“It’s a Playful Journey”: MuggleNet Chats with Transfiguring Adoption About New Book
by Gretchen Roesch · Published · Updated
Transfiguring Adoption has been working to put good into the world for several years. We previously spoke with its president, Darren Fink, about the nonprofit and the incredible work it does with foster and adoptive families.
We recently had the chance to speak again with Darren, who authored the organization’s upcoming book, and Alexandra Brodt, the illustrator, to discuss A Guide to Magical Creatures Around Your Home: A Playful Journey for Fun-Loving Families.
We chat with Transfiguring Adoption Darren Fink and Alexandra Brodt about their upcoming book, "A Guide To Magical Creatures Around Your Home: A Playful Journey For Fun-Loving Families."https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Magical-Creatures-Around-Your/dp/1949856275?tag=mugglenet06-20 Families will become obsessed with these amazing new creatures while learning how to use play to create bonds and tackle difficult topics. Newt Scamander would approve!
Posted by MuggleNet.com on Tuesday, 14 July 2020
For Fink, this book is a culmination of ten years of creativity and play. Many of the creatures and activities in this book were originally created by him as a way to connect with his children. He explains that oftentimes foster and adoptive children haven’t learned how to play. This book is uniquely structured to help adults teach children how to play and how to use that play to discuss and work through trauma. While sitting and talking about trauma can be scary, Fink says approaching topics through a lens of play can help open up these tough conversations.
If I have food hoarding issues, let’s maybe watch ‘The Little Mermaid’, and Ariel has got some hoarding issues going on. She likes to collect some stuff. Let’s talk about Ariel, what worked for Ariel, what didn’t work for Ariel. Why do you think she had to collect all of this stuff? What was that? So now we’re talking about Ariel’s issues. I’m not talking about my issues, because who wants to talk about my issues? We’ll get to my issues eventually, but let’s have the hard conversation about Ariel and talk about her, and then we’ll talk about me or the caregiver, or whoever.
Each chapter of the book highlights a different magical creature, each of which is an original creation. You won’t find Nifflers or Bowtruckles here. Instead, you’ll meet the Charmyrll, Fleet Bird, Drleck, and more. The book is narrated by a young girl named Jasmine, who’s finding the creatures with her family. Each creature is beautifully illustrated by Brodt, and the text by Fink describes the creatures’ actions, habits, and traits.
Brodt based her illustrations purely off Fink’s descriptions of each creature, and she’s enjoying seeing the response to the pictures.
I know Darren gave life to the concept of them, but people are like, ‘Oh, the Charmyrll is so adorable! I want one!’ It makes me happy to see that people are enjoying the illustrations.
While the length of the book might be intimidating, Fink doesn’t want anyone to worry.
It’s a playful journey. So it’s not something that you’re intended to sit down and read all in one sitting. It’s something that you’re intended to journey together with someone.
As you journey through the book with your family or friends, you can also complete the activities in the accompanying guide (you’ll find directions for downloading it in the book). These activities are designed to help you play, using the creatures as your guide. It really is a playful journey for people of all ages.
A Guide to Magical Creatures Around Your Home will be released on July 24, 2020. While it’s the perfect book for foster and adoptive families, it’s also great for any Harry Potter fan. Potter‘s own Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley) has publicly supported Transfiguring Adoption for years, and if you purchase the book, you’ll find a special forward from him. Even if you aren’t part of an adoptive or foster family, Fink says it’s worth grabbing a copy just for Rankin’s forward.
So it is a major reason to read the book, I think, because he just wrote a really cool forward that just asks you to believe in magic and how important it is.
You can buy your copy of this incredible book on Amazon. Visit Transfiguring Adoption’s website to learn more about the organization, and find Alexandra Brodt on Twitter and Instagram at @AlexandraBrodt and Etsy at LotusInks.
We can’t wait to learn more about these fantastic beasts and how to play with them!
