Smyrna author and son debut in new kid’s book drawn by former student
It only took one day for a homeschool teacher to sell out her new children’s book, which was illustrated by her former student, a freshman in high school.
Last month author Martina Jackson announced the debut of her book, “Little Brown Bear,” available on Amazon during a Facebook Live. But she got so excited she accidentally deleted the video. So she had to quickly make a new one.
Her videos piqued enough interest that people immediately began messaging her for copies. Before she knew it, 30 of the books she had on hand were gone. It sold out so quickly that she didn’t get to secure a copy for Naima Obeng, the book’s illustrator.
“You really don’t think that people are going to support you; and they don’t have to. So I really have a spirit of gratitude to see people were sharing my post that I didn’t even think cared,” said Jackson, 27, of Smyrna. “That was dope.”
Jackson's 15-month-old son, Kyrie, is the title character in “Little Brown Bear.” The 26-page tale is about Kyrie and how he no longer wants to be called her “Little Brown Bear.”
“Some kids don’t want to have a nickname, they want to be all grown up. I’m not saying Kyrie really feels that way, but that’s the concept,” Jackson said. “Like, I don’t want to be a little baby anymore, I’m a big boy now.”
Jackson discovered Obeng's artistic talents while working with her on homeschool assignments.
“On her math work, when she was solving her problems, there’d be a little doodle at the bottom of the page,” Jackson said. “I asked, ‘Do you really know how to draw? Do you think you can do an entire book?’
“I was shocked, because after I asked her, then the next day she had an illustration of the rocking chair,” explained the Smyrna author, who’s illustrated with her son on the cover of the book in a rocking chair.
Black children matter
Obeng illustrated the entire book with just a pencil on paper. An illustration company was brought on to do the coloring.
The 14-year-old artist said she had to submit various drafts of her illustrations to get them right. For example, Obeng said sometimes she had to revise the angle of Kyrie’s face so that “it doesn’t look so awkward.”
This is the first book Obeng illustrated, and she’s proud of it. “It means a lot. I can put it on my college resume,” said the freshman at Smyrna High School. “Thank you to Ms. Jackson for giving me this opportunity to illustrate a book, and for always standing up for black people, because that means a lot. I’ve never seen someone so passionate about the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Obeng said it’s special that “Little Brown Bear” stars Black characters.
“When there’s only books for white children, a Black child can’t really relate and they feel left out,” she said. “So it’s good to see diversity for children of different backgrounds who are Hispanic, African American or Chinese.”
‘Papa Bear’ is real nickname
On the cover of “Little Brown Bear,” there’s an illustration of Jackson in a white dress, while Kyrie is dapper in a gray vest and blue bow tie. Those outfits were inspired by clothing from the mother and son’s actual wardrobe.
Jackson, who always wanted a large family, said Kyrie is her youngest of five children. In real life, the toddler’s nickname isn’t the title of the book. Instead, Jackson affectionately calls him “Papa Bear,” she said.
“I was really excited about this pregnancy and I knew my son was going to be great and do great things,” she said. “I knew he was a boy before the doctors even told me.”
The Smyrna author plans to pen children’s books for her four other kids in the future. But for now, the focus is on her “Little Brown Bear.” Soon she’ll have more copies to sell on hand. This time, the goal is to autograph them.
“I also want Kyrie to sign them,” Jackson said. “Maybe he’ll do something like a hand-print.”