I have partnered with The Children’s Book Review and authors Blossom Children’s Media Group, LLC for a special author interview with Caroline and Katherine Brickley, authors of The Friendly Bookshelf. Be sure to check out the book giveaway at the end of the interview.
Publisher’s Synopsis: Meet Bibli, a brave little library bookshelf in search of a story about someone like him . . .
Once upon a time, in a library like any other, there lived a little bookshelf named Bibli who carried a BIG question on his shelves: “Could there be a story somewhere about a bookshelf like me?” Bibli is told that bookshelves are supposed to hold stories, not have ones of their own. But everything changes when he meets Cassie, a girl longing for a friend just as much as Bibli longs for a story to relate to. Bibli learns that with kindness, confidence, empathy, and friendship, even your biggest dreams can come true—and that everyone has an important story worth sharing.
The Friendly Bookshelf is a social-emotional learning (SEL) research-based book and the first-ever picture book about a bookshelf. Written to build self-confidence and self-esteem as well as encourage inclusivity, Bibli’s story empowers children to be brave, be a friend, and always be your-shelf! Readers will be inspired to go beyond the final page of the book and share their own stories, as well as be the pioneers of a kinder, more inclusive world where everybody (and every bookshelf!) belongs.
About the Authors:
Caroline and Katherine Brickley are twin sisters and the award-winning authors of The Blossom Shoppe and The Friendly Bookshelf. Inspired by their mother, who made up stories for them each night, the sisters spent their childhood coming up with stories of their own and bringing them to life. As they grew, so did their passion for storytelling, and in 2017 the sisters made it their full-time job by founding Blossom Children’s Media Group (Blossom) from their shared college dorm room.
Now a multi-award-winning company known for excellence in children’s literature and family content, Blossom continues to bring children, families, and educators from around the world together through wholesome stories and inclusive community experiences. In their free time, Caroline and Katherine love to swim, travel, and spend time with friends and family, including their goldendoodle, Sugar, who served as the inspiration for the library dog featured in The Friendly Bookshelf.
For more information, visit https://www.thefriendlybookshelf.com/.
1. What inspired you to write The Friendly Bookshelf?
When we first began writing The Friendly Bookshelf in early 2020, the initial drafts of the story were actually about a bookshelf named Bibli that helped children find and share their stories. But, as we revised and revised and imagined this lonely little library bookshelf hidden away in the back corner of the children’s section, we couldn’t help but wonder, “What about Bibli’s story?” Bookshelves have literally always been in the background, holding the stories of others but never their own.
That’s when it struck us: So many of us have felt just like Bibli at one point or another in our lives —left out, forgotten, and wondering, “Do I have a story? A story worth telling?” Having experienced severe bullying during high school, we knew this feeling all too well, and it was in fact what inspired us to begin writing and creating content for children in the first place (which we discuss more in question 6).
As we set out to write a new story that would empower children to recognize the unique stories they themselves carry inside as well as celebrate those of others, we believed that there was no better character to help us do this than a little library bookshelf named Bibli. And so we made a BIG change to the story of The Friendly Bookshelf: Putting Bibli and his search to find a story about someone like him at the forefront, we dedicated ourselves to weaving a meaningful story that would gently reassure children and adults alike that we all have an important story worth telling. Collaborating with an SEL learning expert (Tech Play Collaborative) on The Friendly Bookshelf has ensured that the story will meet this important mission in a world where children long and deserve to feel seen, heard, and accepted for who they are.
2. What is the biggest lesson you hope readers take away from this story?
The book’s message that everyone has a story is most certainly one of the biggest that we hope readers will take away from the book, inspiring them to go out into the world with a newfound confidence to proudly tell their own. But perhaps an even more critical takeaway is the importance of kindness and friendship. It is through friendship that both Bibli and Cassie find the courage to be who they are and ultimately rewrite the course of BOTH of their stories and promote a world where everybody, and every bookshelf, belongs. We hope our readers will be inspired to go out into the world and do the same by being brave, being a friend, and always being them-shelves!
3. What was your favorite story as a child?
We had a TON of favorite books as children and our wonderful mom would never say no to reading our favorites over and over again. Katherine’s favorite book was Sleepy Bears by Mem Fox and Caroline’s was Stellaluna by Janell Cannon.
4. If you could name one person who believed in you and has been an encouragement in your life, who would it be?
We could not name just one: Our mom, Ann, our grandma, Althea, and our grandpa, John, have and always will be our greatest supporters and sources of inspiration. Not only did they fill our childhood with stories and books, they also filled it with the belief that we could write our own. It is only because of their love and encouragement that we were able to do just that!
5. Tell us about Blossom Children’s Media Group.
We launched Blossom Children’s Media Group (Blossom) in our junior year of college and it is an award-winning, independent children’s media company dedicated to growing lifelong readers and empathetic leaders through an enriching combination of original stories, story-based content, and community-centered experiences.
Blossom publishes beautiful picture books that are as entertaining as they are enriching. We then take each story off the page through a healthy mixture of online and offline story-based content, creating music, videos, printables, merchandise, and more that excite children about reading.
We are motivated by our vision for a world where every child has access to the resources and support they need to learn, grow, and blossom to their fullest potential. We hope that the messages we convey through our storytelling will help inspire a more wonderful, colorful, and kind world where everybody feels that they belong.
6. What inspired you to start this media company?
We began developing Blossom during our freshman year of college from our shared college dorm room, and eventually launched it during our junior year. We came up with the idea for Blossom after launching a children’s event entertainment company (Happily Ever After) in high school, where every weekend we would dress up as popular TV & film characters and perform at children’s events.
Now, you may be wondering, what propelled us to start this company as only high school students? We decided to launch Happily Ever After after experiencing severe bullying in high school, which made us realize that children of all ages may be going through similar situations and longing to find a place where they could feel accepted for who they are. This motivated us to want to create a safe space for not only ourselves but for all children to be able to grow, be themselves, and practice kindness, compassion, and empathy within. And so, instead of asking our mom for a sweet sixteen party we asked her to help us start our first business. Through this company, we were able to spend our final two years of high school providing wholesome entertainment events for children. It became one of the most highly regarded children’s event companies in the tri-state area.
Through this experience, we discovered the magic in creating characters that generations of children could look up to and find a friend in. This discovery planted the seed from which our desire to create our very own magic by developing stories and characters of our own grew.
Inspired by the way children interacted with characters they had seen on TV or in movies, we wondered if we could similarly use a cross-platform, onscreen and offscreen approach to get children excited about books and reading. And so, Blossom was born through the idea of producing original, wholesome picture books that children could experience in a number of meaningful ways to ultimately further engage and excite them in the reading process.
Looking back at our bullying experience that took place 10 years ago, we would never have imagined that something so positive would’ve come from it. Since then, we’ve grown into confident young female entrepreneurs that have built a community of children, families, educators, and librarians from around the world that are all on the same mission to create a kinder, more inclusive world where everybody belongs.
7. What is one thing you would say to someone who questions if their story matters?
Looking back on our own childhood, we realized that more often than not, we found inspiration and courage in the books we read, featuring characters that we could relate to, who overcame challenges similar to the ones we were facing. Everyone has a story that matters because when we take courage to write and share our unique experiences and beliefs through stories, we allow readers (whether it’s many or just one!) to realize they’re not alone, that they’re important and unique, and that they have the power to overcome challenges not in spite of but because of who they are. When we find the courage to write and share our stories, we can even help others find the courage to write it down, and even better, to share it with others!