Transcribed by Marissa Osman
Gretchen Roesch: Hi, everyone! This is Gretchen! I'm the News Team Manager for MuggleNet. I am here with the team behind A Guide to Magical Creatures Around Your Home: A Playful Journey for Fun-Loving Families. I'm joined by the author Darren Fink and the illustrator Alexandra Brodt tot all about this really exciting book that comes from Transfiguring Adoption. Darren, would you like to introduce yourself to everyone?
Darren Fink: Yes. I am the author of the book, and I'm also the president of Transfiguring Adoption - cofounder - my wife and I, eons ago it seems like, just started reading the Harry Potter series with our foster and now adoptive kids, and our kids made discussion guides that used the Harry Potter series to help kids walk through trauma, and that got popular. The short story is that it become a nonprofit that reaches internationally and helps families all over the place, and now we have this therapeutic children's book that's coming out.
Gretchen: Awesome. Very exciting. Alexandra, how about you?
Alexandra Brodt: Hi! I am an illustrator and graphic designer, and I have been working in illustration and design for the last ten years. I'm also the Assistant Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI - the Society for Children's Books, Writers, and Illustrators - so I've always wanted to work on a children's book and I was so excited to meet Darren at LeakyCon a couple of years ago and we just clicked and were able to work together to create this awesome book. He created the book, I just illustrated [unintelligible] [laughs].
Darren: All of it came together! It all came together.
Gretchen: How long have you been working on the book?
Darren: Are you talking to me?
Gretchen: Either of you! Both of you!
Darren: Either! [laughs] So the book, for me, it seems like a lifetime. So when our kiddos first came to our home, a lot of things that I didn't know about was that children from traumatic places often... You think of children as being able to play, and just knowing how to play; they just have an innate ability to play. Not so much with our children. A lot of them that we see that come into our home from traumatic places, they have to be the adult because the adults on duty weren't really on duty. And so the children have to learn to be the adults and take care of things. And so because of that, they skip their childhood; they don't know how to play. For me, I could see there were a lot of issues and things that we had to overcome, and I love having fun. That was the banner of my childhood. If you could tell me how to have fun doing work - give me a chore but make it into a game - I would do it. And I'm a trained artist, so just coming up with creatures and pretend play was just fun for me, and it's just something that I naturally do as a dad anyway, I think. And so, for me, these are just things that I took my kiddos through. If they were foster kiddos or adoptive kiddos, I would take them through these games to play in our house. And it's probably been about ten years- we had a lot of therapists, a lot of other parents and other people saying, "You need to write this into a book; this is great! This is great, you gotta write it." But I just never did because you know how you just feel like... It's personal for me. It's what my children and I did and I have fun memories of it, and so I just until recently am like, "Okay, I'll be a little bit transparent. Put it out there, and we'll see if it helps some families." Because I just wasn't brave enough, I think, to do it until now. So it's been in the works for over ten years on my end.
Gretchen: Wow. That's amazing. So you are a trained artist, but you brought in Alexandra. How did that happen?
Darren: So as Transfiguring Adoption has grown and its offering other different services, it's no longer fun family. It used to be just a simple, family blog that my kids and I, If we had a chance, if my wife had a chance, to throw something on it, we would. So now we have a media review service; we have different volunteers [who] like to do things across the country, like Alexandra is talking about. We go to different comic cons and we sell merchandise, we tell people about our services. There's too much going on; as the president of a nonprofit, I don't have time to sit and do my own illustrations. And to be quite honest - Alexandra I think we're talking about this before, another time - it's just... I really like to get people involved, and with Transfiguring Adoption, it can't be the Darren and Margie show. It started as our family, but now it's gotten to the point where other people want to help - so many people want to help - impact kids and help them have a better future, that I can't keep doing this. It's getting big enough where I need other people's help, and it's a movement. From this point on, it can never be the Darren and Margie show. It used to be as a family blog, but it can't be now. And so, for me, it's okay that I couldn't do my own illustrations because I have all these people that are around me and the Potter fandom that are great artists, that have great talents, and so for me it's just looking around, seeing someone, and saying, "Hey could you be a part of what we're doing" and that's how it happened with Alexandra because we were at LeakyCon, we actually had neighboring booth spaces, and we just had a lot of fun talking with each other. All of her fan work was up, and so I got really familiar with the stuff that she had. Conversations about, "Hey, we're thinking about doing this project, I have this book that I really want to publish. I like what you got going on, I like your style." And I'm picky too, so I'm like, "That's what I want in the book. I want it to look like that." So that kind of how it started. Do you have anything? Was that it?
