obstacles in their everyday lives. The Honeycake books teach children about diversity, acceptance, kindness, mindfulness, trust, and gratitude. This series will enlighten, empower, educate, and entertain children and their families for generations to come.
In this interview, Medea discusses the sixth installment of the delightful Honeycake book series, Honeycake: A Helping Hand—a great introduction to limb difference for young readers! All proceeds from each book sale go to The War Amps CHAMP Program as Medea Kalantar’s charity of choice.
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for the Honeycake series?
Firstly, I would like to say thank you for featuring me and conducting this author interview. I’m honoured and grateful to be given this platform to discuss the importance and the valuable lessons my books will provide families worldwide.
When I discovered I would be a Grandma, it was a full circle moment, so I started to bake a honey cake in honour of my Grandmother. My Bebi taught me how to bake a honey cake when I was a little girl. As I was making the cake, I realized all the different spices the cake had, like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla, coffee, brown sugar, and honey. It made me think of all the different ethnic mixes my new grand-baby would have and how they would be just like this honey cake I was baking. The words and stories started to pour out of me.
The fact that I have no formal writing training didn’t stop me from trying. I always wanted to write my biography someday, later down the road, because I’ve had so many hardships that I had to overcome. But I never intended to write—especially not a children’s book series. But the universe sent me a sign, and the messages were in me to share, and they had to come out. I wrote five books in four days, and I couldn’t stop. The universe had something planned.
What was the inspiration for the fundraiser in Honeycake: A Helping Hand? Was it based on a real-life event or experience you wanted to share with readers?
Yes, it’s all based on real-life events. Alexis and Tracy are actual people who have accomplished everything I’ve stated in the story. However, I feel it’s imperative to create books with a more positive message. Teach children to accept others and help them be aware that no matter how old they are or what challenges they face, they have greatness inside of them and can accomplish almost anything. I also want to reinforce that Kindness is a “Special Magical Power” we all have—the power to improve others’ lives through charity.
There are so many disabilities out there – what made you focus on limb differences in this story?
As I stated in my previous answer, Alexis and Tracy are based on my friends who were born as a congenital limb amputee. I was so inspired by the incredible work they have done over the years and all their accomplishments that I wanted to honour them and highlight that you’re never too young to lend “a helping hand” and that being different doesn’t stop you from doing great things.
Alexis and her friends could be said to fall under the Supercrip trope, which has come under criticism in disability studies for setting unrealistic expectations for people with disabilities. Do you think this is true of Alexis and her friends? What do you hope children with disabilities reading the story will see in these characters?
I don’t believe that to be true at all. We need to stop treating children as incapable of achieving great things just because they are young. Children can make a huge difference. It is often challenging to get adults, who have strongly formed habits, to change, but children are still developing. Children are more likely to be outraged by information on what is happening to the environment and eager to do something to prove the situation.
I hope that all children, not just those with disabilities who read “Honeycake: A Helping Hand,” will reinforce that no matter how old they are or what challenges they face, they have greatness inside of them and can accomplish almost anything. It also showcases the value of helping others, giving back to the community, and doing your best to be a good person through your actions and words.
Disability isn’t the only representation of diversity in the story. Can you tell us a little about why you felt it important to include diverse characters and how you incorporated them into the story?
Aside from the topic of amputees in “Honeycake: A Helping Hand,” I wanted to incorporate the usual theme of blended families as the Honeycake series is known. I also wanted to introduce the concept of same-sex relationships, normalizing these dynamics.
This book has many examples of inclusion and compassion, and I love that there is so much representation in this short children’s book.
Studies show that supporting diversity in early childhood books is a two-pronged process: helping children to feel good about themselves, their families, and their communities and also exposing children to differences, unfamiliar things, and experiences beyond their immediate lives. In addition, research suggests adults who read books with diverse characters to their children will increase awareness, appreciation, and inclusion of diverse cultures.
WE WANT ALL KIDS TO SEE THEMSELVES REPRESENTED
What advice do you have for readers who might like to plan their own fundraising activity, just like Alexis?
