It began innocently, with a drawing of a frog by a mom trying to entertain a little girl.
Maya Soumokil was playing with her 5-year-old daughter Bella one day about five years ago, and decided to scribble the green amphibian on a chalkboard, while making up a story.
That little drawing inspired Bella, and she soon began creating a story of her own, about a little frog named Fred. Little by little, Bella added to the story, making notes on paper and drawing her own illustrations.
“The whole idea was that she was going to write a cute little story that she could send to her oma and nana (grandparents) in Wyoming and Missouri,” explained Aaron Soumokil. “That was it, just a way of connecting to them from far away, and showing them what their grandkid was up to.”
Five years later, that germ of an idea in Bella’s head became a full-fledged children’s book, just published and available on Amazon and other retailers’ sites.
Fred The Great is a 56-page story about a frog named Fred, who is “the most selfish and prideful of all the frogs,” according to the book’s description. “But his demands for everyone to follow his “rules” to keep order come to a screeching halt when Fred finds himself in the stomach of a huge catfish named Tigger. How will Fred escape? What lessons will he learn in the process?”
The book, published by Palm Coast-based CS Design, a marketing/publishing company run by Andy and Cathy Sanders, was released in late August and has made Bella a published author.
In an interview last week Bella said she was “proud” of the book. Now that it’s finally published, she can show it to her classmates at Christ the King Academy, where she attends 5th grade.
“They thought I was making this all up, that I wrote a book!” she exclaimed. “But the principal announced it one day and I had a copy of it to show.”
Creating Bella’s book was a years-long process, Aaron and Maya said. After first getting the idea, Bella started writing it little by little, and around age 8 began to put the story together with illustrations.
The Soumokil’s said Bella didn’t ask for help very often, just “if a word was spelled right, or something about punctuation,” Aaron said.
When she completed it, “I couldn’t believe how good it was,” Aaron said. “It was well thought-out and had lessons and I was so proud.”
Bella, who said her favorite kids books are Eric Carle’s Brown Bear and Hungry Hungry Caterpillar said writing has always been “a lot of fun and something she found enjoyable when not practicing piano or fooling around with her four brothers and sisters.
Once Bella had finished the book, Aaron and Maya said they approached Andy Sanders at the church they both belong to in Palm Coast, Life Coast Church.
Sanders agreed to take a look at Fred the Great when Aaron asked if maybe they could print 1-2 copies for family.
Sanders said he read it and was “blown away.”
“We’ve never worked with an author who was under 21, so I was a little skeptical when Aaron and Maya approached me,” Sanders said. “But once I started reading it, I thought it was incredible. I immediately wanted to work with her.”
The process of turning Bella’s story into a published work took about a year, Sanders said. His son, Michael Sanders, helped take Bella’s drawings and enhance them for the book form, and Bella said she was consulted on every part of the publishing process.
“They were great about keeping her in the loop on all of it,” Maya said. “And as it became more and more real, we got more excited. I don’t think Bella believed it was really going to be a book until she actually had a copy in her hands!”
Bella said her new goal is to make “Fred the Great” into a series, and she’s hard at work on her next book.
Asked what she thinks the lesson of her book is, she paused and thought.
“Humility, and family are important,” she said. “Fred gets to learn that in the end. I hope people like it.”
–Michael J. Lewis for FlaglerLive