Susan Love and her
Mystical Island Adventure
By Daisy Roca
Ms. Love's Mystical Island Adventure is a wonderful story of four chosen children to go to a mystical island that would ignite their interest in adventure. Ultimately, it helps readers find their individuality and magic within where you would least expect it.
This story about four young foster kids also opens a discussion about foster youth today and what isn't working within the classroom.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Susan Love about her book and her journey.
I loved reading Ms. Love's Mystical Island Adventure. I know that you have a background in teaching, are a model, actress, and foster youth activist. How did you come up with the idea for this book?
I grew up in a foster home where it was more like keeping up with the Joneses. I got more gifts than attention. I started writing as a child, writing my own adventure stories that always had a happy ending. It was my way of finding happiness.
I did not get the support I needed from the foster parents for my dreams to flourish, so I provided that for myself with the help of a caring social worker, Donna Waitz. Being able to move out of foster care at the age of seventeen gave me the incentive to pursue my dreams in every field of interest - whether it was teaching, writing, acting, or modeling.
I went on to college and graduate school, and now I have a very rewarding career in teaching. It's not where you've been; it's where you're going that matters. Even though I did not receive the parental support I would have liked in my youth, now as a teacher and an author, I would like to provide that to my students.
Years back, while I was working in the inner-city school district teaching 5th grade, I had gone on vacation to the Caribbean where I had met a businesswoman. I was explaining to her that it was hard to connect with the children as they were living in a drug-infested area with high crime. I was at my wits' end. It was a hard time at the school since it was in such bad condition. The children were not doing well and had very low enthusiasm levels. I had to come up with a solution to this or I would quit. I was looking for ways I could inspire them.
Teaching is my passion and the business woman gave me a piece of advice. You can escape the bad conditions by coming here to this island, but the students cannot. Connect with them and light them up.
I came back from my vacation invigorated and set on a mission to inspire. I had spoken to the principal about turning my classroom into an island and gained her full support. She was of Latin decent and noticed it would be good to bring the children of multicultural backgrounds together.
So I created a safe haven for inner city children who craved the acceptance and support of their goals. I decorated the classroom like an island because the children were from places such as Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands, Philippines, etc. I wanted to make the classroom their escape.
So, this book is based on your experience in providing hope for your students. Are the characters in the book based on real students?
Yes, the students in Ms. Love's Mystical Island Adventure are actually foster children I have taught. I wanted to make them heroes, to use this book to inspire foster children and show them they can succeed.
Once I created that safe haven for my students, we would do writing exercises. In those exercises, I had them create their own stories and, to my surprise, they always used me as the main character.
It was funny how they had placed me in situations that made me very human. They showed how I was building meaningful relationships with others in the stories they wrote. This role has definitely touched my heart, and I am okay with being a character in the book as long as I am a humble character as I am in real life.
One little girl was inspired to be a writer by doing these exercises, which goes to show that everyone has something to offer.
By being a teacher and a writer, I am able to hold a meaningful candle and pass that light on to other readers. Children do not need material things to feel loved. In fact, materialism is not love. What they need is to be asked how their day was, give them hugs, sit down and talk to them.
I want to truly get to know them, listen, find out what they dream about, and never put them down. This kind of attention transfers into adulthood and will determine their character.
Because our environment shapes us, by decorating the classroom like their heritage, I helped them understand who they are. Showing them where they come from is just as important as discussing where they are going.
Is this your first book and will there be a follow-up book?
Yes, this is my first book. I have poured a lot of love and creation into this piece as I wanted to convey through words and artistry a captivating story that was colorfully full of light.
Complementing the text are illustrations by an amazing artist, Patrick Harrington. I worked very closely with him in culminating creative illustrations and working through the editing process. I even made sure that the editing process for the hardcover book brought back that classic feeling we had when the books were bigger and had more illustrations in the chapters.
Lots of illustrations in chapter books are known as Bridge Books. It was my goal to bring it all back because children love artwork, and the visuals aid them throughout the reading experience.
This book has also been formatted as an animated version for iPads and is available in the iTunes store. So far, Ms. Love's Mystical Island Adventure has received great reviews, and I will await the audience's full reaction to help me cultivate a second book.
What is a message you want your readers to know?
I would like to think that I was placed on this teaching path for a reason, which is using my background as a foster child to create hope for the future within the foster youth community.
As a foster youth activist, I am preparing a comprehensive proposal to present to the department of state. I have gathered information from different sources stating that people who have left the foster system 40 years ago are now seeing repercussions of their childhood.
Sadly, we see the same issues from people in the system now as we did back in the day. If the system has a problem, we should fix it. We are also seeing the treatment of children is the same over a lifetime, and that isn't okay. Same pain, different year.
So, just as I have inspired these children, I hope to light a spark within activists, writers, and parents to join me in reforming state laws pertaining to foster youth. It is always a pleasure meeting inspirational people, and this is a great cause. Foster children are very special, and they will exceed society's expectations. They are born survivors, so let's thrive together.
A message I leave my readers with is to give light - be a caring and humble human being as much as possible. Being a good person is not hard and cultivating positive relationships in the long run would help a lot. It's because everyone has something to offer no matter what your background.
Speaking with Susan Love made me realize that it takes a lot to be a teacher, writer, and activist. We should ask our children the important questions, helping them while they're young so they can be our bright future tomorrow.
Ms. Love sees her students as this shining beacon of hope for a greater future. She would have loved to receive this kind of support from peers or even older people when she was young, but she will provide that kind of hope to the younger generation.
After all, her 2nd grade classroom is now a castle of magical learning full of more adventures to come.
For more information visit: MsLovesMysticalIsland.com.
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