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 today for another interview in our ongoing series. For this interview, we had the pleasure of speaking with JoAnn M. Dickinson, author of the Mom’s Choice Award-winning book, Who’s New At Lou’s Zoo! This story teaches kids about being kind and compassionate towards others, self-esteem, and that it’s Ok to be different and accept one another as they are. They will also love the unique, colorful zoo animals and the individual personalities they can relate to. This book can be a great teaching tool for the classroom as kids can relate to some of the feelings and emotions the animals are experiencing. Whether it’s in a new neighborhood, new classroom, or meeting someone for the first time we all can relate to what others may think of us, and whether we will be accepted, liked, or fit in. Keep reading to find out more about JoAnn and her award-winning book, Who’s New At Lou’s Zoo!
MCA: Hi JoAnn, thank you so much for joining us today, and a huge congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! Can we first start the interview off by having you tell us a bit about yourself?
JoAnn: I’m a wife, mother of one, and grandmother of two, living in Huntington Beach, California, a coastal town with a laid-back, beach vibe that feeds my creative personality.
I have loved the beauty of art as long as I can remember. I began drawing cartoon characters in grade school; I took every art class offered as a young student and through high school and after graduating high school I majored in art history and business. For the past 35 years, I’ve had a few careers but my passion and greatest success was as an entrepreneur, as we run a family business, working as an independent Real Estate Broker, and now as an independent Author.
Over the years I never stopped drawing, painting, crafting or searching for opportunities to bring my creativity into my career including remodeling or decorating homes as a real estate broker.
MCA: That’s amazing, you are a jack of all trades! What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
JoAnn: My inspiration for writing began in 2016 when my 4-year-old grandson John, went camping for the first time. I loved listening to his stories as his face would light up with excitement and enthusiasm while telling me about the first fish he caught or a hike he and his family went on. My first book, I Love To Go Camping was published through a large publishing company. That is when I began my writing career as an author and when I caught “the writing bug.” But I knew then, there must be another way to publish a children’s book.
2018 I wrote my second book Lulu’s New Best Friend also published by a publishing company that went out of business shortly after my book was published. In 2022, I rewrote and published Lulu’s New Fur Friend through my own publishing company with the support of my wonderful editor Robin Katz. Robin has taught me much about writing rhyme and metering stories as we continue collaborating together.
In 2021-2022 I went on to write and publish two more camping books about my grandchildren’s camping adventures and this year I wrote a third story about my own camping experiences at Yellowstone National Park, John’s Adventures at Yellowstone Park.
I launched a total of four new books since March of this year. My Award-Winning and Best-Selling book Who’s New At Lou’s Zoo, My #1 selling book Rylee the Young Rocketeer, and then John’s Camping Adventures Series, which includes John’s Camping Adventures at Crab Run Beach through my publishing company.
MCA: You have had quite a year, congratulations on all of the successes! What was your inspiration for writing Who’s New At Lou’s Zoo?
JoAnn: Who’s New At Lou’s Zoo was inspired by endangered species. I wanted to write about zoo animals so I began researching wild animals you find at the zoo and that led me into learning about how they can become extinct from a non-profit organization Wild Tomorrow Fund.
I began creating the characters and personalities, naming them one by one, and then the story evolved around kindness and compassion as the animals would live together in a protected habitat. Some of their personalities are shy, chatty, gruff or grumpy, happy, a little selfish, and motherly but they all have compassion for the new guest that looks different than them. Maybe even a little intimidating or frightening. But he’s not! He too wondered what the animals were going to think of him and worried they wouldn’t like or accept him into their neighborhood
In the end, they all become good friends welcoming the new guest and making him feel comfortable as the new neighbor. Lou the Alpaca and Zookeeper wouldn’t have it any other way.
The kids love the colorful illustrations and the animal’s unique personalities as they can relate to them and moms love the message.
MCA: The colorful illustrations are absolutely spectacular and take the book to the next level! Each animal is uniquely drawn in a way that truly captures its personality. Tell us about some of the other books you have written recently.
JoAnn: I have written several new stories three of which will be published in early 2023; Lou’s Zoo and Winston Too, Rylee’s Rover and John’s Adventures at Yellowstone Park are in production with plans for a second Kickstarter in February of 2023. All my books will be published through my publishing company, Two Sweet Peas Publishing.
MCA: You’re a very busy woman, we cannot wait to read the new titles! What kind of response from readers have you received?
JoAnn: My experience interacting with teachers and young readers has been wonderful! Whether it’s interacting with them at a school visit, or homeschooling mom’s purchasing for their kid’s lesson plan or story time, I never tire of seeing the excitement and enjoyment my books bring to all of them.
MCA: What does the future hold for you?
JoAnn: Writing and creating stories for children is my passion as I enjoy teaching them the different options for publishing a children’s book and discussing what inspires us to write stories. I enjoy meeting the young illustrators and writers of our future and I can’t wait to launch my next books for my young readers to enjoy.
You can learn more about JoAnn Dickinson and her award-winning book, Who’s New At Lou’s Zoo, by visiting her MCA Shop pages.