Sixteen years ago Janan Cain was a free-lance illustrator with a brand-new contract for what would become Parenting Press's most popular book ever.
"When publisher Carolyn Threadgill told me the Press would be printing 7,000 copies of The Way I Feel, I was terrified!" recalls the Chicago-area artist. "I tried to calculate the number of books I could sell to family and friends to reduce the number the Press would be stuck with."
There's only one thing Parenting Press has been stuck with: keeping up with demand for this children's picture book about emotions. Issued in 2000 as a 32-page gift-quality hardback, in 2005 as an abridged board book edition, and 2009 in a Spanish-language edition, The Way I Feel continues to sell hundreds of copies each week in bookstores. And then there's the sales to libraries and through specialty catalogs and websites—and the other foreign language editions.
"The fact that The Way I Feel is now published in eight languages amazes me," says Cain. "It proves that parents and teachers everywhere realize the importance of teaching children more words for their emotions than 'angry' and 'happy.' It also shows that even very young children are capable of understanding those feelings."
Another surprise for both author and publisher: the significant sales in the special needs market.
"What I find most humbling is hearing that my books have made a difference in children's lives, especially those diagnosed with autism," comments the mother of two, now both in college, one as a graduate student. Cain may have introduced the vocabulary for such emotions as "frustrated," "jealous" and "disappointed," but she says, "I have no words to express what that means to me: I never imagined that someday my books would be used by educators and psychologists as teaching tools."
Besides The Way I Feel, Parenting Press has published The Way I Act, the 2011 title created by Cain in collaboration with writer Steve Metzger to help children understand traits such as "curiosity," "compassion," "brave" and "persistent." It too has been licensed for a Japanese edition. And like The Way I Feel's English and Spanish editions, it's available with teacher guides and recommended for elementary school "character education" curricula. All four books are available in public libraries—almost 1,400 at last count—around much of the world, from Seattle to Singapore, Halifax to Heidelberg.
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