Wow BEA (Book Expo America) really blew my mind. I’ve been to hundreds of comic and sci-fi conventions in my life, I’ve even covered Toy Fair, but I had no frame of reference for this convention.
I love books, always have, one of my first “real” jobs was working for Barnes and Noble. I was there for a good stretch and went from Bookseller up to Section manager and Key-holder and on to Receiving Manager for a fairly large location. Needless to say the book business isn’t new to me, but walking into the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC and seeing it packed from end to end with books! Wow I was in heaven! As you expect there are publishers large and small to be found in the aisles of BEA and I did my best to speak to all of them.
One of the companies that caught my attention was MutasiA – Creative Educational Entertainment, they have an interesting concept, one they’re expanding into animation, apps, books, and even toys. The concept is pretty simple, on the island of MutasiA you’ll find all manner of mixed up creatures, some have beaks, some have snouts, some have wings, or horns, or elephant trunks. What’s the unifying thread? The tagline says it best “We’re Mixed Up but Not Confused!”. The company was founded by Tami Cotsakos, a former K-12 elementary school music teacher and its goal is “creating an environment that encourages creativity and teaches about life’s many lessons in a fun and humorous way.” I think they’re definitely reaching that goal, especially with this book.
The main character in The Endless Caverns, MutasiA’s first chapter book, is Figley. He is a Possum-Cow-Finch. The youngest member of the group, Figley is still figuring out who he is, what he likes, who he wants to be, and he looks to his older friends for guidance. In The Endless Caverns, Figley comes to terms with his fear of not being good enough, brave enough, smart enough, in the eyes of his friends as well as his own. Talked into going on an adventure by his friend Rhumbler (Rhinoceros-Beaver-Bumble Bee) they head off to accompany some of the older kids in a trip to the endless caverns (dun dun duuunnnn). Along the way they get into varying degrees of trouble and Figley learns to trust his instincts and speak up when he has an idea.
I was very pleased with MutasiA as a concept and as an actual book. My first fear upon hearing the tagline “We’re Mixed Up but Not Confused!” I assumed every story would revolve around the animals dealing with their differences. This story didn’t dwell on the fact that every animal is different, it puts that fact out there in a very “matter of fact” positive way. This book really took the time to illustrate how hard it is to be confident in oneself and how rewarding that confidence can be once achieved. Author (and educator) Michael Flynn does a great job of making his point without hitting you over the head with it and Judah’s illustrations are whimsical and engaging, he really brings the Figley’s world to life. I passed it on to my eight year old and she read it in one sitting and went back for another read later on. Of course getting your eight year old daughter to admit that the book had good lessons about something is nigh impossible I can say without a doubt that she enjoyed the story, the characters, and I’m sure she’ll read any future books I offer her from the series. To top off how much I enjoyed the book I found out there are downloadable lesson plans that deal with several of the concepts put forward in the story.
If you’re an educator or a parent I highly recommend checking out MutasiA!
THE WACKY WORLD OF FIGLEY FINCH: CHAPTER BOOK SERIES VOLUME 1
The Endless Caverns
Written by: Michael Flynn
Illustrated by: Judah Dobin
8.5” x 5.5”
7 full-page color illustrations, 14 grey scale illustrations