Susan Love is an author, teacher and foster child advocate. Her book, “Ms. Love's Mystical Island Adventure” is a wonderful story of four chosen children to go to a mystical island that would ignite their interest in adventure. Ultimately, it helps readers find their individuality and magic within where you would least expect it.
“Ms. Love's Mystical Island Adventure” is your first book. How did it come about?
As an inner city teacher I had reached my breaking point. My classroom was infested with mice and cockroaches. My unenthused students saw only a dim future awaiting them in the area’s high-crime neighborhoods.
The following summer, I knew I either had to quit my job or change things for the better. I decided a change of scenery might help me get a fresh perspective, so I took a trip to the Caribbean. While relaxing on the beach, a conversation with another traveler changed my life—and those of my students—forever.
On the island, I was talking with a retired businesswoman. As I told her about my frustrations with the American school system, she said to me: “At least you had an escape—you had this island adventure to look forward to. Your students don’t have that luxury. You need to make your classroom an island, a place where your students can get away every day, and envision the bigger world out there that awaits them.”
I know she didn’t mean for me to literally turn my classroom into an island, but that’s exactly what I ended up doing when I came home. When the classroom door opened in the fall, my students entered to find a large thatched umbrella with a tables and chairs, exotic silk flowers and plants in a mystical garden, a pond with a flowing waterfall, large wall murals of a tropical rainforest, and an inside rock waterfall. Festive multi-colored streamers hung from the ceiling, adding to the charm and mystique of the tropical setting.
Many of my students were of Puerto Rican or Dominican descent. I thought a classroom that represented their culture could help show them both their history and their future. For the rest of the year, I developed my own Caribbean themed-based curriculum that focused on lessons teaching how our environment may help shape us, but it doesn’t limit or define us. Like our immigrant ancestors, each of us is on a personal journey to a better future.
In language arts class, the children wrote exciting adventure stories, which included four students and Ms. Love as characters. Other students were intrigued by their classmate’s work and decided to write their own “Ms. Love’s Adventures” stories. These works formed the basis of a “classroom library,” drawing interest from other children in the school.
Inspired by my students, I decided to take my island classroom adventures to a global classroom. Why not share with all young people the message of empowerment and risk-taking—the heart and soul personal adventure? I may be a character in the story, but the children are the true heroes.
How would you describe the work?
I would describe the work as an innovative classical Bridge Book. The beauty of a Bridge Book is that is allows a child who still has a love for illustrations, and may also be a visual learner to enjoy a chapter book.
Who did you primarily write it for? Who do you see as your primary audience age-wise?
I wrote the book for children ages 9-12. However, many adults (parents) have read the book and have given me positive feedback.
You were a foster child and a very involved foster youth activist, how do you feel that informed your book?
I wanted to write a story that included personalities of students of mine who were also foster children. My objective in the story was to show that no matter where you come from, you are special and capable.
What are the main things you think people misunderstand about the foster youth system in our country?
In my opinion, the foster youth system in our county is a mess and needs to be completely reformed on all levels. One of the biggest misunderstandings is that foster parents think that they have the right to claim a foster child as their own and dismiss the relationship the child may have with their true parent. This leads to a lot of resentment and confusion later in the child’s life. Moreover, it is unfair for foster parents to expect a foster child to love them in return when the child may not have the same feelings or interest in a relationship. This is why foster parents need to be trained to understand that taking in a foster child should be done with the sole purpose of unselfishly helping the child, not to fill a need for a family the fosters may have.
Another misunderstanding comes with too many social workers who do not understand their jobs because they are also poorly trained. They are more like politicians trying to smooth over and cover up what is wrong in the foster home and tend to ignore the emotional pain the child is experiencing. Cover up is much easier to do than working to find the child a healthy placement.
I must say that I was blessed in my over a decade in foster care to have ONE case worker out of many, Donna Waitz, who had my best interest at heart and believed in me. I held on to her compassion and let her warmth help shape my future.
Overall, the foster youth system misunderstands foster children. But the biggest problem we have is that people will not accept the fact that foster care is failing too many children and the ‘system war’ against keeping a real family together needs to end. Many children are placed in foster homes when another parent or family member is available and capable of caring for the child. Many law suits are filed each year against state officials for not seeking out other family members to help a child who cannot be cared for by their mother. And I was just that child. My father was a listed phone call away. What a crime.
What would you like your readers to come away from the book?
I wrote the book for entertainment purposes. And I hope that at some point in this story, the reader finds inspiration to set a goal and then go make it happen.
Are you working on a follow up book?
I have developed a plot for a follow up adventure. I am excited to find out what my editors have to say about the conceptual ideas and see if the storyline is a GO for Ms. Love’s Mystical Island Adventure II.
Sabrina, Arthur, Miguel, and Lucy arrive on Ms. Love’s Mystical Island bursting with excitement. The young explorers have been chosen to witness the flowering of a rare and magical orchid, which blooms once every century with an explosion of light and energy—mysteriously repairing Earth’s ozone layer. But Ms. Love greets the children with devastating news: The scientists hoping to study the orchid’s secret power are not coming, and a massive hurricane is headed their way. If the destructive storm strikes the island while the fragile orchid is in bloom, this extraordinary plant will be wiped out forever. There is only one hope—the Magic Power Flower—a flower-shaped crystal that once magically protected the island from danger. Although Sunflower, Ms. Love’s mother, possesses the flower’s centerpiece, the other hidden pieces must be found—and found quickly—if the island and its precious orchid are to be saved. As the hurricane rapidly approaches, the children and Ms. Love race against time to complete seemingly impossible tasks: decode the ancestor’s map, discover and unravel the clues to find the missing pieces, and safely return this supernatural power source to Sunflower—unless Ms. Love’s jealous, power-hungry Rivals find and steal the sacred flower first.