Cleveland-based author and publisher, Steph Captain, teamed up with award-winning illustrator Charity Russell to pen her first children’s book, Far Beyond the Treetops. Having received the coveted “Projects We Love” stamp of approval from Kickstarter, the book was fully funded through the crowdfunding campaign and was released by black-owned publisher Brown Backpack. Captain has written an uplifting new title for young readers in the midst of a children’s book market that lacks diversity, especially African American children. According to a recent study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, only 3% of children’s books feature characters of color.
“When I had my children, it became painfully obvious that there weren’t a lot of books that featured black people, especially not that were lighthearted and motivational. I’ve taught my children to want to travel every time the opportunity presents itself, but many of their friends don’t hold the same sentiment. It was very significant to me that my kids be able to read books that show characters who look like them and see themselves represented,” said Captain.
“My oldest daughter wants to become an author,” Captain added, “however, I could see her dissolution with the idea of pursuing that as a career when a simple trip to the library reflected that the type of books she wanted to write, with characters that look diverse like her family and friends, weren’t even on the shelves. I decided to write the book to show her what it means to be your own superhero and do something to solve the problems you see in the world.”
Illustrated by Bristol-based artist Charity Russell, the lively, whimsical paintings show a young, natural-haired black girl who unapologetically loves herself and travels toward the adventure that awaits her beyond the local surroundings she sees every day. Not only are does the book inspire adventure, but it is also a poetic affirmational story to assert that kids can achieve their big dreams; whether that be aspiring to be an astronaut or simply live by the words that build confidence in a big world: “Your life is so important.”