Basha student translates Chandler author’s book SanTan Sun News

Basha student translates Chandler author’s book

September 4th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Basha student translates Chandler author’s book
Arts
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Santan Sun News Staff

Chandler resident Rachel Leland’s own health challenges have inspired her to bring joy in different ways to ailing children.

While battling her own health issues in 2016, Leland, now 29, designed “Select Stuffies,” a line of crocheted stuffed animals with disabilities and differences that she sold via Etsy.

“Some sat in wheelchairs, were hooked up to IV poles or used walkers,” she explained. “Others had physical differences, such as scars, large facial birthmarks, or missing limbs.

“One of my biggest sellers was Ava Ann, a sweet little rabbit in a purple dress, sporting an insulin pump for treatment of type 1 diabetes.”

Over a two-year period, she sold those custom-made creations around the world, but as her health improved, she had less time to crochet her stuffed animals.

“So last year I decided to reimagine the character of Ava Ann as the heroine of a children’s book instead,” Leland explained.

And so she wrote “Ava Ann Makes Art: The Story of a Rabbit with Diabetes.”

“I chose to write the story of Ava Ann because I relate to her. Although I don’t have Type 1 diabetes, I became seriously ill with Lyme disease when I was 13 years old and spent most of my teens bedridden and in a wheelchair.

“I know it’s hard to be different from your friends. I wanted to explore that idea in a children’s book.”

The book follows its young protagonist as she learns to navigate the medical world she has been suddenly thrown into. When a school assignment requires her to make an art piece about herself, Ava Ann digs deep to create a unique project that combines aspects of who she always has been, with parts of her new life with diabetes.

Serendipity has now enabled her to produce her book in Spanish.

It was translated by the daughter of a coworker at San Tan Valley School District, where Leland is a speech language pathology assistant.

Her coworker, Norma Lu, is a special education paraprofessional and offered to have her 16-year-old daughter Amy Lu translate the book.

“I was so happy that Amy wanted to work with me to translate this book into Spanish,” Leland said. “The fact that it is now available in two languages is really exciting, and I have Amy to thank for that.”

Amy is a junior at Basha High School, Her dad Minh Lu is a programming engineer.

 The book is illustrated by Arunodoy Ghosh Biswas.

 Leland said, “Writing the story came easily to me. I based Ava Ann’s project on a real-life art piece I made with local Scottsdale mixed media artist Shanna Israel.

“With her guidance, we used items from my past, such as pill capsules we filled with glitter, to make a really unique piece showing everything that went into making me who I am today.”

She said writing it was cathartic.

She was excited “to see my life, and especially my years battling with health challenges, turned into a beautiful piece of art.”

“I knew I wanted that for Ava Ann. I also enjoyed sprinkling bits of my own story into the book. For example, I used my brother’s name, Jeremy, for one of her classmates, and I found a way to bring two of my best friends, Christine and Jenny, into the book as well.”

Writing the book “was the quick part,” she said.

“Working with my illustrator to bring my ideas to life took about five months,” Leland recalled. “I started with sending a picture of the original Ava Ann stuffed animal to my illustrator so he could make the drawings look like she does in real life.

“Then I sent him descriptions of each scene, down to tiny details like if I wanted the characters to be smiling, or upset, and what I wanted for decoration on the walls. There was a lot of back and forth for each image, but we did it and I’m so grateful we put in the work.”

“When I decided to have my book translated into Spanish, I worked with my same illustrator to redo each picture that had English words in it.”

With her first book under her belt, Leland is thinking about another and “picking another animal out of my Select Stuffies line and bringing their story to life in the form of a children’s book.”

So far, though, she is just brainstorming her idea.

Leland said the English version of her book has generated an encouraging response from multiple doctors who that treat children with Type 1 diabetes.

She said they told her they “now have my book in their waiting rooms, which makes me so happy.”

“I’ve also had Type 1 bloggers write positive reviews about the book, and share it within the diabetes community,” Leland added.

Both “Ava Ana Hace Arte: Una Historia De Una Conejita Con Diabetes” and “Ava Ann Makes Art: The Story of a Rabbit with Diabetes” are available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com.

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