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 interview series. For this interview, we were able to speak with Hiba Shublak, author of the MCA award-winning book, Where is Bejou?! Where is Bejou? is a light-hearted story that is brightly illustrated with vibrant characters and with nature that emphasizes happiness and finding gratitude for having loved ones and for accepting our fate. We’ve all experienced love and loss and Where is Bejou? addresses all the feelings that come along with that. Love and loss is an exceptionally hard thing to deal with, but Where is Bejou? can help make the hurt a little less by bringing positivity and hope to those losses. Keep reading to find out more about this amazing book and the author behind it, Hiba Shublak!
MCA: Hi Hiba! Thank you for joining us today and congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! As I stated before, Where is Bejou? is such a heartfelt story that is guaranteed to pull at the heartstrings of anyone who reads it. Can we start the interview off by finding out a little bit about the author behind such an impassioned book?
Hiba: My name is Hiba Shublak I am the founder of Active Learning and ALBI (Performing Arts Programs) www.activelearningusa.org. I have a B.S. in Child Development and M.A. in Education and I have developed award-winning musical theatre, dance, and PE programs and curricula throughout California. My accomplishments include developing innovative resources, curricula, publications, and programs to maximize healthy communities rich in the arts.
Founded in 1999, Active Learning’s vision was to incorporate a sanctuary in the school setting that models healthy behaviors, allowing individuals to recognize their inner strengths and infinite talents with trusted mentors. Our award-winning enrichment programs inspire creativity and passion in every student. Active Learning is dedicated to creating, implementing, and evaluating programs that promote lifelong health. Our Mission is to create emotional and physical wellness through art education for children and their caregivers. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive education in dance, fitness, and performing arts through technical workshops, cultural diversity, and building social-emotional skills.
I have always loved arts-infused activities such as dance, theatre, music, and my newest hobby is creating illustrations. I love playing the piano, taking long hikes by the beach or in nature. These places are special to me because I love being out in nature and paying attention to the beautiful signs that pass by me. I love seeing animals, listening to the water, and enjoying the beautiful weather, which all make me feel grateful for life. Nature inspires me and when you read my book, you can see how the symbols of nature are intertwined in the overall message of the book. “Leave a mark wherever you go.” This is one of my favorite quotes in the book from a snail.
MCA: “Leave a mark wherever you go” is a great quote! What made you want to get into writing children’s books?
Hiba: It has always been a dream of mine to write children’s books. In college, I took a few courses on how to write children’s books. I had many ideas for writing children’s stories, but I needed to learn more before I created my first book. I spent years researching children’s books, which included reading many books, studying storylines, plots and subplots, moral lessons, and illustrations. Once I figured out who I wanted to write for, I began drafting ideas for my story. When I finished writing my first story, I began sketching pictures to help bring the manuscript alive. I spent time learning to paint using multimedia tools such as watercolor, charcoal, and even colored pencils. I also worked with illustrators to help me transfer my paintings into a digital format and I am currently taking classes in computer graphics.
I enjoy reading children’s books and often give them out as birthday cards to my friends and loved ones. Some of the most influential writers I have been inspired by include children’s books such as:
- The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
- They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
MCA: Shel Silverstein is one of my all-time favorite authors! I love that you give out children’s books as birthday cards, such a great idea! Where did the inspiration to write Where is Bejou? come from?
Hiba: My inspiration to write this book came when my very first dog grew ill and I knew my time with her was limited. I wanted to continue her legacy through a special story with the hope of inspiring others to be grateful for having loved ones, and for the positive marks, they leave in our lives. Writing Where is Bejou helped me cope with the loss of her and other losses I have experienced in my life.
Music has driven my passion to write, draw, create, and mostly to continue the legacy and the impact of my beloved Bejou. The experiences I had with this dog, this animal, who just loved me unconditionally…. fulfilled something in my heart and soul that at many times I never felt from any human. She made me feel significant And sometimes we need that reassurance… That was my inspiration. Bejou always loved me no matter what, and I loved her too.
MCA: Dealing with the loss of a pet is one of the toughest things anyone can go through. I have experienced it personally as well and knowing there are books like Where is Bejou? are there to help cope is so comforting. What are some of the key lessons found in Where is Bejou??
Hiba: Where is Bejou is a book about paying attention to signs from nature, being okay with letting go, and mostly about being grateful for what you have. I wrote this story after experiencing loss in my life with the hope of inspiring others to be grateful for having loved ones, and for the positive marks, they leave in our lives.
“The book is well suited for helping children to understand that death is not the end while also avoiding controversial religious topics. I would personally recommend this book as a must-have for households that have young children and pets as it will help them to understand and come to terms with their loss and grief.”
Reviewed By Sefina Hawke for Readers’ Favorite *****
“This heartfelt story highlights the significance of remembering and appreciating the happiness, love, and special times shared with pets and loved ones. Where is Bejou? is a highly recommended story that will provide consolation and hope to many.”
Reviewed By Melinda Facal for Readers’ Favorite *****
“Hiba Shublak pens a captivating and compassionate children’s story in Where is Bejou? Touching the hearts of young and old alike, Where is Bejou? is easy to read and understand. The foundational theme of the story is overcoming the loss of a loved one, especially that of a pet. “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.” Using nature as a storyteller, the narrative includes simple, yet symbolic messages of inspiration, friendship, and the importance of making a difference in other’s lives. Where is Bejou? weaves happiness and sadness together, leaving the reader with a blanket of hope to cuddle up within the midst of their grief.”
Reviewed By Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers’ Favorite *****
MCA: What are the kinds of readers that Where is Bejou? is intended for?
Hiba: Where is Bejou is a picture book for children ages 4 and up. This book, however, holds a crossover appeal for older audiences and to anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one, and animal lovers of all ages.
Hiba: The characters in the book were all Bejou’s favorite toys. During our daily walks, Bejou and I always came across beautiful flowers and cute bugs. Our attention to nature helped us appreciate the beauty in life. The illustrations are simple, yet artistic and the bright colors are perfect for giving the book a happy feeling while also serving to keep the interest of young children. The pictures in the book show the “mark” Bejou has left on every character: happiness, feeling special, being grateful, and most of all, the love between the little girl and her beloved dog.
Surrounded by optimistic friends and acquaintances, a frantic girl is looking for her lost dog and begins to grasp an understanding of love and loss, and their eternal effect on her life. The pictures show the girl becoming more and more frantic throughout the book as she is looking for her dog. Once she finds Bejou, the love is captured so deeply between the girl and her dog. After Bejou explains to her that it is time to go, the girl realizes what all the characters were trying to show her all along, to be grateful for having Bejou.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Hiba: Where is Bejou is within the context of positive social-emotional development around grief and loss. This light-hearted story emphasizes happiness and finding gratitude for having loved ones and for accepting our fate.
MCA: That is certainly a powerful message to walk away with. Thank you for giving us more insight into yourself and Where is Bejou?! We hope to hear more from you again soon.
You can learn more about Hiba Shublak and her award-winning book, Where is Bejou? by visiting her MCA Shop pages.