Why are children's picture books important?

Q: Who are you? How would you describe yourself to your readers?

My name is Odeta Xheka. I am an artist, author, and fun mom boss in a quest to implement art in people's lives. I’m currently expanding picture book norms to create an interactive space where children can write, draw, and color ON the page in order to establish a sense of agency by adding to the story.

Q: Tell us about your book!

Here Comes Ingo​ is the story of ​Ingo​, a scarlet macaw who, while nursing her eggs, drifts off to sleep and dreams of flying about into the lush evergreen forest she calls home. Ingo's dream is a beautiful visual story that exemplifies a progression of thinking leading towards love, kindness, and inclusion because the world needs more empathetic, understanding, and tolerant children.

Ingo's flying adventures invite children to put their thinking caps on and figure out what the characters are thinking, feeling, and doing. This teaches them about about setting, structure, flow, and attention to detail. As with the best of books, at the conclusion of the story, the journey is not over. Ingo invites children to visit again and again in order to expand on Ingo’s dream world following into the tradition of classic books such as Good Night, Gorilla, The Adventures of Polo, Tuesday, Where's Walrus, Sea of Dreams, and The Red Book.

Q: Why did you decide to write this story?

“Page after page of exquisitely crafted compositions encourage children to resist feeling discouraged or scared in front of the unexpected and the unknown.”

I believe that all books for children should offer a truthful depiction of reality, all the while promoting a positive worldview. “Here Comes Ingo” is my honest attempt as an artist and a parent of young children to provide my young readers with a set of creative tools that can serve them in the future to push back against intolerance based on fear of the unknown. At the same time, this book is uniquely crafted to embrace children’s imagination and their innate sense of coloring,wonder and fun as they are invited to expand the story by drawing, coloring and painting on the page.

Q: What is special about your book?

‘“Here Comes Ingo” has a very clear and timely message: the value of open-mindness when faced with the unknown.”

At a time when old and young alike are continuously asked to think of the immigrant, the gender fluid, the poor, “the other” in terms that instill fear and confusion, “Here Comes Ingo” is the type of book that allocates agency to its young readers. As a longtime fan of Maurice Sendak and mother to a very inquisitive 8 year old boy and 6 year old girl, I don’t believe in sugar-coating reality. To me, this book is another way of approaching children with truth, honesty, and authenticity. With this book, I intend to make it safe for children to face things with eyes wide open and to accept that things can be confusing. That not “getting” something at first glance is totally acceptable. They are invited to look harder, probe deeper, and make sense of what is in front of them.

Q: What type of readers will be interested in your book?

“My illustrations create an interactive space for children to become the artist, not simply observe the art.”

I believe that artistic expression is a crucial part of human development. While “Here Comes Ingo” is officially intended for 4-8 year olds, this picture book strives to create a sensory experience for the whole family.

Children, parents, grandparents, guardians, and sitters alike are encouraged to incorporate Ingo and her friends into their everyday lives through play, crafting, games, writing, coloring, drawing, and doodling on each picture.

Ideal for kindergarten and grade school children this book may also be especially helpful to teachers who seek out opportunities for art projects, creative writing, and other education avenues that grip young readers’ imaginations while teaching them valuable lessons about:

  • Comprehension (look at this picture- what do you think is happening?)
  • Predicting (what do you think will happen next?)
  • Inferring (what makes you think that?)
  • Reasoning (what do you think that happened?)
  • Sequencing (what happened first? next? last?)