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! As part of our ongoing interview series, Mom’s Choice sat down with Tomeko Brown, author of one of our newest award-winning books, An Instrument for Florenda. An Instrument for Florenda is an inspirational book that teaches children about the beauty of dreams and how hard work and persistence pays off. This heartwarming book teaches both children and adults to never give up on dreams while providing fun and entertainment along the way. An Instrument for Florenda is an extra special book because Tomeko was able to write it in conjunction with her son, Chris, as co-author! We are so grateful for the opportunity to work with Tomeko and hear more about her wonderful, award-winning book!
MCA: Hi Tomeko, thank you so much for joining us today, and congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! Playing an instrument has so many benefits for children, and that’s why books such as An Instrument for Florenda are so important for young readers! Can I first start the interview by finding out a little about your background?
Tomeko: I grew up in a small rural community where everyone in the neighborhood knew each other and if a need arose your neighbor often came to the rescue. If you traveled to the end of my street, you would drive directly into the lake. Yes, where the street ended is where a beautiful lake began. I grew up around water. That is why the beach is one of my favorite vacation spots. That and an enjoyable book! My favorite book both childhood and adult is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I enjoy all things that involve getting creative. That is why I am a huge fan of crafting! I enjoy sewing, making jewelry, and painting.
Outside of that, my career has included working with kids in the classroom both in daycare and public school after spending over ten years in healthcare. I completed my graduate studies in Instructional Design and my undergraduate studies in Business Education. But most of all I enjoy having fun with my family, being a mom of two, Angela,11, and Chris, 23, and authoring the stories that life brings.
MCA: Charlotte’s Web is an all-American classic that teaches so many important lessons. I can see why it is still your favorite to this day! What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
Tomeko: I started writing as early as my elementary school years songs and poems. During my ninth-grade year in high school, I had the opportunity to write a retirement poem for my Home Economics teacher. The school had the poem framed and presented it to her during her retirement celebration. I guess you could say that was my first published piece.
MCA: What was your inspiration for writing An Instrument for Florenda?
Tomeko: I learned to play the clarinet during my early school years. We were the school’s first band class. I even had a solo part during one of our performances. That was the inspiration behind the book. A young girl whose dream of playing an instrument, the challenges she faces when her mom cannot afford to purchase an instrument and the challenging work, she puts in to achieve her goal. I wanted to include some of my experiences of playing in a band. Since my son also played the clarinet, we were able to collaborate to bring this story to life.
MCA: It is amazing when we can take our childhood experiences and bring them back to life through books! What are some of the key lessons found in An Instrument for Florenda?
Tomeko: Grit, tenacity, and perseverance- These terms are interchangeable, but they are character traits that Florenda presents throughout the story. She works hard at learning something new. Even though there are challenges that come along she has her moments of discouragement, but she keeps going. These are teachable traits that can assist kids in working through their challenges to reach their goals and be successful. Not only kids but adults alike.
Kids are never too young to have these character traits taught to them.
MCA: We couldn’t agree more! What kind of response from readers have you received?
Tomeko: Heartwarming and Inspiring have been the key words to describe this story. Which is exactly what I wanted the story to leave with the reader.
MCA: Something that is so unique about An Instrument for Florenda is that you were able to write it with your son, Chris! Tell us about the experience of working in conjunction with your son, Chris, as the co-author of An Instrument for Florenda!
Tomeko: Fun, enjoyable, and a rememberable moment! Chris also played the clarinet in middle school, so it was great having him a part of authoring the story. Since we wanted to include a section on the steps band students go through when it comes to the “chair placement” competition, it was great getting his thoughts on the direction to take certain chapters. This was our second time working together on a book. We made a book of a small collection of children’s poems. I authored the poems and Chris did the illustrations. It was something we had completed together as a self-published book a few years ago for fun.
An Instrument for Florenda was different. I educated myself in the book publishing industry so we could have more opportunities, hopefully, for our self-published book to reach more people whether through donations or book sales. The investment we put into this book is priceless. To see something, we created as a mother and son team take flight is amazing. As a mom, it is an extraordinary joy to be able to share similar talents with your child, especially when they are older. It brings a parental bond to a new level. You can help foster your child’s talents and abilities even at an older age. Besides, we are always discovering new things about ourselves.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Tomeko: Believe in yourself. Chris reminds me of this every now and then. Yes, even as adults we must hear this at times.
Even when challenges arise you must know you can overcome the challenge. Whether it is playing a sport, winning the spelling bee, getting an “A” on a test, or playing an instrument you must believe you can do it and you will! Receiving the Mom’s Choice Awards® as a Gold recipient shows that dreams do come true.
MCA: Well we are honored to have you as part of our award-winning family! Thank you for a wonderful interview, Tomeko. We hope to chat with you again soon!
You can learn more about Tomeko Brown and her award-winning book, An Instrument for Florenda by visiting her MCA Shop pages.