Bailey J. Thompson used to love playing with her gerbils and telling stories as a child. As she grew up she began working at a publishing company, but her dream was to create inspiring literature for all ages. She wanted to share her own lessons and experiences especially with children in an accessible and relatable way. She did this through the tales of her gerbils: Mocha, Petri and Melvin, with the old Victorian dollhouse she had as a child as the background to their adventures.
Now that Thompson has her own children's book publishing company, Gerbil Meets Mouse, based in Barrie, Ontario, she can create new stories that aim to teach children about the world we live in, and the issues, like the environment that effect all of us. While some stories are meant to be taken seriously, others have a much sillier tone. Thompson ultimately wants kids to enjoy and learn from the books. "The goal is to create a series of inspiring books that will hopefully inspire kids," says Thompson.
Gerbil Meets Mouse has three different series of books. One is Gerbs in the House, which all take place in the Victorian dollhouse. In this series, father and son duo Mocha and Petri get into all sorts of shenanigans. The Melvin books are set in a dream where anything is possible. Thompson says that the premise of the Melvin series is that "you can be anyone that you want, and do anything you want," through the experiences of Melvin, the gerbil.
The last series of books, EcoGerbs, is currently in production and Thompson is very excited to use this series to educate children about environmental issues. "The idea is to educate on the state of the environment, because I believe that children are the future of our civilization, and they deserve to know. So '’m hoping to create a series of books that feature two gerbils and educate children about different environmental issues, and hopefully inspire them to change their ways, or inspire them to inspire their parents," says Thompson.
She says that the state of the environment can be a scary reality for children, and even scarier for parents to address. So why use animals to teach children about serious and potentially scary issues? Thompson says that animals are a very relatable, friendly alternative to tell kids what is happening in a way that they aren't frightened for the future.
"Some parents are afraid of telling kids about certain issues, because it is kind of scary. But, if we approach the issues in a friendly manner, then hopefully kids are more exposed to it from a younger age, and then they grow up with more of an understanding of the environment, and hopefully more of a desire to change their ways," she says.
The latest book from Gerbil Meets Mouse, Gerbs in the House: The Dilly Dally Bedtime Routine, was written by Lydia Lukidis, the newest addition to the Gerbil Meets Mouse team. The book is about the humour of getting ready for bed, and was inspired by Lukidis' three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, whom she lovingly calls "the queen of the dilly dally."
Lukidis loves writing for children, especially those around her daughter's age and up to eight years old. She says that their imagination is unparalleled and she really has the freedom to bend reality when writing for this demographic. "They really believe in the magic, and they're not jaded and trying to be cool yet," she says.
Lukidis has been writing all of her life, and the past few years she says she has been focusing on children's literature. Although she has written 17 e-books for Smart Kidz Club, she had been trying to be physically published for quite a while. Her latest book, Gerbs in the House: The Dilly Dally Bedtime Routine, is her first published book in print.
Lukidis is the first writer besides Thompson to work for the publication company, and Thompson could not be happier with choosing Lukidis. "She's wonderful! She's made a great addition to our team," says Thompson of Lukidis.
Gerbil Meets Mouse stands alone as the only children’s literature publishing company in Barrie, and Thompson says it is a great place to be doing what they are doing. "I think that Canadians are very supportive of literature and basically it's been a lot of fun to share it with Canada and the rest of the world, as well. I have a couple purchases from places like Australia and of course the States," she says.
The Gerbil Meets Mouse Team have been scurrying around, preparing for their next few books. With EcoGerbs in production, as well as another book by Lukidis to be released in the near future, they will definitely have their paws full in the coming year.
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