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. Thank you all for joining us for another interview in our series! For this interview, we got to speak with Chris Parsons, the author of the MCA award-winning book, A Little Spark. A Little Spark is an innovative, inspiring, and entertaining tale about unlikely comrades who join forces on a quest to defeat a threatening enemy. A Little Spark reminds us that to awaken our passion and spirit, we all need something in life to make the world be a warmer place, and to always look for ways to “Be That Spark.” Keep reading to find out more about the creative mind behind such an imaginative book!
MCA: Hi Chris, congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! A Little Spark is such a heart-warming tale that also teaches important life lessons along the way. May we begin the interview first by finding out a little bit about you?
Chris: I grew up in the scenic small fishing community of Flatrock, Newfoundland. It was a wonderful place to grow up surrounded by family, music, storytelling, and amazing people.
After graduating from University in Newfoundland, I was hired by IBM and my journey into the world of high tech began. Over the years, I had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s leading technology companies and start-ups living in Asia, London, and throughout the US.
I left my executive position at AT&T behind last year to focus full time on my true passion and life mission of creating these meaningful experiences for children and hopefully making a difference along the way.
In addition to work on the “A little Spark” project, I wear many hats. First and foremost I am a father of 2 great kids. We spend a lot of time together – my son and I are avid sports fans and watch a lot of college football, and of course, being born in Canada, hockey tends to be on the agenda from time to time. My daughter, Maggie, and I are major animal lovers – I help support her when I can with fostering dogs who need a little help finding their forever homes.
My wife, Kathleen, and I are members of an organization that supports those who find themselves in difficult times. Our organization raises money and provides short term help with rent and food. There is a lot of need out there and every little bit helps.
I also like to garden. I have a love of flowers passed down from my dear mother. I spend a lot of time in my backyard trying to grow things in the Texas heat – you win some, you lose some.
I like to ride my bike. I am not focused on speed but rather just getting out and enjoying the world around me and working on my music.
MCA: It’s amazing that your work allowed you to be so well-traveled! I can only imagine how beautiful growing up in Newfoundland must’ve been. Being surrounded by gorgeous scenery and storytelling in your childhood must’ve heavily influenced your path to becoming a writer. What else influenced you in your path to writing?
Chris: When our kids were small, we read the classics to them and I began adding my own stories to the mix. The audience for these stories grew to include a wider circle of kids. I truly enjoyed their reaction. I decided back then that I wanted to develop these stories and that one day I would become an author. But, of course, like with most dreams, life happened and took me down a totally different path.
My kids, Maggie and Kealan, were front and center in my mind when I finally took that big step a few years ago to write my first story, A Little Spark. They kept telling me that I should write these stories down so others could enjoy them. Well, it took many years until I finally felt the spark, and A Little Spark was born – thanks, Maggie and Kealan.
MCA: Kids can be the best form of inspiration! Can you tell us more about how your children inspired you to write A Little Spark and what lead you to include interactive features within the book?
Chris: A few years ago, I had the idea for a story about the tiniest of creatures – a lowly mouse – who, through his own self-confidence, steps up to the plate and saves the day. I expanded the story based on that one plot point, and as the words flowed, I saw more and more clearly a bigger concept: anyone can do amazing things. We all have the ability to lift ourselves up. Every single person can “Be That Spark.”
As I wrote the story, I spent a lot of time on character development and as I got to know the characters, I wanted to give them voices. I wanted folks to hear what I heard. It started with music – I had all these songs, and one day I walked into this studio in Dallas and met the incredible Bruce Faulconer and our collaboration began. 18 months later, we had an album, and the characters had a voice. I think adding musical elements to a story can bring it alive and make it more engaging for kids. Using QR codes was an easy way to embed the music so it could be experienced as part of the book.
The audiobook was really an extension of that approach – and of course, we had Brandon McInnis as the narrator who actually sang a song from the book called “I’m Back.” The voices from the audiobook added another layer to the characters – Ted Bear with his southern drawl, Oliver with his proper English accent. On the inside flap of the book, there is a URL that you can use to download the full soundtrack (12 songs) and audiobook.
MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in A Little Spark?
Chris: A combination of text, illustrations, and music creates a unique experience for parents and children alike as they meet enchanting creatures that individually offer new insights. A Little Spark will instill values and embolden children to act with kindness by teaching the following:
- The importance of believing in yourself
- Don’t judge others too quickly
- Friends look after friends
- Everyone deserves a second chance
- Understand the situation
The overall theme, or what I would call the “key-take away,” is the idea that we all need to look for ways to “Be That Spark.” We need to engage and find ways where we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. Those opportunities abound; we just need to be looking for them. There’s a line in the theme song “A Little Spark” which goes like this – “no more selfies, turn your camera out. And make a connection, that’s what this is about.”
MCA: Those lessons are essential for anyone to learn! How do those lessons help parents engage in discussion with kids?
Chris: By utilizing engaging stories, reading, and music based on meaningful lessons, children can be encouraged to Be That Spark and do amazing things with their little lives. Each lesson has an example of a situation from the book to help kids understand how it is applied in life. As an example:
Spark believed he could do more than be a lowly Streeter, and when given the chance, he was ready to succeed – we all need to believe in ourselves. It is only then we can succeed.
What is something you think that you could do well?
As part of his “test market” efforts, we conducted a pilot project with a Grade 1 class in Dallas. The teacher read the book, and the class listened to the music and discussed the lessons – the teacher, parents, and the kids loved it.
Our goal moving forward is to develop a Be That Spark program for schools focused on helping develop positive character traits in kids utilizing the lessons from the book as a tool to help teachers engage in discussion with their students. We have been approached by several educators who want to help develop and test this program with their classes.
MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?
Chris: The response has been overwhelming. I have so many notes and pictures from parents with their kids holding the book. They really liked that it has songs and interactive modes that bring the story to life. It has become something they can experience together with their kids. Here is a sample of their comments:
“It delivers important messages about friendship, trust, and courage. I used these stories to have meaningful conversations about potential life situations with my kid.”
“An amazing musical score accompanies the various twists and turns of Spark’s adventure to save his beloved home, Lake Zuron.”
“Our entire multi-generational household, from our 8-year-old to our 86-year-old, love this great musical journey, and it has inspired us to be that little spark!”
“The characters are lovable and heroic. Ned the Newf is my favorite. This is the best use of technology added to lovely storytelling I’ve ever experienced.”
“It takes children through all sorts of emotions and provides lots of opportunity for interaction. They’ve been sad, excited, scared, nervous, and happy.”
The comments have been heartwarming. I have also received several handwritten notes from kids and several pictures from parents with their children holding the book.
The book was released on Oct 1st is doing great. We recently became an Amazon #1 New Release in Children’s Music Books.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Chris: The first thing I would like the audience to take away is that A Little Spark is more than a book. It is a platform for parents and children to engage around a great story with music, a fun audio experience, and a set of important life lessons that will stimulate discussion and understanding: A Family Read (listen) Aloud and a Family Experience.
The main lesson from the book is to look for ways to Be That Spark. No matter how small you think you are, even you can make a positive difference. We never know what the smallest act of kindness will spark in others: it could be something as simple as a kind word to a classmate, a “good morning” to an elderly neighbor, giving books and toys to charity, helping a younger sibling – not all Sparks have to be grand gestures. These seeds grow in children and prepare them for even bigger opportunities to Be That Spark.
We need to constantly work with our kids to help them build their confidence and to always encourage them to believe in their ability to do more. There will be failures, but children learn resilience from those failures. This is all part of growing up.
MCA: I couldn’t agree more, we need to encourage our kids and build up their confidence now more than ever! Thank you for such a wonderful interview, Chris.
You can learn more about Chris Parsons and her award-winning book, A Little Spark by visiting his MCA Shop pages.