Alexandra: I feel honored.
[Alexandra and Darren laugh]
Alexandra: But no, that's exactly it. That's how we clicked. Neighboring booths at LeakyCon. Just hearing the way that you and Margie would talk about Transfiguring Adoption, it's like, "Oh, I want to be a part of that! I want to help get that out there." But as for how long I've been working on the book, it took a little longer than I think e both thought. For me, I had some life events happen. But probably a year and a half?
Darren: Yeah, probably something like that.
Alexandra: I know we didn't start until way after LeakyCon.
Darren: It's actually been pretty smooth because... I think some people might think, "Woah, year and a half!" But you have a lot of things that you have to look at. She had to look at the creatures in the book and get a feel for them. It's not just like I can say, " I need a bunny rabbit doing this," or something. These are all pretend creatures. And when I came to Alex and said, "Hey, I have this," being an artist, one of my pet peeves is when people come up and they say, "Yeah, I don't really know what I want. Can you just do something? Make it look great." But when you do that, they come back and they're like, "That's not what I want." Well, you said you didn't know what you wanted. [laughs] I tried when I came to her, saying, "Look, I'm trying my best. I've lived with these creatures that my kids and I have played with for a long time, but I've tried my best not to have an image of them because I want you to figure it out." I did say that there were a few of them I do have some ideas but for the most part, I don't. So it was kind of fun for me too, because everything she would get an illustration done and send it to me, I would be looking at it and I'm like, "That's what it looks like! Oh my goodness!" I had no idea what the scripture looked like, so it was like meeting an old friend that you've been writing emails back and forth and have no clue what they look like, and all of a sudden, you're like, "That's it! That's what they look like!" So it's been a lot of fun, and it really - again - means a lot to me that we're able to include people from the Potter fandom and just different walks of life in there. Our editor is a former foster youth. She does different volunteer projects with us also. But it was really important for me just to have her on board again because I don't want it to be my show; Transfiguring Adoption, again, is a movement. It's people that want to make a difference in children's lives. It's not my show, it's not my wife's show, it's our show. Alex is Transfiguring Adoption. Felicia is Transfiguring Adoption. Quite frankly, had I not had them both, Felicia was pointing out to me with the stories, things that I wasn't even thinking of, that I'm sure a lot of people [who] are listening to this wouldn't think of. There were things that a child that's been through foster care- there are words and phrases that you can use that aren't "PC" for them that might trigger them, or make them think of the past, or make them feel less than normal, or less than special. And when I say it I don't mean anything by it, and I don't mean to offend, and I don't even think about it. But to her reading through the story, it was good to have her perspective because she was like, "When I read this part, I know you didn't mean to, but this is how I feel when I read it. Can we re-write that section?" And so there were a lot of parts like that where I could go back and make things more effective because she was being honest enough to tell me what foster children needed to hear.
Gretchen: I think that says so much about the goals of the book, bringing her in. That's awesome.
Darren: Absolutely. So the goal of the book, too, like you're mentioning, is to have parents learn how to play to walk their kids through their past trauma instead of... We use it a lot in Transfiguring Adoption with our mentality. With our media review service that we do, our reviewers will watch movies or books or video games and they'll review them. They look at it through a trauma lens so they're looking at it as how is this going to trigger a child, but also they're looking at it from a perspective of, how do I take something that we're watching anyway or entertainment that we're using anyway, and how do I connect that to my child so that we're not sitting down, I'm not saying, "Hey John, we need to talk about your issues." Because that's very confrontational, it's very direct, it's scary. Especially if you're a little person, like a child, having this conversation with a big strange adult that you've never met before. But hey, let's talk about if I have food hoarding issues, let's maybe watch The Little Mermaid, and Ariel has got some hoarding issues going on. She likes to collect some stuff. Let's talk about Ariel, what worked for Ariel, what didn't work for Ariel. Why do you think she had to collect all of this stuff? What was that? So now we're talking about Ariel's issues. I'm not talking about my issues, because who wants to talk about my issues? We'll get to my issues eventually, but let's have the hard conversation about Ariel and talk about her, and then we'll talk about me or the caregiver, or whoever. So the goal of the book is to really try to figure out if there are issues the child has from trauma, how can we turn it into play, and play and have fun, and then we'll deal with the issues eventually. We'll have some serious talk about it eventually but first, let's play because that's not judgmental and it's safer. It feels safe.
