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 pandemic in September 2021 entitled: Soleil and Ava’s Adventures: The Perilous Pet.
Based on inspiration from her own daughter’s physical challenges, she’s eager to share the lessons and values expressed in her book. Sylvain found that there are a limited population of books geared toward the challenges disabled children face and overcome.
The Canarsie Courier recently spoke exclusively with the author and speech pathologist, whose book features both of her daughters as the main characters.
“I began writing little anecdotes in my journal as well as videotaping their interactions,” said Sylvain. “My daughter Soleil, 21, is pictured throughout the story, using her trusty wheelchair to get around. My other daughter, Ava-Marie, is a typically developing, spunky 7-year-old. Soleil is a very resilient, smart, sensitive and loving young lady. Ava-Marie is a magical thinker, compassionate, caring and is one of her sister’s biggest advocates. Soleil has global developmental delays. She relies on a wheelchair to get around and communicates mainly using simple signs, gestures and/or a communication device.”
Sylvain sends the characters on a creative journey.
“In this book, the girls use their imagination to go off into the jungle where they encounter a grassy terrain in which Soleil’s chair gets stuck and they come across a very hungry tiger,” the author said. “With each other’s help, they use their smarts and strength to free Soleil’s chair and outwit the tiger.”
Sylvain accredits her writing to her career, as she has spent 17 years working with inner-city children and young adults as a speech pathologist. Her mission is to help individuals communicate effectively – whether it be through verbal language or an alternative form of communication.
“I also do early intervention with children as young as 3 years old. Having the experience of working with people with a range of abilities and communication disorders has 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 always wanted to write a children’s book. She began taking her passion seriously during the pandemic, using her professional tools and psychological resources to help inspire and empower all children – especially the disabled.
“My hope is to see more books in circulation that represent these children in a positive and uplifting way and encourage messages of inclusion, kindness, passion, resilience and understanding.”
A second book – and possibly even a series – could be debuting soon, as Sylvain is currently working on continuing the adventures of her daughters’ characters.
”The series will feature Ava-Marie and Soleil in a variety of challenging situations and different locations. They will use their imaginations, trial and error, and Soleil’s trusty wheelchair to navigate the world,” she said.
“This book is about teaching no limits to one’s creativity and abilities. It also embraces the bond that sisters can have despite their physical and cognitive differences.”
Sylvain’s E-book can be found on Amazon and is also available in paperback.
Photos courtesy of Alisha Sylvain