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Meet Riley, The Girl with the Magic Ponytails
Riley is an imaginative child with a great big secret flowing through her extra-long, chocolate brown ponytails. With a flip, a swoosh, and a twirl, she sparks a special kind of magic with her ponytails, allowing her to set sail on the high seas with a neighborhood dog, latch onto a shimmering star, skate on the ribbons of a rainbow, and even time travel to a pre-historic land where she meets up with a ginormous friend.
From Huqua Press, the publisher of Grammy Award-winning Brandi Carlile's children's book Caroline, Graham Nash's Our House, and Heart sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson's Dog and Butterfly,The Girl with the Magic Ponytails offers colorful imagery and engaging prose for children under eight, designed to unleash their vivid imaginations as they discover their own unique magic. Written by Karen J. Young and illustrated by Yoko Matsuoka.
Karen Young is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor specializing in food, tourism, and human interest stories. When not at a computer, she loves to wander and discover new places. Do you want to know where to find the best grilled cheese in the world? Just ask! A graduate of the University of California Berkeley, Karen's career has transversed through the worlds of journalism and entertainment as a newspaper and magazine editor, website founder, book editor, public relations/social media consultant, and food festival curator. She is the mother of two grown children who often chide her for having a bad case of 'FOMO,'and has a little white dog who goes by the name of 'Lu.' Her secret desire is to be a private investigator. The Girl with the Magic Ponytails is her first children's book.
The Girl with the Magic Ponytails was inspired by my daughter, Rachel, who was born with a full head of dark brown hair that from early on was styled into two symmetrical ponytails. As Rachel grew, so did her ponytails. Up until elementary school, Rachel would rarely leave the house without them.
And on that rare occasion when she would be seen without her signature look, Rachel would quite literally take matters into her own little hands. The image of her quickly grabbing two bundles of untamed hair on either side of her head is forever etched in my happy memory bank.
A coy smile, along with a look of determination, would cross her face as she held her hair tight—impromptu ponytails intact. She could never really say exactly why she was so attached to her ponytails. I always thought that for Rachel, the ponytails held some kind of “magic." The kind that spurs imagination, lifts the spirit, and ultimately, strengthens identity.
Inspired by Rachel. Pictured: age 4
And so, I wrote a story about a little girl who wore ‘magic’ ponytails— and through them, experienced a world of possibility. But as I often do with my writing, I put the story away in a drawer. I’ve written hundreds of published articles that I’ve been paid to write, but showing creative work always seemed riskier to reveal.
Years later, while moving out of the home where I raised Rachel, and her older brother, Adam, I found the manuscript. Serendipity seemed at play when I met with my former newspaper publisher, Judy Proffer. She had gone on to build a book publishing company, Huqua and Padaro Press.
I never mentioned my hidden writing stash, so I took myself by surprise (and her) when I blurted out I had written a few children’s stories. She said she was only publishing select titles, but still, I should send her my work. And so I did. Within a short time she responded — and said she’d like to publish this story.
It’s been an incredibly rewarding and joyous two-year process collaborating with Judy — and across international time zones with the supremely talented, award-winning illustrator Yoko Matsuoka, who resides in the mountains of Akita, Japan.
Lesson learned: create and share your work...imagination and self-confidence can take you wherever you want to go — without actually going anywhere.