Gretchen: Can you tell us a little bit about the structure of the book? I believe each chapter is a different creature, and you describe the creatures. How did that come about? And does each creature represent an issue you want to talk about?
Darren: Yeah, absolutely. So there are eleven creatures in the book. We actually changed the name of the book. Alexa and I were talking one day, and we had been talking with our marketing consultant, and he's like... People that we had shown the book to were really having an issue with, "This book is so long! It's got so many words! It's a children's book?" And what people were missing with it was that it's a pretty good-sized book. Each chapter has to do with a creature. We changed the name of the book to include the word "journey." It's a playful journey. So it's not something that you're intended to sit down and read all in one sitting. It's something that you're intended to journey together with someone. We suggest int eh book maybe chapter every night or a chapter every sitting. And you really sit through and you digest, and you read about the animal. The chapter introduces the animal - the creature, rather - it talks about them, what they do, maybe what they eat, what their magical ability is. And then, for people that buy the book, we also have a free activity book that you can download off the internet. The activity book is where the play comes in, because now that you've met these creatures in the book you can down download a PDF of all these activities that go along with that creature, and step-for-step we tell you what materials you'll need, what you're going to do, and it just helps you to take what you've journeyed with your child, and now you have a game to play. And you can carry that pretend on with them and you can even, if nothing else - like I said, a lot of our kiddos from traumatic places don't know how to play, so they need to be taught - some of the games are just there so that a caregiver can say, "This is how we pretend. I like to have fun. I'm 42 years old, and it's okay to have fun sometimes! Let's play." And it's okay to show kids that they need to play every once in a while; blow off some steam. But some of the activities do get into a little bit more. There'[re] some deep lessons to learn, or things that you are watching for. Did that answer your question?
Gretchen: Absolutely. I was going to say I got a sneak peek at some of the activities, and there are some that are, like you say, more playful and some that are actually really good tools. I'm thinking of the one that is self-regulation. So you have the different levels, and the child's able to say, "Okay, I'm at the highest level right now. I'm very anxious, I'm very excited." But they can start to learn where they are on that chart. I'm wondering how you came up with all of those tools.
Darren: It's a conglomeration of... Sometimes it's just... Again, I think I'm just a creative person. [laughs] Sometimes you just don't realize... In my head I'm just telling myself, "That's just something that you thought of," but then the more I talk with people, they're like, "No, no, where did that come from?" Some of them are things that I've embellished on, or I've changed a little bit. We might have been in a family therapy session, and they had us do something like it, and I was like, "Well, what if I changed that and then it fits with my creature," and then my kids had more fun with it because, again, it related with the book and the creatures that we played with all the time. So there's a little bit of toss and turn; a little bit of column A and column B there, but all of it was definitely stuff that we did with our kids and played around with our kids.
Gretchen: So all the creatures are original? There's no existing fantasy or existing Harry Potter creatures in there?
Darren: There aren't, no. Probably the closest one that might be existing is the Golem. And everyone's like, "Lord of the Rings!" And I'm like, "No, not Lord of the Rings." Alex, do you remember? We actually had this conversation at one point. is it Roman? Greek? Some sort of mythology. There is actually a Golem character that is made out of inanimate objects.
Alexandra: The lore of it is a creature that comes to life out of clay, so this is different from that, even. And the spelling is different than the Lord of the Rings Gollum, too.