My advice is this. No job is too big; no kid is too small! Find A Problem You’re Passionate About and Fix It!
Fundraising gives children a sense of empowerment. Children often do not have the financial resources available to bring about change. Still, through fundraising, they can acquire the financial means necessary to begin the change process. They see firsthand that they can make a positive change in their communities.
What is your favorite moment in the story and why?
My favourite moment in the story is that after meeting so many children and seeing her new friends’ incredible work, Nala gets inspired to go home and make a difference. After reading “Honeycake: A Helping Hand,” I hope my readers get the same inspiration to make a difference in their community.
We love the poem at the beginning of the story, dedicated to your grandchildren. How have they helped shape the themes and messages in the Honeycake series?
For those readers who don’t know, each character in my books is my family member. The only fictional character is Nala because I wrote these books while my daughter was pregnant. We didn’t find out that she was having a boy until later. Baby Luka appeared in book 5, “Honeycake Counting All My Blessings.” Both boys are in the sixth book as Nala’s little brothers.
I realized early on in 2018 that there weren’t many books that featured multicultural families and kids like my grandsons. I wanted every child to feel represented and to normalize mixed families and kids. My grandchildren are my most prominent teachers in life, and my books showcase that it takes a village to raise children as different family members teach the lessons.
These books have a dual purpose, to empower children and open up an opportunity for parents to have heart-felt conversations around the themes of each book, which is excellent for strengthening bonds between parents and children as they read it together and implement the lessons learned in the stories. Secondly, It’s the perfect gift for all teachers and children, preschool through grade 3. It helps caregivers and educators start an age-appropriate conversation on the importance of each topic, helps children cope with a range of emotions, and teaches them that they indeed hold the power to choose their actions and reactions.
What’s next in the Honeycake series?
After this book, I will take a break to focus on a more significant project. I have partnered up with a production company, and my Co-Creator Lanette Ware-Bushfield, CEO of AWWB Production Inc., is helping me take the Honeycake Book Series and adapt it into a tv series. We are currently working on a 60-second sizzle reel to be pitched to major television and animation studios.
I plan to come back with another five books in the Honeycake series, with our heroine Nala and her little brothers when they are a little older, with books geared for middle graders.
What other diversity-themed stories would you recommend to readers who enjoyed this story?
Not to be biased, but if readers enjoyed “Honeycake: A Helping Hand,” they will also enjoy my other five books in the Honeycake book series.
Honeycake: A Family Of Spices
Through imagination, the grandmother teaches Nala how to bake a honey cake and explains how each delicious ingredient represents a different family member and their unique ethnic background.
Honeycake: Help, I Swallowed A Butterfly
Nala gets stage fright at school. But with the help of her mom, Nala learns how to get rid of those pesky butterflies in her tummy with step-by-step meditation and deep breathing exercises.
Honeycake: Special Magical Powers
Nala brings her outgrown toys and clothes to Rainbow Hall and spends the day with her Grandma and Uncle JD discovering a special magical power we all have, called KINDNESS
Honeycake: A Circle of Trust
Nala learns a valuable lesson about trust and open and honest communication in a safe space.
Nala also learns that trust takes a long to build and can easily be destroyed!
Honeycake: Counting All My Blessings
Nala learns the importance of gratitude and how being thankful equips her with a powerful tool to make those icky feelings of jealousy from the “Green-Eyed Monster” disappear.
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About Honeycake: A Helping Hand
Written by Medea Kalantar
Illustrated by i Cenzial
Ages 4+ | 33 Pages
Publisher: Medea Kalantar | ISBN-13: 9781777289768
Publisher’s Book Summary: In the sixth installment of the delightful Honeycake book series, Nala’s uncles, Victor and George, take her to a fundraiser where she meets Alexis, a girl with an artificial arm. Through her interactions, Nala learns that you are never too young to lend “a helping hand,” that it’s okay to be different, and that being different doesn’t stop you from doing great things in life.
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This interview—Medea Kalantar Discusses Honeycake: A Helping Hand—was conducted between Medea Kalantar and Dr. Jen Harrison. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Disabilities, Diversity, and Picture Book.