Local Kids Help Write and Illustrate Anti-Bullying Book

By Cassandra Lane

“Can You Hear Us Now?” writer and illustrator Stella Havemark (left) poses with creator Joanne Veeck and her teacher, Sona Marsh, at Alta Vista Elementary School in Redondo Beach. PHOTO BY LIZ HAVEMARK

“I looked down inside my heart for friendship and love …” 

“Try not to let mean words get to you; they’re meaningless and a waste of energy. Don’t let bad people touch your heart.” 

“… if you really want to be happy, be kind, have a lot of friends, and follow your heart.” 

“When I share my candy and squishes, I see happy faces light up like exclamation points!” 

These quotes sound like positive memes you might see on the Instagram and Facebook pages of adults who have lived, loved, lost and are now ready to share their wisdom to uplift others. Well, except for that last one. It is a funny giveaway that these words of advice are not penned by wise adults, but by kids.  

But don’t dismiss these kids, who are also the authors and illustrators of a new book about kindness, happiness and anti-bullying called “Can You Hear Us Now?” These young artists, ages 5 to 12, worked with creator Joanne Veeck, who has a background in education and child development, to produce this colorful and heart-warming book. 

Veeck, also a certified life coach and children’s and YA author, says she hopes readers will treat the book like a workbook, as an impetus for reflecting and then taking action to raise awareness about the causes and effects of bullying and to help establish ways to eliminate it from schools and beyond.  

The 26 writers and illustrators, several of whom attend schools in L.A. County, draw on their personal experiences of being bullied or witnessing bullying. They write openly about how those experiences made them feel and contrast this with how it feels to have supportive friends. One picture depicts an oversized, foreground image of a happy-faced girl wearing a “Good Vibes Only” T-shirt, while in the background are smaller drawings of angry-faced kids. Above these unhappy kids are clouds dropping big blue drops of rain. “These are the bullies,” artist Hannah Shelton writes. “Bullying doesn’t make you happy.”  

The children write about the role of adults in helping stop bullying, and even about the times when telling a teacher did not help. They write about how to succeed in school and how to build the courage to talk to your bullies – and, in some cases, even try to befriend them. 

“They put their hearts, souls and many long hours into this important and timely book,” says Veeck, calling the young writer/illustrators “true heroes.” 

“Can You Hear Us Now?”  is available on BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com. For more on Joanne Veeck, who is hosting related school book fairs and presentations, visit lifecoachingbeyondlimits.com. 

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