Darren: Oh, yes. Copyright fun. I had to steer clear of... [laughs] We actually had someone say, "Is this like the Gollum from Lord-" And I'm like, "No, no. It's from mythology! It's not copyrighted. That's where the inspiration came from," and they're like, "But the spelling's the same. You better watch that." So yeah, the spelling is the mythological Golem and not the one from Lord of the Rings. No, they're all different things that just... My kids would have issues, or problems, or be just even scared of things. You were mentioning the one activity. Can I show them a page of it?
Gretchen: Yes, that would be great!
Darren: So this is our Fleet Bird. And that was the activity you were talking about with self-regulation and just knowing - I think - how do I even remember the activity's name? "How Are You Flying?" I think is the activity. There's also a lot to do with this creature with thunderstorms that pairs up with another creature that the launch party you're a part of, Gretchen, we haven't gotten to that yet, but... I could see that my kids were having issues with thunderstorms, or they were having issues with self-regulation, and so just through play with them we just started to form these different creatures and I was just like, "What if there was a flying animal that helped created lighting, or that helped create this." We've gone through a little Charmyrll character that looks like it's a cross between almost a chipmunk and a rabbit. What if it has to do with personal space and personal boundaries? What if it's this cute, defenseless, little thing that you just can't help but want to cuddle it and smother it, but if it feels threatened it bursts into flames so it has this danger to it, so you're forced to keep your distance. There are just a lot of play and just a lot of, "Hey, what if we did this?" and a lot of trial and error. My kids might respond to one thing and not another. We've lost creatures because they didn't respond to them. There's actually one... we used to tell this all the time. One of the creatures that'[re] in the book are the little people that live inside the walls, and they have different fun activities with them. My wife and I forgot one of the names of one of the family. They had twin kids and everything. We had this whole elaborate story made up and we forgot the names. And so the family had to move away because... [laughs] I remember that day because it was a sad day for our kids because these little people had to move away from our house and it was simply because we forgot their names. [continues laughing]
Gretchen: It happens.
Darren: Mythological, pretend creatures move away sometimes, I guess. I don't know.
Gretchen: Yeah, what can you do? [laughs]
Darren: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. [laughs]
Gretchen: I would love to, Alex, hear a little bit about- I know you would get the copy from Darren and take a look as his description, but did you use anything else to influence and inspire your illustrations?
Alexandra: No. I did just try to look at the text and let it sit with me for a little while because character design is interesting. I'd go through iterations in my sketchbook of what I thought it might look like, and then I just picked one that felt right from there. Now, of course with Fleet Birds, I pulled up some images of birds for proportion and anatomy and all that. But yeah, I really used the inspiration. If there was anything I needed clarification on, I'd just ask Darren about a creature. But, actually, if you want, I can speak a little bit about the layout of the book.
Gretchen: Yes, please!
Alexandra: Okay, cool! Do you want to go to one of the beginning chapter pages?
Darren: Is there one you're thinking of?
Alexandra: You can go to Fleet Birds, yeah.
Darren: Go to Fleet Birds? [pause] How about the Tangerella, because I'm here? Is that okay?
Alexandra: Sure, if you want to. But I love that spread for Fleet Birds. [laughs]
Darren: Well let me find it! Let me find it. I can totally find it. Talk amongst yourselves and I'll find it. Because I just left there.
Alexandra: So like we've mentioned, this book is very large, and it's got a lot of text. When Darren explained it to me he wants it to be a journey, he wants it to have a little bit of of a playful and investigative quality to it, and I'm using the word "investigative" because it's like you're finding out these creatures and you're identifying them in this imaginary space, and the way that I thought about the layout was like, "What can I make that has a more palatable feel to it? Because kids are going to be reading this too. So I wanted to integrate a lot of illustration into it and kind of break up the huge blocks of text and on this first page, we have a nice snapshot where I always have a color illustration of the creature. And then as we move through the chapter, then I have different either elements of what was in the story of the creature and then this is my favorite, is this center spread where I have the Fleet Bird. The two pages are next to each other and you just have this gorgeous, big illustration of this Fleet Bird. Another one that I can think of... How about we go to your favorite creature, Darren, the one that I really can never pronounce that it's the [attempts pronunciation of Drleck].
