The Children’s Book Review Interview in partnership with Muzna Kazim, the author of Around the World with Moby: My First Trip.
Muzna Kazim is an emerging author from San Diego, California. She acquired her Doctor of Dental Surgery from Pakistan in 2008 and completed her Master’s in Public Health from National University, San Diego, in 2016. She majored in Health Promotion with a comprehensive research study on Autism Spectrum. She also worked as a Behavior Interventionist for kids on the spectrum. Being an autism mom, She feels passionate about autism. She advocates inclusivity and equal opportunities for kids on the spectrum. She believes that by tailoring our way of teaching, we can help them Learn, Leap, and Grow.
In this discussion, Muzna talks about the inspiration for the series and offers great advice on traveling with neurotypical and neurodiverse children.
The main character of your new book series is Moby, a cheerful eight-year-old boy with Autism who has travel anxiety. What or who inspired you to create this character and book series?
Muzna Kazim: Being on the autism spectrum, my son has interests quite different from those of his peers. He is fascinated by elevators and recycling trucks and prefers to have a daily routine to stay organized. This inspired me to create a fun-loving and spirited character who had similar interests as my son and also faced similar challenges. Moby is a character my son can identify with, reassuring him that it’s okay to be different.
I hope other kids on the spectrum can also identify with Moby, and the parents can find strategies described in this book handy.
Around the World with Moby: My First Trip is the first book in the series, and it focuses on a journey that includes a 3-hour flight, a hotel stay, and exploring the city of Minneapolis. What should readers expect specifically from reading this book?
Travel anxiety can be very challenging for kids on the spectrum. Lights, sounds, people, changes in the schedule, and unpredictability can all be overwhelming for them.
Moby dislikes changes in his daily routine and finds comfort in repeating the same activities at his home day in and day out. His parents were concerned that Moby was missing out on many new learning opportunities since he was not exploring the world outside his home. So, they take him out on a short vacation to Minneapolis, Minnesota. The parents prepare him for the trip by implementing helpful strategies to cope with his fear and anxiety. In addition, Moby explores the scenic city of Minneapolis, which has turned lush green in the spring season.
What would you like us to know about Moby? And how do you think readers will relate to him?
Moby is a jovial and cheerful boy with autism. He goes to Greenberg Elementary in San Diego, California. He is in 3rd grade and loves school. Moby has interests quite different from his neurotypical peers. He enjoys drawing, going in the elevators, learning about recycling trucks, and reading the license plate numbers on his neighborhood cars. His parents acknowledge his interests. Despite his challenges, Moby is very hard-working and has the will to do well. He is great at spelling and his memory is phenomenal. The parents help him work on his challenges to help him grow and flourish.
Moby represents a character that my son could relate to, and I hope that other children on the spectrum will be able to identify with him as well.
Travel anxiety can be very challenging for all kids, particularly those on the spectrum. What advice would you offer to parents traveling with children? And how can they use your book at home and beyond?
I think traveling is one of the pivotal factors that contributes to children’s learning, especially kids on the spectrum who have limited interests. My biggest advice would be to start preparing your child about a few weeks prior to travel. Allowing them ample time will help prepare them for an upcoming change in the schedule. An abrupt change can be overwhelming and distressing for them.
Another purpose of creating the Moby series is to provide kids on the spectrum with information about new places in every book with colorful and flamboyant pictures. I am a huge proponent of engaging and stunning images in books that will capture our young reader’s focus and attention. The book talks about real places in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which will grow their knowledge and hopefully will inspire them to explore new places.
As someone with an educational background in Health Promotion with a comprehensive research study in Autism and being the parent of a child on the spectrum, can you tell us how your personal and vocational experiences have helped shape this book?
While working on my research and as a behavior interventionist, I noticed that a common theme among children on the spectrum was difficulty coping with a change or transition. This affinity toward what we perceive as monotony sometimes prevents them from learning new ideas and expanding their knowledge. While working with kids on the spectrum, one of the goals was to expand on their interests and provide them with new opportunities to explore through a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. I would continually contemplate how to bring variety to the sessions, and most of the time, my efforts would be fruitful with consistent trial and error.
Then as my son grew up, I noticed the same pattern of difficulty coping with a change, especially when it comes to travel. Being avid travelers, my husband and I were deeply concerned that he was missing out on so many new learning opportunities. So we began by planning a short trip to Minneapolis with him using the strategies discussed in the book. Gladly, it was his first successful trip, and he kept improving since then.
I wanted to share all these valuable insights that I had gained over the years through research, work, and almost ten years of first-hand experience with my son. So, I decided to help other parents and penned down my successful story through Moby.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?
I have a deep connection to this story. It takes away a piece of my heart. Deciding to reveal a personal experience with my son’s challenge was the most difficult aspect of writing this story.
What has been the most rewarding part of publishing this story?
The most rewarding part of the story is that it resonated with many parents of both neurotypical and neurodiverse children. I have received great positive feedback, which has encouraged me to write more stories in the Moby series.
What should we expect next from the Around the World with Moby series? Where will Moby go next?
Great Question! I have already started working on my second book. Moby is going to Toronto, Canada, where he will be attending a grand event. Moby will share how his parents helped him stay calm during the event that was crowded with people and inundated with lights, sounds, and music. In addition, Moby will take you exploring the city of Toronto.
How many books featuring Moby do you foresee yourself writing?
It is difficult to come up with a number at this point, but I can tell you that Moby will be telling his stories for a while if readers enjoy him :).
For parting words, is there anything else you feel we should know about Around the World with Moby- My First Trip?
Traveling teaches so much; learning through experience, developing social awareness, discovering new places, fueling your curiosity, and developing a strong family bond. Slowly introducing them to new places and new environments in a controlled way will help them accumulate knowledge and grow confident. I believe that by tailoring our way of teaching according to their individual needs, we can help our kids on the spectrum Learn, Leap, and Grow.
Author: Muzna Kazim
Illustrator: Rabindra. N. Barman
Publisher: Amazon | ISBN-13: 979-8-88862-880-5
Publisher’s Book Summary: From scared and travel-phobic to a spirited avid traveler, this is a true story of a sweet boy with autism who was scared of traveling. The parents decide to take him out on a journey, so they gradually prepare him by implementing helpful strategies to cope with his fear and anxiety.
Travel anxiety can be very distressing for kids on the autism spectrum. Moby’s parents were concerned that he was missing out on many new learning opportunities since he was not exploring the world outside his home. So, they take him out on a short vacation to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Through Moby, the author penned down a personal story with her son, who is on the spectrum, and discussed how as parents, they helped their son get over his travel anxiety using different strategies. In addition, Moby explores the scenic city of Minneapolis, which has turned lush green in the spring season.
The book can be helpful for both neurodiverse and neurotypical children who are scared of traveling.
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For more information: www.mobysbookclub.com
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This interview—Muzna Kazim Discusses Around the World with Moby: My First Trip—was conducted between Muzna Kazim and Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Autism, Neurodiversity Books, and Picture Books.