A few years ago, I was invited to talk to a group of kindergarteners about foster care.
It’s one of the toughest assignments I’ve ever had, which I wrote about on our blog at the time. Explaining foster care to young children has to be undertaken very delicately.
My own attempt at this has given me even greater appreciation for how gently and compassionately Braid mentor Jasmine Cabanaw explains the experience of foster care in her new children’s book.
Jasmine has been a volunteer with Braid for three years, and she wrote “High Paw, Super Sebastian” to bring comfort and support to foster youth.
After learning more about foster care in Braid training and hearing stories from the two youth she has mentored (and to whom she has dedicated the book), Jasmine wanted to use her skills as a storyteller to illustrate and normalize the many emotions a child has when experiencing foster care, or any instability in life.
The book focuses on a foster puppy named Sebastian as he moves through several different homes.
In the opening pages, as we meet this sweet puppy, we learn that “Sebastian wasn’t sure why he didn’t have a home, but he knew he wanted one.”
One thing I love is that the story doesn’t overreach to try to explain why Sebastian is in foster care: it just meets him where he is, the way we encourage Braid mentors to meet their youth each week where they are.
Sebastian experiences a range of emotions as he moves between homes, but he is never alone. At every home he meets a new animal friend who offers him something out of their own experience that has helped them when they feel that way.
When he is nervous, a pig shares his snuggly blanket.
When he is shy, a turtle shows him how to build a fort.
When he is restless, he gets to run and jump with a miniature horse.
Along the way, he also meets kind cats, a surfing dog, a dancing cockatoo, and another dog who likes to play dress up, all of them beautifully illustrated by Jasmine’s friend Lisa McKaskell.
Another really wonderful aspect of this book is that none of Sebastian’s new friends are trying to make his emotions go away.
They all normalize what he is feeling and walk beside him in what he is experiencing.
And as fun as it is to dance and surf and run, none of those things make Sebastian’s feelings go away. He is still scared and sad and confused sometimes, and his new friends let him know that that is absolutely normal. They will still be there supporting him.
While this book will especially resonate with children who have experienced foster care (and Jasmine has a fundraiser to help get these books in the hands of foster youth), this story has a universal message of how to be a good friend. It is a lesson that will benefit children and adults of all ages and experiences.
The book is available for pre-order on Amazon and will ship at the end of this week! From now until the end of time, 25% of the proceeds will benefit Braid, so we hope you will order copies for all the children in your life.
And this Sunday afternoon, you can meet some of the real rescue animals and beloved pets who inspired the characters in the book at the virtual book launch party. It is guaranteed to be the cutest Zoom call of the year!