Darren: Hold on, I got it.
Alexandra: We have the snapshot here, and then on the next page, we have showing what the creatures are doing. Integrating cool, playful illustration and various items that are talked about in the text and I also used kind of a parchment-y background and I used the ink and everything to kind of give it this, not ancient feel, but just vintage. That this is a cool text that we can go over and explore. I don't know. I'm just thinking of Indiana Jones and relic hunters and stuff like that. This cool discovery book.
Gretchen: Yeah. It feels to me almost like a sketchbook-type thing. Like someone has gone out and is studying the creatures like Newt Scamander, and he's brought his book, and he's sketching them and writing down facts about them. I love it.
Darren: We talked about that a lot, too. I remember our initial talks about it, and you had found a book about a little girl that had a feel guide - like a science field guide - and was going out and finding all these... so we talked about that a lot too. For me, it's funny because, especially because we do a lot with the Potter fandom, I feel like a lot of people are going to be like, "Oh, wow, they really got inspired by Newt Scamander and magical creatures," and I'm like, "This was made ten decades ago." And Alex was talking about other stuff. It's fun that people think that, but all on our own, totally separate from the Wizarding World, we had come up with all of this stuff.
Gretchen: Yes. You've been doing it longer. [laughs]
Alexandra: I do have a fan art piece that is one of my most popular pieces at the booth, and it's of some magical creatures from the textbook, and the way I did it was I did it in ink. Well first I watercolored the background parchment, let it dry, used a fountain pen and inked out the characters, let them half-dry, and I brushed on colors so it really had this water-logged parchment look and my idea behind it is exactly what you said. It was as if Newt Scamander was out int he wild and illustrating these creatures he saw. Saw it's really funny. And I did take a little bit of that, but my idea of that, it wasn't... But yeah.
Gretchen: Totally. So just looking at this page, I'd love to hear more about the creature's main topics. So that's a feature of every chapter, is what each creature's going to talk about?
Darren: Yeah, absolutely. A quick look at this creature's main topic. Working with Felicia and some other people, professionals in the foster care, in the adoption industry [who] looked at it, they were like, "Parents are really busy nowadays. They are so busy. They don't have time. We get that you have to journey through this thing, but what if I just want... This one deals with fear of water. What if I have a kid that's never been bathed before and they're five years old, and they're scared of water? I don't have time to look through your book and figure out what I need to do with this child, I just want to be able to look through this stuff really quick, find it, and be like, "Okay, I need to look at this one; this is the topic I go for' and boom: go." So that's the reason those came about. And we didn't want to put a whole lot else in there; honestly, the activity guide actually was a part of the main book for all of it until we started to go to print. Then we chose to separate it, and that's partially because we didn't want children to be able to see the activities because it loses the magic then. It loses the pretend. We had it like it was this back section for parents' eyes only.
Alexandra: And every kid's going to want to look at that.
Darren: Right! Well, when you tell me not to now I want to. [laughs] And so it ruins all the pretend. So everything in the book is just stuff kids can see. They can still look at the quick glance. I figure the little girl in the book, her character name is Jasmine. They can just figure that's what she wrote out, just as her field sketch or something like that. Like, "This is what I learned about them," or something. And then all the parent stuff is in a completely different guide, like I said, that they download so that we can keep the pretend.
Gretchen: I did want to ask you about that, actually. So I noticed when I was reading some of the samples that I had that it's an "I" and "we." So you're saying there's a main character narrating this? Jasmine?
