It all started with a little book called The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra. Creator and author Blanca Carranza wanted to share the world’s diverse cultures with students around the globe in a fun and engaging way. Now, Joy Sun Bear has grown into a positive, fun, and kid-safe online experience, whose mission is to teach students everywhere the joy of learning about the world’s diverse cultures.
We were first introduced to Joy Sun Bear through Barbie Monty’s class, and instantly felt they were something special. We knew if Joy Sun Bear and Buncee were to team up, it would be magical! Their passion to spread joy, and our passion for creativity and student's voice go hand-in-hand, so we were able to join forces with Skype in the Classroom for our newest #SkypeBunceeBuddies Literacy Project.
We wanted to dive deeper and learn more about these amazing authors, and hopefully find even more ways we can make magic happen beyond our latest project.
Author Interview with John Lee: Co-Author and Illustrator of The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra:
Where did you come up with the idea for Joy Sun Bear?
John: Joy was created by our founder, Blanca Carranza, before she retired from managing her daycare. As a preschool teacher/daycare owner, she loved sharing the world with the children she cared for in the form of books, food, music, and crafts. Joy was inspired by her love for globe-trotting and was born from her desire to share the world’s diversity and similarities with kids.
Where did the inspiration come from?
John: For me personally, and for our team as a whole, the inspiration really came from the question, “how do we want our children to see the world?” Obviously, with joy; but more specifically as a magically diverse place filled with challenges, but also with hope and the opportunity to make things better. We wanted everyone who read our story to feel that the world’s diversity was what made it amazing. To empower our readers so that they believe that anyone, no matter their age, gender, location or ethnicity, can make it better even if only in their tiny corner of the world.
Is there any particular ritual involved in your writing and illustration process?
John: Coffee. There must be coffee. Aside from that, I generally like to ease into the process. If I’m writing, I’ll read over the last few paragraphs or even a chapter to get back in the groove. If I’m illustrating, I’ll draw a lot of rough sketches and sloppy pictures to get the kinks out. That’s just my personal process though; as a team, we will have several meetings to map out the plotline, discuss relevant topics we want to include, figure out the message we want to convey, and divvy up the research that needs to be done. We usually have this meeting at a coffee shop.
Who are your favorite children’s authors and why?
John: One of my favorites is Peter H. Reynolds. I found a lot of inspiration in his The Dot series when I read it to my daughter; the lessons of accepting your best effort really spoke to me. Also, Bill Watterson and his Calvin and Hobbes series. That was one of the few comics I had access to growing up, and I could get lost in Calvin’s adventures for hours. That was unique for me, as I had a hard time with retention as a young reader.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
John: Expect nothing, blame no one, do something good.
Are you an illustrator who writes, or a writer who draws?
John: I’m still figuring that one out. Ask me again after book five.
What are some ways to spread joy in the community that has stuck out to you throughout the process?
John: Sharing compassion. If someone needs a hand, lend one. Carry that elderly person’s groceries in, or their trash out. Help that neighbor look for her dog. Lend the can opener if someone needs it. Those moments will pass so quickly and if you can look back on them and know you did something kind, it will mean so much more to you and to the other person.
How did you first hear about Buncee?
John: My wife and our Creative Director, Shearin Lee, knew about Buncee long before I did through all the wonderful educators she has met and networked with on Twitter. My first experience was when some of the coolest students ever, in Mrs. Monty’s class in Florida, used it to share their thoughts and feelings about our book. It is such a great way for kids to express themselves and learn about graphical user interfaces at the same time.
In what ways do you see Buncee being used in schools to spread Joy?
John: I think Buncee would be a great way for students to demo their ideas for spreading joy; mock up a plan to clean a park or put on a show, or just otherwise share tips or positive experiences with the world. Create and relate to others. We’re really looking forward to what comes out of this literacy project and can’t wait to see what students create!
What impact have you seen working with Buncee and connecting students around the world?
John: The chance to be a part of students’ school days has been a very exciting and inspiring experience. Students have been able to use their Buncee-powered voices to show us all they loved about our book, and we’re so grateful for the chance to get such raw feedback from the readers.
A special treat for us is seeing our characters as stickers in Buncee! Now when kids read our book with their classroom, or on their own, they can create custom Joy Sun Bear Buncees to share their thoughts and ideas with us and the world. That means a lot to us!
If you hadn’t been an author/illustrator, what would you have been?
John: I’m so blessed and grateful to have this chance to leverage my creative side, professionally, that I really can’t imagine being something else right now. I’ve had a pretty diverse career so far, but being a part of Joy Sun Bear has been a very rewarding part of it.
What is next in the pipeline?
John: We are so fortunate to have connected with many amazing educators and entrepreneurs since we first started our website three years ago. We’re excited to have met Henry Platten of eCadets through Marialice Curran, founder of The Digital Citizenship Institute. Henry recently launched a new app called GoBubble, a safe social media with training wheels for students, and we are going to be one of the first official channels on the app. We can’t wait to connect with schools around the world through GoBubble!
Aside from that would be book two; that’s generally the first thing we’re asked for when someone finishes book one. It tickles us when we see the excitement in readers to continue Joy’s adventures in the next book! We’re also working on a board game and stuffed animals.
One of our favorite parts of our journey is being able to connect with students and teachers through Author/Illustrator visits. We have been blessed to do some virtual visits through Skype with a few classrooms in the U.S. and local visits with schools and The Girl Scouts. We hope to visit more schools locally and virtually, and with the amazing power of technology, we can meet with schools around the world! Beyond that, we are always open to new possibilities that present themselves to help us empower children around the globe.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
Our First Book!
We hope Buncee users will check out our first chapter book in the series titled The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra. It has earned best-seller status on Amazon and has over 50 five star reviews.
We feel so grateful for all the great reviews and hope to share our characters and world with more children, classrooms, and families!
Some great ways to support authors and illustrators, especially self-published ones like us, is to share our book with others you think will enjoy the story. Also, reviews are like gold for us! Not only do they help us learn what readers enjoyed and how to improve our stories, but they also give our work credibility and help others learn about us. So thank you to everyone who has read, shared, and reviewed our new book! It means the world to our entire team!
Interactive Global Education Website
Our website offers free, educational, and fun resources that teach children about Sumatra, and several other countries, in a kid-friendly way.
Kids will learn about geography, traditions, food, animals, plants, music and more, through Joy's perspective. The site also includes fun crafts, free coloring activities, videos, and recipes for children. Also, see Joy Sun Bear's character development videos for kids on Youtube!
You can also follow Joy Sun Bear on: