Every now and then I get the opportunity to review independent children’s book authors, a slightly off-topic blog exercise that the writer in me LOVES doing. Last year, I set out to review more authors or characters of color.
Today’s review features Alabama-based author Dr. Barbara J. Regan and her first illustrated children’s book “Ronnie and the Fishes”. Her book is self-published through LifeRich Publishing at Reader’s Digest. I also believe she’s in her early 80s, so huge props to her for being such an awesome example of someone who follows their dreams regardless of age.
My children’s book reviews are a side passion project to help show my support of authors of color, female authors and independent authors. As a writer, I know how much work, love and integrity goes into each of these projects – big or small. It’s important to me to help show the world that, too. These books are usually #gifted to me to review, but all opinions are my own. [disclosure]
The story follows a boy named Ronnie (inspired by Regan’s younger brother) whose imagination takes him on a colorful journey under the sea where he learns all about sea life after playing in his small backyard wading pool. Ronnie is BIPOC ( representative of Black, Indigenous and people of color).
Fun Factor: The level of imagination in the story is super fun. Plus, using the backyard pool as a springboard into exploring sea life is something I think a lot of kids can relate to or picture themselves doing. The story also does a spectacular job at describing the different types of fish and what’s special about each of them including their actual names and colors. That level of detail gives the book a nice science-y element to it.
Digital Illustrations: The cover is so inviting, the kids and I got an immediate feeling that we were in for a treat before we got to the pages inside. The kids and I talked about how we liked seeing a happy, smiling Ronnie on the back of a huge fish under a bright and captivating rainbow over the sea. That same style of illustration is presented elsewhere in the book, too. But not everywhere.
Length: It’s a little too long. But if you have super focused young readers at home the longer narrative could work for you.
Other Illustrations: The book says it’s written and illustrated by Regan, but about half its art is hand-drawn crayon drawings. It makes me wonder if they’re her brother’s childhood drawings? Or, if perhaps Regan drew them herself in a childlike way to relate to her young audience? In any case, I’m left wondering with no answer. And, the drawings aren’t as bright and fun as its digital illustrated pages (like the book cover). One or two of the crayon drawings would’ve been cute to honor Ronnie’s imagination, but I think the bulk of the art should’ve remained the digital kind to keep it cohesive, bright, and fun.
Attracting kids to the colors of nature was something Regan sought in writing the book in the first place. Here’s a quote from her:
“I wanted the book to be colorful so that the children who may not know how to read will still be attracted to the book due to the bright colors and different images of fish,” said Dr. Regan. “I hope to encourage advanced readers to broaden their knowledge and keep their interest high. It is also intended to encourage readers who may want to explore and learn about other water animals who live in the sea.”
If you have a kiddo that’s curious about life under the sea, I encourage you to check out the drawings and story for yourself. “Ronnie and the Fishes” is available to purchase in my #diversebooksforkids Influencer Shop on Amazon. Children benefit from a library of inclusive and diverse books. I encourage you to check out my full list of recommendations.
Barbara J. Regan is a retired educator in Pelham, Alabama. She earned her doctorate in educational administration at Northern Illinois University. She started her career as an eighth-grade math teacher and moved forward to become a department chairman, high school principal and university professor and administrator. “Ronnie and the Fishes” is her first children’s book, and is based on her brother Ronnie. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any social media channels to link but other titles where her name comes up in the copyright database are Professional socialization of women of color into the role of school district superintendent: intrinsic indicators of independent success; and Old Ladies Wear Undershirts.