Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! We hope this finds you well- thank you for joining us for another installment of our interview series. For this interview, we had the pleasure of speaking with Charlie Shull, author of the Mom’s Choice Award-winning book, It’s OK Little Rain Cloud to Cry! It’s OK Little Rain Cloud to Cry is a children’s picture book about mental health and learning healthy coping skills. Together, the story and song of “It’s OK Little Rain Cloud to Cry” help teach kids (and adults too) how to share and cope with their feelings in healthy ways. Keep reading to find out more about Charlie and his award-winning book, It’s OK Little Rain Cloud to Cry!
MCA: Hi Charlie, thank you so much for joining us today, and congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! Mental health is such an important topic that is not often talked about with young children. That’s why books such as It’s OK Little Rain Cloud to Cry are so important to young readers. Studies have shown that good mental health will help your child perform better in school, develop strong relationships, and grow into high-functioning adults. Can we first start the interview by finding out a little bit about the man behind such a powerful book?
Charlie: Well, I suppose my path to becoming an author is actually the path I took to become an emotionally healthy – or really healthier – human. I’ve spent the better part of my life chasing after success, spending years studying and then working as a patent attorney. In many ways, I became an expert in avoiding my own feelings. Then, after getting a divorce in 2020, I hit emotional rock bottom. During the divorce, there was one morning when I woke up with tears already in my eyes. Basically, my body forced me to cry while I was sleeping. I felt offended, but that’s when I realized I really need to change. Hence, the journey of the little rain cloud is much like my own.
MCA: It’s wonderful that you were able to turn such a negative situation into something so positive. The healing power of writing is truly an incredible thing to behold. How did you draw inspiration & lessons from Tom Brady and Sara Blakely in writing It’s OK Little Rain Cloud to Cry?
Charlie: Funnily enough, Tom Brady was the first man that I ever saw cry and show genuine affection. Growing up in the rural countryside of Indiana, a man was a man. And men don’t cry. Basically, real men drive trucks, shoot deer, have two plaid colored shirts for church, and put food on the table. Growing up, my father, who is a good man, never cried and he never said “I love you” to us kids. In my mid-20s, I saw an interview with Tom Brady where he cried. My first thought was, “how is this the man that beat the Colts?”. But Tom’s example stuck with me. Real men cry.
I took Sara Blakely’s Master Class, and it quite literally changed my life. In her class, Sara teaches how one can find their purpose. And at the end of her class, she breaks down and cries, and says that if she can find her purpose then anyone can. Without taking Sara’s Master Class, I don’t know if I would have ever taken the jump from patent law to writing and illustrating my own kids’ books.
MCA: Wow, two very powerful influences, thank you for sharing! You talked a little bit about how the feelings you experienced from your divorce led you to write It’s OK Little Rain Cloud to Cry. Can you elaborate on how your perspective on crying and male stereotypes changed throughout the years?
Charlie: I truly believed that crying was a sign of weakness. And I was not alone. My family thought I was crazy, asking me “what’s the second book gonna be, suck it up little rain cloud?” and “why would anyone buy a book about crying?”
In my late twenties, therapy really helped me see the value of connecting with emotions. To allow me to feel, to feel happy, sad, or mad without judging myself so harshly. So now, I see crying as a sign of strength. I hope to model what it means to be strong, through crying and laughing a little more often.
MCA: That is incredible and a transformation that a lot of people unfortunately never get to experience in their lifetimes. Can you tell us a little bit about the co-writer of the song “It’s OK Little Rain Cloud to Cry,” Charity Waweru’s, journey?
Charlie: Charity Waweru is currently getting her master’s degree to become a music therapist. She’s brilliant, speaks three different languages, sings like an angel, and knows how to play every musical instrument on the planet. Her perspective on crying was once much like mine. Even now, Charity will be the first to tell you that she herself struggles to find healthy ways and healthy spaces to express negative emotions. Her mission is to make healthy spaces through music to change people’s lives. I am truly lucky to have Charity be a part of the project.
MCA: How lovely! Your book talks a lot about learning healthy coping skills, can you give us some simple steps on how to make space for emotions?
Charlie: Of course, the first thing to do is stay with the feeling of gratitude. Meaning, acknowledging the feeling you’re having and don’t judge yourself for having it. If you’re having trouble staying with the feeling, i.e., stuffing your feelings, binging shows, or other things, then try to take 10 deep breaths. The next thing is: CALL A FRIEND. This is perhaps the hardest step. But, when you practice deep breathing and sharing how you feel (not trying to immediately fix it), you’ll see in time that new life will come to you.
MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?
Charlie: I have been happily shocked by the responses. I have received drawings from kids, letters, and a ton of people singing their version of the “it’s OK to cry song” on the piano, guitar, and even pots and pans. I have received videos from my friends, sharing how they cried when their kids opened up about their feelings. One friend who is a single mom said that her son requested the book four nights in a row and on the last night shared that he feels sad like the little rain cloud too sometimes – which lead to a healing and unforgettable moment for them both. That’s what it’s all about.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Charles: Easy question, I want readers to always remember that it’s OK to cry.
MCA: A simple but powerful statement to leave us off with, thank you, Charlie!
You can learn more about Charlie Shull and his award-winning book, It’s OK Little Rain Cloud to Cry by visiting his MCA Shop page. You can also view his book trailer below. It was made by kids for kids so that kids can see their peers modeling healthy coping skills.