"Why didn't I have these ideas when my kids were growing up?" author Brandie J. Larson asks with a laugh.
Sitting in her office with a big, packed bookshelf facing her, Larson carries the charisma to make a child's face light up when they enter the room. Her own three kids, between the ages of 10-12, joke with her when she brings up their attitude problems.
"Mom, I'm so past that stage," they say as they roll their eyes.
Yet Larson feels they understand her more than most kids their age.
As a mental health therapy intern at Krisma Counseling in Fairmont, she read behavioral books to troubled kids. To her surprise, they expressed an avid interest in reading. In fact, they knew where their favorite books were on the shelf.
She had her own hero who inspired her as she wrote her books - Mercer Mayer. Reading his books while growing up provided her with the inspiration to write her BJ series.
Originally, she planned for her books to be just for the kids in the office she treated. But after getting more and more referrals, she decided she would give her books more publicity, with the idea that parents might find them helpful. She brainstormed what kids might relate to, and since most cannot name just one animal they like, Larson thought it would be a good idea to bring out a strong character in an animal kids could identify with.
"A child's behavior can be positive or negative," Larson clarified.
She got many of her ideas from the kids she worked with. One struggled with anger. Automatically she thought of a lion, whose roar is so powerful. In her book where BJ, the main character, yells at a sibling for touching a favorite toy, BJ becomes a lion.
"Kids need to see where certain behaviors need to come out," Larson said. "Defending yourself in a situation where you feel bullied would be understandable, but not to yell at your brother."
In the book, BJ talks to her grandpa about it and, as always, grandparents are up for imparting their insight. Grandpa asks how she doesn't know if her sibling wants to play with her. He says she sometimes has to become an inquisitive monkey and ask questions, rather than automatically jumping to conclusions.
Larson has taken many of her concepts for BJ's problem-solving from Love and Logic, a parenting resource that helps parents and kids understand each other. Love and Logic determines the natural consequences of the actions of either the parent or the child.
"You should turn your words into gold," Larson said. "The calmer and the more empathetic we are with our kids, the further we will get with them."
She hopes parents, not just the kids, will be able to take the lessons she has integrated into her books and expand them accordingly.
"Instead of shaming our kids, sometimes we need to take our time with them," Larson added. "It will provide them with the confidence they will need later in life."
Not only does she want her readers to identify their behaviors through identifying with the characters, but she also wants anybody, regardless of race or gender, to enjoy the books. Personally, she has a couple cousins from Korea and China her relatives adopted. The first thing she wrestled with was coming up with a character's name and eventually, she settled on her nickname growing up.
"Jean was my middle name, so my nickname growing up was BJ," she stated. "I have a fondness for it and it fit."
BJ is blue with short hair. As for determining how the other characters would look, Larson thought she would make her illustrations fun and filled with color. Instead of characters having a particular color - like blue - she made them all the colors of the rainbow.
"If I could visit classrooms and read every day, I'd be in Seventh Heaven." Larson said with a smile.
She welcomes all ages to her book-signing event Friday. It will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m.