Darren: Yes. So there's a main character. Her name is Jasmine. She's a little girl. So she is writing this book together with her family, and at the beginning, she's coming into it as though her family was crazy and didn't know what they were talking about, but now she's kind of like, "I've seen the creatures too. They've shown these creatures to me! I'm finding them! So now I want you to help us." She has a cry at the beginning that people are thinking too logical and too scientific. I don't know how else to explain it. Like they've forgotten about magical creatures and that magic can exist in the world. So she's pleading to other families like, "Can you help us find and catalog and discover more about these magical creatures that we've forgotten about?" So it's interactive too, in the sense that Jasmine at the beginning, too, is saying, "If you see a creature because we might not know all of them, we have an email address, our Facebook page..." stuff like that. The character is encouraging her to send drawings or descriptions to the Facebook page, or Instagram, or wherever. We're really hoping that families, or anyone really. If someone from the Potter fandom picked this up and just, "Oh, this is so cool! I think we should do..." We just want people to be involved. And it goes back to that whole mentality of, this isn't any one person's show. We're all trying to help each other. We're all a community. So let's all help each other. And if a family finds a new creature and they have fun discovering this new creature, there's room inside this guide, because it's written as we haven't found all of them, and that's what we're trying to do. So I hope that other people see this as a journey and they'll take the journey on, and maybe Alex and I will be back writing 2.0 or something like that because so many people have written these cool creatures and we have to get them out in a book. [laughs]
Gretchen: That would be awesome. I love it.
Darren: That would be so much fun.
Gretchen: So speaking of community, I hear that a special person wrote the forward of this book.
Darren: Yeah. So Chris Rankin. He's amazing. I'm guessing a lot of people watching us know. Chris Rankin is Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter films. Yeah, he's amazing. Chris was adopted from New Zealand. He's in the UK now. He's just always really backed Transfiguring Adoption, doing anything he can to help kids from traumatic backgrounds. I'm telling you. Any idea that we come up with, even if I'm like... I'm almost nervous to ask him and his agent. I'm like, "Hey you guys, I don't know if this is going to work, but..." They want to help kids, and he's just a really amazing person. But yeah, he wrote the forward of the book. So it is a major reason to read the book, I think, because he just wrote a really cool forward that just asks you to believe in magic and how important it is. He's awesome; I don't know what else to say about it because he's just amazing. Alex, you've met him, right?
Gretchen: I know!
Alexandra: Yeah. He's so nice.
Darren: He is. [He] and Ness are just amazing people. I could sit and talk with them for hours, and if you guys haven't spoken with him, you need to go with our con or wherever he's at and sit down and be like, "Hey, I need to talk with you. What do I do to talk with you," because he just has a heart of gold, and he's really just trying. He just loves on people. He just genuinely cares about people. I love that he's a part of Transfiguring Adoption because we're really trying to do some amazing things with kids and he really just sets the tone and leads the charge with love.
Gretchen: Absolutely. So tell us a little bit about what you've been doing leading up to the launch of the book.
Darren: Um, let's see. Leading up to the launch of the book. Do you want specifically with the book, or any other projects or anything else?
Gretchen: Anything at all that you'd like to talk about. [laughs]
Darren: [laughs] So with Transfiguring Adoption we've been working with our media review service. I mentioned that before. It's kind of gone through a lot of transformation over the year. Last year at this time, we were only looking at books; we were reviewing books, and we were just merely telling people, "Here are the books that are going to be great for you to talk about with your kids, that are going to bring up great conversation." Through a series of events with some other websites that were also helping foster and adopted families through movies and such, we stopped hearing information and content from them, so we just kind of said if we're not hearing from them why don't we start reviewing movies and video games? So we have a team of people now that they review books, movies, and video games. Like I said before, they're looking at everything. I'm trying to think of the last game that we just did because it was a big one. It was Animal Crossing! Just came out. They're looking at Animal Crossing and just taking a look at it, and like I said, the reviewer is looking at it, trying to figure out "is there a dangerous aspect of it?" Maybe that is what are the online aspects? Because a lot of our kids from traumatic backgrounds, there's a good chance they've been sexually abused, and because of that they have a good chance of getting into trouble with human trafficking or just sexting or different things that you probably don't want to get involved with online. And so the reverser's looking at the dangers that way. Also looking at dangers of does this have anything that's going to remind them of their past trauma and be unhealthy and traumatize them further? But on the same token, our reviews look at movies and video games, and they say, "What are the healthy aspects?" And what we were talking about before. What are things that we can talk through with our kids using this media without sitting Sue down and saying, "Sue, we are going to figure you out today because you've got some issues." Let's talk about movies and video games. That's so much more fun. It's just so much less threatening. And our reviewers are amazing. I can only think of one person that doesn't have a connection with experiencing trauma themselves. So we have former foster youth, adult adoptees; we have people that are professionals in the industry, so counselors that are looking at these things, and they just really want to help families and just make sure that people succeed better and are healthy. So we have that going on right now which if people know anyone that would be interested in that, you can check that out at transfiguringadoption.com. Other than that, we're doing a launch party right now and Gretchen you're in that launch party online! We're having fun! We're just introducing the book to everyone, kind of seeing how it will play out before it launches. The official launch date that we have is July twenty-fourth. That's when it will be available on Amazon. So pre-orders are being taken right now. They have a hiccup where it just says they're out of stock right now instead of pre-order, but you can still... It's safe to order one. So basically when they get them in the warehouse on the twenty-fourth they'll start sending them out. But they didn't get the pre-order button out that says just order, they're out of stock.
