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 again! For today’s interview, we caught up with author Tammy Fortune and her illustrator/editor Joanna Jarc Robinson to discuss their award-winning book, Alpacas Don’t Get Angry!. In this whimsical social-emotional learning book for kids, Apollo the alpaca has a story to tell about something that made him feel very angry. This entertaining and captivating book is such a good tool for any parent, caretaker, or educator wanting a jumping-off platform to teach children about anger management and how to express their various emotions in an appropriate manner. Keep reading to find out more about Tammy, Joanna, and their award-winning book Alpacas Don’t Get Angry!.
MCA: Hi Tammy, thank you for joining us again today, and welcome Joanna! This is Tammy’s second interview with us and Joannas first. Can you both catch us up on a little bit about yourselves, including what you have been up to since we last spoke to you, Tammy?
Tammy: I’m an elementary education tutor who loves helping kids learn to read. I have worked with students in pre-school through 8th grade for over 20 years, helping them find how they learn best. I have been creating educational resources for children for the past six years and published my first children’s picture book in 2020. Since then, I teamed up with Joanna Jarc Robinson, a fantastic illustrator, editor, and educational professional, to create my latest book and I am so excited to have received a second Mom’s Choice Award.
Joanna: I am a writer, editor, illustrator, and education professional with many years of experience teaching and counseling students of all ages. Beyond the classroom, my creativity shines through in my children’s content that is playful, fun, humorous, and educational. I have a passion for mental health and social-emotional development, which is obvious in my curriculum, my children’s books, and my expressive character illustrations. I love to create all kinds of content that can help teachers and inspire children to become lifelong learners who are kind and thoughtful people. Partnering with Tammy on Alpacas Don’t Get Angry! and various other projects have been so much fun. I am excited about the award, but more importantly, I am extremely proud of the quality content we create together.
MCA: You two certainly have created a bit of magic together with Alpacas Don’t Get Angry!. What was the inspiration behind Alpacas Don’t Get Angry! and its beautiful illustrations?
Tammy: My inspiration for Alpacas Don’t Get Angry! came from an adorable little alpaca farm here in Loudoun County, Virginia. I fell in love with the alpacas there and spent time getting to know them through the owners. They are very sweet animals who can also have an angry side, just like us!
Joanna: I have never created an alpaca character before, but I was ready to take on the challenge! Tammy’s pictures from the alpaca farm inspired me to create Apollo, who was cute and silly, but quickly became very animated with different expressions and levels of emotion. I hope readers will identify with Apollo’s growing frustration, empathize with his attempts to be heard, and take away easy coping skills that can help them when they feel angry.
MCA: The illustrations definitely convey the varying expressions and levels of emotion the characters go through. What are some of the key lessons found in Alpacas Don’t Get Angry!?
Tammy: The biggest lesson in Alpacas Don’t Get Angry! is that everyone feels anger and that it is ok to feel angry, but it is important to learn how to express those strong emotions in appropriate ways.
Joanna: I want readers to understand that everyone feels angry sometimes, it’s okay to feel angry, and there are easy ways to express it appropriately. Focused breathing to calm the body and being able to verbalize how you feel are invaluable skills. Emotional regulation takes practice like anything else. I think it’s also important for children to see that others don’t always hear or validate your feelings, but if you keep trying, you will find someone who listens and helps you.
MCA: Why is social-emotional learning so important for kids?
Tammy: We are not born with the knowledge about how to manage emotions, handle stress, or get along with others. These skills need to be taught, modeled effectively, and developed so that kids can be successful in managing daily challenges.
Joanna: Children learn what they observe and develop patterns of interacting with others that aren’t always functional or healthy. Then they tend to replay those patterns and ways of being in adult relationships. Children should know that there are healthy ways to manage stress and anger. In a world where many things are out of control, children can learn that they control themselves, they have choices, and they have the power to discover and maintain emotional peace.
MCA: Why was it important for you to help children deal with difficult emotions and friendships through writing Alpacas Don’t Get Angry!?
Tammy: I have seen the emotional distress and damage to relationships caused by people who do not handle/manage emotions effectively. My hope is that an engaging and relatable story, paired with a simple breathing technique, could help children learn an effective way to handle emotions.
Joanna: Unfortunately, frustration and anger have become commonplace in our ever-changing and divided society. Many people have shown that they are unable to cope with emotions in safe and constructive ways. There is a definite need for social-emotional healing, growth, and development for children and adults. Emotional awareness, emotional regulation, and emotional mastery are essential for rebuilding and strengthening all kinds of relationships.
MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?
Tammy: The response to Alpacas Don’t Get Angry! has been wonderful. Parents have been reaching out to say how their children can relate to Apollo’s feelings and they use the breathing technique from the book when they are feeling angry or stressed. One reviewer said, “Readers will see themselves in Apollo and learn how to let go of anger in a constructive way.” That is exactly what I hoped to see happen.
Joanna: The positive responses I’ve seen are amazing. I am proud to be part of a project that is relatable, engaging, and useful. I hope more people will read it and use the technique. It really works!
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Tammy: I want readers to know that their emotions are real, strong, and valid. They can use breathing techniques and self-control to process and manage emotions in healthy ways.
Joanna: I want readers to know that anger does not have to control you. Using a breathing technique is effective in calming your body and mind so that you can think and act appropriately in response. Most importantly, you have to practice and use the technique for it to actually work. 😊
MCA: As the saying goes, practice makes perfect! Thank you both for a wonderful interview, we are excited to see what magic you will create together in the future!
You can learn more about Tammy Fortune, Joanna Jarc Robinson, and their award-winning book, Alpacas Don’t Get Angry! by visiting their MCA Shop pages.