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 recently had the chance to speak with E.K. McCoy, author of the MCA award-winning children’s book, Allie the Albino Squirrel! In Allie the Albino Squirrel, author E.K. McCoy uses her years of experience working with children to remind us that there isn’t just one thing that defines who we are. All the qualities we possess are used to better the world, and where Allie sees herself as “strange,” her friend Bree sees her as beautiful and kind. With fun illustrations by Ghazal Qadri, this wonderful book of self-acceptance is a joy for all children! Keep reading to find out more about the award-winning book, Allie the Albino Squirrel, and its fabulous author, E.K. McCoy!
MCA: Hi E.K., Thank you so much for joining us today, and a huge congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! I’d like to first start off the interview by having you tell us a little bit about yourself!
E.K.: At the age of ten, I fell in love with the magic I created using a simple spell that consisted of a pen, a composition book, a flashlight, and my imagination. After spending fourteen years as a pediatric sonographer, I decided it was time to cast a new spell and trade in my scrubs for a MacBook. When I’m not writing, I enjoy hiking, snorkeling, and spending time on the beach with my husband, Kyle, and our two fun-loving daughters Ellie (18) and Ava (7).
I just want to say thank you for supporting my work. It is very important to me that a portion of all proceeds of Allie the Albino Squirrel go to support children’s literacy and/or health. Since May, I have already donated over 50 copies to school classrooms and look forward to donating to foundations in the future.
MCA: Wow, that is absolutely wonderful and causes we at Mom’s Choice definitely can get behind! You say you fell in love with writing at the age of ten, but then became a pediatric sonographer. What led you on your path back to becoming a writer?
E.K.: I have always been a writer at heart. I started writing poems in fourth grade. In High School I was a part of the Miami University Writing team. I envisioned myself working for a publishing firm. However, I had my first daughter at the age of nineteen, and I didn’t have time to be a “starving artist,” so I studied medical imaging instead. But that didn’t deter me from following my dreams.
During college, I was a single parent and fortunate enough to have extremely supportive parents that allowed my daughter, Ellie, and I to live with them while I pursued my education.
By 2009, I graduated college and Ellie and I were able to move out and into a house of our own. Most nights, after putting Ellie to bed, I would spend hours writing what would eventually become my published works.
After many years of rejection, I decided to self-publish. In November 2017, I published a family dramedy, Surviving McCoy, that would go on to win a Next Generation Indie Book Award. In 2019, I was able to attend the American Library Association Conference in Washington, D.C., to claim my award for Surviving McCoy. This award was the turning point in my career; it gave me the validation I had been seeking and I felt my work was finally being viewed as a “real author’s” work.
In March of 2021, Atmosphere Press picked up Allie the Albino Squirrel. Now, here we are a year later and Allie has made her debut into the world. I couldn’t be prouder of her message and I am beyond honored Allie is receiving recognition through Mom’s Choice Awards! Allie was also just named an honoree in two categories by the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards.
MCA: It is all much deserved praise, your writing is beautiful and teaches important lessons that people of any age can learn from! Allie the Albino Squirrel is such a sweet story that teaches children that being different is not only beautiful but should also be something to be proud of. What was your inspiration for writing such a unique children’s book?
E.K.: I hold Allie the Albino Squirrel (Allie) near and dear to my heart. Over the years, I have helped care for countless children. Each child has their own struggle and all have left their mark on my heart.
Allie is a representation of all the children I have helped care for throughout the years. Allie represents any child who feels different in any way. The child is embarrassed by their glucose monitor, the beautiful girl with alopecia, the boy who can’t play contact sports because of his kidney transplant… the list goes on.
I wanted to write a book that reminded ALL children that one quality does not define who we are. We are defined by all the qualities that live within our hearts. Though this message may seem simple, sometimes when we feel one certain thing is controlling our lives, it can be an easy message to forget.
MCA: Can you tell us more about the messages and lessons readers can expect to find within Allie the Albino Squirrel?
E.K.: The main lesson is that one quality does not define who we are. We are defined by all the qualities that live within our hearts.
It was also important to me that I make the main character, who was struggling with feeling different, white. I felt it allowed an opportunity for children to talk about inclusion and differences without placing the spotlight on a BIPOC character, as many books about diversity do.
Bree has an important message as well. When she saw Allie for the first time, she didn’t see her as strange or different, rather, she saw her as beautiful. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a little more like Bree?
MCA: That would be very nice indeed, and something we should all strive for. I’ve read some of the reviews for Allie the Albino Squirrel and one thing is clear, your readers adore this book! What has the response to this book been like for you?
E.K.: I have done several author visits and book readings for Allie, and have received over two hundred pieces of children’s artwork and notes from fans. Notes telling me how much they love Allie and Bree is one of the best gifts I have received. I feel Allie has passed the test for children’s approval because many readers want to know when my next book will be available.
MCA: That is surely the ultimate test of approval! The illustrations that can be found within Allie the Albino Squirrel are so beautiful and really help to tell the story of each adorable character. Can you share with us the inspiration behind them?
E.K.: I am very fortunate for the opportunity to have Ghazal Qadri as my illustrator. From day one, I knew I wanted to incorporate real photographs along with illustrations in my book. Since Allie is a representation of children, I thought that using real-life photos would help children connect to Allie, and make her seem more relatable.
I asked Ghazal to provide fresh, but whimsical, illustrations, and she certainly delivered. I mean just look at how cute and unique all the squirrels’ tails are!
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
E.K.: I was fortunate enough to have grown up being told that I was loved for the way I was both inside and out. I want all children to feel that kind of self-love and empowerment when they read Allie.
I honestly believe that to some degree, everyone can relate to Allie. For me, it was my height. I’m very petite, a towering 4’8’’ tall. Growing up, it was far too easy to make comments about my size. “How’s the weather down there?” “Has anyone seen Emily(when I’m standing right in front of them)”? In grade school, I stopped growing. I was referred to our local children’s hospital where I was found to be healthy, just short. I was given the option of using growth hormones. Even though I was young, I remember being frustrated by this. No one asked me if I liked being short or not, everyone just assumed I wanted to be taller but I didn’t. I declined and I’m still 4’8’’.
MCA: That’s the kind of self-love and acceptance everyone could use in their life, thank you for sharing! Thank you for a lovely interview, and please be sure to keep us posted as to when your next book will be coming out.
You can learn more about E.K. McCoy and her award-winning book, Allie the Albino Squirrel, by visiting her MCA Shop pages.