Gretchen: Yeah. I think now it says, "Buy now, will ship these days." Out of stock has come off. [laughs] You're good.
Darren: [laughs] Okay. I was looking at it too because there was an event going on that wanted to use the pre-orders and I looked at it and was like, "This doesn't say pre-order, it says they're out of stock." I'm like, "That's completely different meaning there!" [laughs] But I called and they are treating it as a pre-order. So July twenty-fourth you can grab a copy on amazon.com. Other than that we are loving people that just come onto our website and joining our newsletter.
Gretchen: Oh, absolutely. We'll definitely put a link to the website. When they buy the book, will it give them directions for downloading that activity guide?
Darren: Yes. So I have a book right here with me. So in the back of the book, it'll have... there's the pairing guide. So it'll have information on where you go to download it and give you some instructions on how to do that. It's a complimentary download so you definitely want to do it. And I will say that while we're working with foster and adopted children - Alex and I when we're doing this - the book could be used for any child that has gone through trauma. So even if a family has a messy divorce they're going through right now, and the child's just experiencing chronic trauma; if it's a single-parent household and there's just a lot of stress with COVID going on and maybe there's a single-dad doesn't have his job right now and there's just a lot of stress with finances and stuff right now. These activities are going to be able to be altered and adapted so that it helps that child through that. So it's not just foster and adopted kids, which is why it says, "for fun-loving families" in the beginning of the book instead of "for foster and adoptive families."
Gretchen: Even just looking at those activities I would say that you have to download it. If you're buying the book you really should be downloading it because those activities are so useful and they tie so well to what each creature is. I definitely recommend that.
Darren: I've even had people that were adults talking about using it. My thoughts on that are "Yeah!" If you've experienced trauma in your life, the only thing I would have to say is don't do it by yourself. Try to have another friend. We'll always say a parent and a child need to do it together- have a friend go through the journey with you so that if you do... most of the time the activities are playful and fun, but you never know when you might hit something deep and you might need a friend to tell you, "Look, you've hit something here that's a little deep. I can't help you, you can't help yourself, you might need to go get some counseling." Which is a good thing! I know a lot of people look down on that, but that's amazing if you discover if you need that because it's getting that help you need to to become a healthier and a better you. Go through with a friend, even if you're an adult. I think it would be a lot of fun.
Gretchen: Yeah. Absolutely. Alex, is there anything you want to add? Anything we haven't touched on?
Alexandra: I will say with the launch party group - because I am in it - it's really fun for me to be able to see the comments rolling in about the creatures. I know Darren gave life to the concept of them, but people are like, "Oh, the Charmyrll is so adorable! I want one!" It makes me happy to see that people are enjoying the illustrations.
Gretchen: Absolutely. Awesome. Well, we will look for that on July twenty-fourth the book comes out. You can download the activity guide, you can pre-order right now, head over to transfiguringadoption.com website for all of that awesome information. Thank you both so much for your time. I think everyone's really going to get a lot out of this.
Darren: Thanks, Gretchen! Thank you.
Alexandra: Thank you!