Around the World
Mother Gina Cascone of Lawrenceville and daughter Bryony Williams Sheppard of Ewing teamed up to write a children’s book, Around the World Right Now, which was illustrated by Olivia Beckman and published on May 15th, 2017.
The picture book is an exploration of one moment in time in all 24 time zones, and is designed to introduce children to the countless different cultures in the planet. With each time zone, the book showcases a unique cultural activity that happens only in that location around that time.
While Cascone is a professional writer, the idea for the story actually came from Williams, a preschool teacher. “Every time (my students) ask me questions, I try my best to to answer their questions so that they are exploring the answer as opposed to me just telling them the answer,” Williams said.
“Every now and then they ask me questions, and I can’t find the right book to answer their questions. So I come up with really good ideas for books when I’m talking to the kids, and I complain to my mother that I want her to take care of it. Somehow, she just sucked me into this project,” she continued.
Cascone added her perspective, and the importance of their granddaughter in the process. “Sydney, who was 6 at the time, kept asking ‘What time is it in China? What time is it in Italy? What time is in it England?’. So Bryony said she would put a big map with clocks on the wall and I responded ‘I know something else we can do.’”
The process from the idea to the publication of the book took over two years, and the mother-daughter pair faced their fair share of obstacles. Even though Cascone has vast experience with writing, she believes this project was one of her toughest. “This is my first picture book. I’ve written for adults, teachers, and middle grades, and what I’ve noticed is that every time you go down a level, the work gets harder and harder. It’s much easier to write for adults, a little easier to write for teens, but by the time you get down to having to create an entire scene in maybe two sentences, and make it every bit as vibrant, while being careful about your vocabulary, it becomes a lot of work,” Cascone said.
“The other thing about this audience: don’t try to fool them. They are honest and you can’t get anything past them, so you better be true,” she continued.
Furthermore, as the time grew later in the night, it became harder to find a culturally exclusive activity, so the duo had to research. “When we got to 4 a.m., the time zone covered Hawaii and we couldn’t imagine what was happening there at that time, so we called a library in Hawaii and spoke to the librarian, explained our project, and asked what could possibly be happening at that time that would be interesting to children,” Cascone said.
“After a couple of hours, she called us back and gave us some choices, and the one that we liked was that at 4 a.m. in Hawaii, avid surfers go surfing before they go to work in the morning,” she continued.
Although the process was hard, Cascone believes that the pair worked well naturally since “Bryony has always been my creative consultant, especially when I was writing for teens and younger kids. I would talk (stories) over and see which way I should go with it.”
Through working together to create the book, Cascone and Williams learned a great deal about both the real world and the publishing world. Since both of Williams’ parents work in publishing, she was “fairly certain that I knew everything there was regarding publishing, when in reality I knew very little. It’s a long process, it takes a lot of patience, and while I’ve seen my mother and father deal with all of this, I’ve never actually been a part of it until now,” Williams said.
Williams also admitted that before writing the book, she felt “pretty knowledgeable when it comes to different places around the world.” However, through research and exploration, she “learned far more about the world than I ever knew before,” a sentiment that she hopes the readers of the book will share.
Overall, Williams believes the process was “long but definitely worth it.” Cascone admits that they could not have done this alone, and along with the help of each other, they were supported by great colleagues. “Our publisher is Sleeping Bear Press, they’re in Ann Arbor, MI, and our editor, Barb McNally is absolutely the most wonderful and detail oriented person with a great sense of humor.”
“The artist that was brought on, Olivia Beckman, did the most beautiful work. When Bryony and I saw the work she had done, we went back to our notes and found that she had outdid every expectation we had. She currently lives in Germany and paints murals on walls of children’s hospitals, so the artwork couldn’t be nicer. Our agent, Andy Ross, was also wonderful. So it takes a village, it really does,” Cascone added.
Williams also thanked her daughter, and Cascone exclaimed that the “book was made with the power of three generations.”
Lastly, Cascone thanked the “great unsung heroes, the booksellers. These are the people who read the books, speak to authors and help others in the stores. Booksellers are absolutely integral in getting the word out and disseminating great information and entertainment.”
While the book is meant for children, the authors believe that it can, and will, be equally entertaining and educational for adults. “We tried to put some jokes in there for parents. One of my favorite pages, the one that makes me always laugh, is that ‘It’s 11 a.m. in Rio and a girl from Ipanema goes walking on the beach,’” Williams said, referring to the Frank Sinatra song.
The pair hope that children and adults alike around the world will enjoy their book, but their satisfaction came from the personal impact of the project. “I’ve read the book to my son, my preschoolers, and my daughter’s third grade class last year, and it was fantastic to watch the questions and the excitement and the ideas that these kids have about something I produced.,” Williams said.
“It’s just been such a joy to watch them come up with all these ideas, because this is what my goal as a teacher is, to excite and provoke playful thoughts and having them want to explore the world. This book really helps them start with that, and it makes me very happy,” she added.
Cascone touched on the warmth and enjoyment gained from the project even before publication. “It’s a collaboration between a mother and a daughter. The absolute joy and laughter that we had during the process is priceless. The fact that it came from my granddaughter, my daughter’s daughter, and that we’ve learned so much, was wonderful.”
“We (also) feel that this is a very important message at this particular point in time, that all around the world, yes we do things differently, but we’re really all the same at heart. And that’s really the crux of it all,” Cascone concluded.
After seeing the success and impact of the first book, the duo are currently working on other ideas in the ‘Around the World’ theme, such as sports, food and homes. “There’s almost every topic possible, to show children that we do many things differently, but at our hearts we are the same.”
Gina Cascone, 61, is a writer by profession since 1984, having worked on various titles, such as Deadtime Stories and Life Al Dente: Laughter and Love in an Italian-American Family. She was born in Trenton, lives in Lawrenceville, and attended Boston University. Her husband Roger Williams is 62, and she has two children, Bryony and Roger Williams, who is 41.
Bryony Williams, 37 and a preschool teacher at Princeton Junior School. She was born in Hamilton, lives in Ewing, and studied at Emerson University. Her husband Kevin Williams is 38, and she has two children, Sydney, who is 9, and Ewan, who is 3.
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