By Kathy Chouteau and Mike Kinney
Richmond native Dr. Velma Bagby, author and founder of Adoni Publishing, recently released two new books, one of which is a labor of love she co-authored with her granddaughter, Kai Mahalyn Tampol.
Dr. Bagby’s fourth book is called A Place Called Down – Why Christians Suffer, while her fifth work, written with then six-year-old Kai (now age 7), is a children’s book titled The Little Letter k and the Boring Alphabet Line.
The idea for Dr. Bagby’s book collaboration with her granddaughter arose from one of their visits together. “In early 2020, we were enjoying one of our visits, and I asked Kai if she had an idea for a book. She replied “yes” and said, “My book is about the Little Letter k, because my name begins with k,” said Dr. Bagby.
From there, Kai’s vision took flight as she dictated her story idea to her grandmother. With her grandmother’s help, Kai created the Little Letter k character and kept her original hand-drawn sketches.
“As Kai created her pictures, she described what was happening in each scene and I typed what she said based on her description,” said Dr. Bagby. “In some cases, when I felt there were gaps in her story, I asked probing questions like, ‘What do you think Letter k is going to do next? What did the other letters do? What fun things did Letter k do?’ It was my desire to maintain the integrity of Kai’s ideas and thoughts.”
Proud of her Black and Filipino heritage, Kai’s book draws upon her Filipino culture, which is especially reflected in her character’s personal features and princess outfit, per her grandmother.
“The entire story belongs to Kai–the book exists because of her imagination and creativity,” said Dr. Bagby. “Everything Letter k did in each scene were Kai’s ideas. She sketched the scenes first and afterwards, I asked her to explain the scene in order to type the words for the book.”
According to Dr. Bagby, she and Kai met for a few sessions where they sat at a desk together and Dr. Bagby created a book mock-up on PowerPoint. The mockup not only helped make the book “come to life” for Kai, but also was useful in sharing with two beta groups for feedback—one of which was Bright Futures Growth & Development Center (ages 3-6) in Richmond. Their response was overwhelmingly positive.
Ultimately, Dr. Bagby and Kai created a work together that tells the tale of Little Letter k, who becomes bored standing in the same assigned spot every day in the alphabet line. Little Letter k uses her imagination and eventually leaves the line in search of more fun. Eventually, the other little letters discover that Little Letter k is missing and decide to look for her—and the alphabet line is never the same again.
“I want children to use their imagination,” said Kai regarding the ultimate aim of her book. “Letter k figured out how to do new things, so she was not bored. She helped the other letters use their imagination for fun too. She is a leader and very brave.” The fledgling author is currently at work on her second and third books.
Following her collaboration with Kai, Dr. Bagby—now a Hercules resident—went to work on her timely solo work, A Place Called Down-Why Christians Suffer. In it, she departs from her past relationship-focused topics to share with readers her own testimony of tests, trials and tribulation, to offer insight into a place of suffering common to us all, per the author.
In her book, Dr. Bagby shares her perspective that “our down place is not always the workings of evil, sometimes, God allows it because he is maturing us. A place called down are places of suffering; such as, financial challenges, lack of housing, divorce/separation, long-term illness, death, tragedy, job loss, unhealthy work environment and more,” per the author. Dr. Bagby “provides a glimpse of her life when our world entered a down place as a result of two pandemics: the COVID19 virus and racism.”
A Place Called Down–Why Christians Suffer ($13.99 paperback, $3.99 eBook) and The Little Letter k and the Boring Alphabet Line ($14.95 Paperback, $7.99 eBook), which includes coloring pages, can each be purchased online here on Amazon or in local bookstores.