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! Welcome, Mom’s Choice Awards readers, to another interview with a very special MCA honoree! Today, we talk with Hilary Hawkes, the author of a three-book adventure series about introducing children to the magic within them. Much loved by little ones from ages 2 to 8, Millie’s Magic and its feel-good companion stories about the little mouse, Millie, nurture youngsters with positive messages about love, friendship, and learning how special they are.
MCA: Hilary, before we get into a conversation about your wonderful children’s books, please tell us about yourself. What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
Thank you so much for inviting me for an interview. I’m from the UK, living in a village in Oxfordshire. I’m married with three grown-up sons. When I’m not writing or busy with my small business, I love walking in nature, doing Pilates or yoga, and reading. I also love visiting old historical places that have interesting stories or having a coffee and catch-up with a friend.
I’ve always loved books and reading. This probably started because I was lucky enough to have parents and a grandmother who read to us from an early age. When I was about seven or eight, I began making up my own stories and scribbling them down with scribbly pictures! At 16 I sent a 70,000-word story to the then-editor of Puffin Books (Penguin) in the UK. It was rejected, of course, but I had a lovely letter that said: “I expect to see your name on the spine of a book someday.” That encouraged me! I did a degree in Publishing and English Literature, began getting some short stories published, and some years later — after marrying and having children — found my first book publisher and agent. Over the next 15 or so years I had 10 books traditionally published — five of which were children’s books. But it was after a job direction change, becoming an Early Years teacher, that I switched to self-publishing so that I could combine my interest in young children’s development with books for younger children. I started my business Story Therapy.
I wanted to create picture book stories that combined stories with a feel-good, nurturing message. So, I created Millie the little mouse with a big heart and a special message for all children: You are magic, you are loved, and you are brave. I was so lucky to be introduced to amazing Croatian artist Andrea Petrlik through a foreign rights agent. Andrea created beautiful illustrations for all three books: Millie’s Magic, Millie’s Rainbow, and Brave Millie.
MCA: The perfect illustrator can add so much when communicating with children! What are some of the key lessons found in these books?
When you’re a child, the world can sometimes be a place where there are scary changes or challenges. New situations can be puzzling or alarming. Stories are a natural and unobtrusive way to help children feel stronger, more confident, and more secure. A fun story can engage children and carry a gentle message without being directly taught.
The message of Millie’s Magic is that everyone is special (or “magic” as Grandpa in the story calls it!). Millie’s Rainbow’s message is that every child can love or show kindness to others and feel loved too. Brave Millie’s message is about courage and how we can be brave in different ways.
The Millie stories:
- Have endearingly fun and bright illustrations.
- Are warm, nurturing, and positive.
- Have a “feel-good” factor or theme.
- Promote confidence.
- Offer ways to talk about feelings through the suggested but optional talking points at the end of the stories.
- Suggest fun activities to do and offer affirmation or special message cards to make at the end of the books to keep children engaged with the story and theme.
MCA: Do you recommend that children read the books in the order they were published?
The stories are stand-alone and so can be read in any order.
MCA: Your Amazon writeup says each title is part of the Feel Loved Tales series from Story Therapy. Can you expand a bit on this—the series and Story Therapy?
Yes, I started the not-for-profit Story Therapy children’s project about five or six years ago. Through this, I’ve created books, audio, and nurturing games and resources that support children’s emotional health and mental well-being. The Millie books are part of a Feel-Loved-Tales series, which includes these books plus some audio stories. They all have a warm feel-good tone or message. Story Therapy is a social enterprise and the products are purchased by schools, child therapists, or parents. I also donate bags of Story Therapy resources to different set-ups or charity groups too if they work to support children’s emotional well-being.
MCA: Truly a wonderful offering of varied resources! What kind of response from readers, parents, and teachers have the books themselves received?
Millie’s Magic, Millie’s Rainbow, and Brave Millie have been well-received. I’ve had some lovely feedback from parents, teachers, and children about the stories being full of love and positivity and easy to follow. The illustrations are especially loved too.
MCA: If you could ensure that readers of your books walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
That each child, wherever they are, is loved, brave, and very special. That is Millie’s message—and the message every child needs and deserves. It’s part of a child’s emotional foundation for growing up feeling strong and confident. Let’s all help our children and grandchildren or the children we know or work with feel that!
MCA: That’s definitely a message that every child needs to hear! What additional plans might you have for Story Therapy and Millie?
We’re hoping to create foreign language editions of the Millie stories so that the books can be made available more widely. We already have some Welsh and Croatian editions. I’d love other Story Therapy resources to reach more children, too, and I’m planning some more fun resources or story bags which will include our stories and nurturing games.
MCA: We’ll be keeping an eye out for new books and other products, Hilary. Thanks again for joining us today and sharing your remarkable story. Our very best to you!