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 for joining us for another interview in our ongoing series. For this interview, we were able to speak with Debbie L. Hepner, author of the MCA award-winning book, Savanah Banana Caring for Others! Savanah Banana Caring for Others is an excellent resource for parents caregivers and educators to teach children about empathy for others. There’s also a special treat at the end of the book with memory pages that are fun and educational for children of all ages. Keep reading to find out more about Debbie and her award-winning book, Savanah Banana Caring for Others!
MCA: Hi Debbie, thank you so much for joining us and a huge congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! Savanah Banana Caring for Others is such a sweet story that teaches readers of all ages how to care for and treat others. Can we first start the story by having you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Debbie: I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a young great-grandmother.
I am the first in my family to graduate from college, and I am a proud graduate of Weber State University, Utah State University, and the University of Utah. I also have a Science Specialty Certificate awarded by the State Office of Education and was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship from the Novell Corporation to attend Space Camp for Educators in Huntsville, Alabama. A fantastic opportunity and an experience that is very dear to my scientific heart.
I taught fifth grade in the Davis County School District in Utah for 30 years. My love for ten-year-olds and American history kept me going.
Besides writing and traveling, I also enjoy riding my bicycle, going to the gym, taking long walks, and reading.
One of the reasons I chose teaching is so I could pursue other interests during my time off. One of those interests turned out to be my grandchildren. What a blessing they turned out to be. The fun experiences we had together are the basis for some of my stories.
MCA: Grandchildren can be excellent sources of inspiration for writing! Speaking of inspiration, what was inspired you in your transition from a career in teaching to an award-winning children’s book author?
Debbie: The path to becoming a writer started with the coronavirus pandemic. My husband and I retired to travel the world, but when the pandemic began, we were forced to cancel or postpone many trips. It was then that I started writing the stories I had been thinking about for years, with the inspiration coming from experiences with my grandchildren.
MCA: I hope you and your husband will be able to fufill all your travel dreams soon! What was your inspiration for writing Savanah Banana Caring for Others?
Debbie: Savanah Banana Caring for Others is about my oldest granddaughter. She had two major surgeries at Shriners Children’s Hospital while growing up. She dreamed of working in the children’s hospital, caring for others as she was so tenderly cared for. She has a Family Consumerism and Human Development degree and would be a remarkable asset to any hospital, but she has chosen to stay home with her young children.
MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in Savanah Banana Caring for Others?
Debbie: Savanah Banana Caring for Others is filled with lessons on caring, compassion, giving of yourself, helping those in need, and just being a good person.
MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?
Debbie: Here are some responses I have received for Savanah Banana Caring for Others. (Olsen Hancock is a former student 😊)
This book should be read to each and every kid to teach them kindness towards everyone! How brilliantly it teaches us to be more empathetic toward others, especially the ones who are not feeling well! I loved the illustrations! Our world needs people who are kind and caring, and the author very nicely demonstrated how you can be of help to someone who is going through some or the other pain! I highly recommend this book!
I won this book in a raffle, and my kids (4 & 2) love it. It’s especially great for me because I work in a children’s hospital, and my kids can get an understanding of what I do. The story is cute, it connects kids of all ages, and the caring in the story is evident. It’s a sweet story for any kid.
This is such a cute book. It addresses caring for others and sets an example for other children to be thoughtful and kind all around. As a 4th grade teacher, it appeals even to my age group of students. They loved being able to make inferences around the pictures, and to address comprehension the fill in the blanks of each of their ailments in the hospital (using my overhead document camera), made it even more interactive and engaging. Plus, the discussion afterward was very insightful and valued by my 4th-grade students. I love her books.
Justin R. Rolling
This book is an excellent resource for parents, caregivers, and educators to teach children about empathy for others.
It’s beautiful to see multicultural children with cultural names depicted in a children’s book. This book is beautifully written and is very comforting for children who are sick or shut down in a hospital for long periods.
It’s important for children to read books like this to develop empathy for others. It teaches children the importance of showing kindness and caring for others even if they don’t look like you. It also teaches a lesson about finding joy in seemingly small moments or events.
The above comment is special because when I called my four grandchildren together for a meeting to tell them what I was doing and ask for permission to use their names in the stories I was writing, I told them I wanted my books to include multicultural children. They unanimously agreed and said it was important.
MCA: Tell us about some of the other books you have published!
Other books I have Published:
Savanah Banana and Lanna BFF
A true story (except for the Bananamobile) about two 6-year-old girls, one black and one white, who were best friends at the school I taught at. Savanah, my granddaughter, and Quincy (Lanna in the story) would often walk down the hall holding hands, one with long blonde curly hair and one with long black curly hair. They had many friends on the playground as most of the children wanted to be friends with them, and they were continually surrounded by happy children.
I never forgot the girls’ friendship and how they shared it with other children, so I wrote this story.
Grayson’s Magic Dragon
This story starts as a true story, then turns into a magical dream. After fearing a mechanical dragon at two years old, Grayson jumps right into grandma’s arms. Grandma comforts him and tells him, “The dragon will never hurt you.” Late at night, the dragon comes to life. At first, Grayson is scared, but as he flies through the sky on the dragon’s back, he remembers grandmas’ words of comfort and has a thrilling experience. When the dream ends, he is back in bed, hugging the dragon.
This book has won two awards—an Independent Press Award for Distinguished Favorite Picture Book and a Global Book Award.
Racee Acee’s ATV Race
This book was just published in November 2022. It’s about Acee (my granddaughter) racing her All-Terrain Vehicle over the Rocky Mountains. This was the first story I thought of writing over 20 years ago when I saw Acee with her shiny yellow helmet ready to go 4-wheeling in the mountains with us. As I watched her grow competent and confident over the years, I decided it was time to write the story.
Let’s Have a Meltdown Laugh
This is a collection of funny things that cause toddlers to have tantrums. I collected them from parents who had no idea what to do except roll their eyes. I wrote this book because it made me laugh. Imagine a toddler screaming because they can’t hold the moon or they can’t get in the outdoor swimming pool because it’s snowing. I dedicated it to “All the sweet kids out there who just need to LET IT
MCA: What is next for you in your writing career?
Debbie: What’s next for me? I’m currently in the various stages of completing five additional books, graduating to chapter books for 8-11-year-olds. My husband Kent is enjoying the fun, and we are collaborating on a story. And I’m traveling again…off to see the world!
I have promised my grandchildren at least two books each. I better get busy. 😊
MCA: We are sure your travels will provide you plenty of extra writing inspiration, we cannot wait to see what you come out with next!
You can learn more about Debbie L. Hepner and her award-winning book, Savanah Banana Caring for Others by visiting her MCA Shop pages.