Storytelling is sometimes the best way to raise awareness and spread a much-needed message.
Canarsie resident Alisha Sylvain has a personal connection to the fictional children’s book she crafted during the September 2021 pandemic titled: The Adventures of Soleil and Ava: The Perilous Pet.
Drawing inspiration from her own daughter’s physical challenges, she is eager to share the lessons and values expressed in her book. Sylvain has found that there is a limited population of books focusing on the challenges children with disabilities face and overcome.
Canarian mail recently spoke exclusively with the author and speech therapist, whose book features his two daughters as the main characters.
“I started writing little anecdotes in my diary and filming their interactions,” said
Sylvain. “My 21-year-old daughter Soleil is depicted throughout the story, using her trusty wheelchair to get around. My other daughter, Ava-Marie, is a typically developing and courageous 7-year-old girl. Soleil is a very resilient, intelligent, sensitive and loving young woman. Ava-Marie is a magical, compassionate, caring thinker and one of her sister’s greatest advocates. Sun has global developmental delays. She uses a wheelchair to get around and communicates primarily through signs, gestures and/or a simple communication device.
Sylvain sends the characters on a creative journey.
“In this book, the girls use their imagination to go into the jungle where they encounter a grassy field in which the Sun’s chair gets stuck and they come across a very hungry tiger”, says the author. “Aiding each other, they use their wits and strength to free Sun’s chair and outsmart the tiger.”
Sylvain attributes her writing to her career, as she spent 17 years working with inner-city children and young adults as a speech therapist. Its mission is to help individuals communicate effectively, whether through verbal language or another form of communication.
“I also do early intervention with children from the age of 3. Having the experience of working with people with various communication abilities and disabilities definitely helped me write my book,” she said. “I also wanted the images in the book to be vivid and tell a story even without the words.”
A resident of Canarsie for 20 years, Sylvain has always wanted to write a children’s book. She began to take her passion seriously during the pandemic, using her professional tools and psychological resources to inspire and empower all children, especially those with disabilities.
“My hope is to see more books in circulation that portray these children in a positive and uplifting way and encourage messages of inclusion, kindness, passion, resilience and understanding.”
A second book – and maybe even a series – could see the light of day soon, since Sylvain is currently working on continuing the adventures of his daughters’ characters.
“The series will feature Ava-Marie and Soleil in a variety of difficult situations and in different locations. They will use their imagination, trial and error and Soleil’s trusty wheelchair to navigate the world,” she said.
“This book is about teaching without limits to one’s creativity and abilities. It also encompasses the bond that sisters can have despite their physical and cognitive differences.
Sylvain’s e-book is available on Amazon and is also available in hard copy.
Photos courtesy of Alisha Sylvain