Kids' book celebrates differences
It's been a whirlwind last few weeks for Brandee Bublé since her first children's book, O’Shae The Octopus, launched earlier this month.
She's done countless interviews for TV, radio, newspapers and magazines here and in Toronto.
And she's even getting requests for her autograph.
"People are like, 'I hate to bug you…' I'm like, 'Bug me? Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? That doesn't bug me, I'm so excited' … I'm over the moon."
Brandee, 36, says with a laugh that for 12 years she's gotten used to people asking her to get them the autograph of her big brother, music superstar Michael Bublé. Now it's her signature they want.
"It makes me laugh. I can't believe it."
While she now lives in Coquitlam, Brandee, like her family, has deep roots in Burnaby. She attended Seaforth elementary and graduated from Cariboo Hill secondary.
Before she became a stay-at-home mom, she worked with special needs students, including a seven-year stint at Maywood elementary.
That's where she started honing her storytelling skills. Brandee would write stories for her students, sometimes with rhymes, as a fun way to help them learn.
Then when she had her own kids—son O'Shae, 11, and daughter Jayde, 9—she'd always read bedtime stories to them but would promise to make up a few of her own too.
"So many of these stories were made up in my kids' beds and as soon as they fell asleep I'd run and write down all the ideas I'd put down. That's how they were made."
She's got 15 stories now and the publisher is turning it into a series dubbed "One of a Kind Books."
They all have a similar theme. "They're all different animals that have something that sets them apart from other animals, but they realize by embracing it they can be pretty cool," Brandee said.
"As a mom, I love books that have messages, I love books you can start discussion around."
The first in the series, O'Shae the Octopus, centres on an octopus who has 10 arms instead of eight and includes themes such as bullying.
Left: O'Shae the Octopus celebrates people's differences that make them special.
In addition to her work with special needs students, Brandee drew on her own experience having been diagnosed with dyslexia in Grade 1. Back then, schools held such students back, so she did Grade 1 twice, much to her embarrassment.
And just last year, her daughter Jayde was also diagnosed with dyslexia.
"I love that this book, for my kids, is a representation that the label never stopped me from doing what I always dreamed of. Look, I've got a book out."
But Brandee stressed her stories are not just about kids with special needs.
"I mean, if you have red hair, or freckles or glasses. My son had glasses. I remember him feeling out of place for a bit. I constantly tell my kids, if you believe in you, other people will too. So be confident, walk tall and nobody will think twice."
Michael wrote the foreword of the book and described how he identifies with O'Shae. He was listening to the likes of Frank Sinatra in the '80s when it wasn't exactly considered cool.
"But now he realizes it didn't make him weird, it made him pretty special because now he's got something that not a lot of people have," Brandee said. "He's taken that genre and it's reborn through him."
Along with O'Shae being named after her son, Lanny the Lobster is named after her brother-in-law and Mean Mike the Manta Ray is named after Michael.
She stressed he's not a bully.
"But he is my older brother, so if you asked me at five years old I probably would've said yes. He forced me to play hockey a lot if that counts," she said with a laugh.
"We would go in the garage and he would make me and my little sister [Crystal] stand in goal. We would just have to stand there as he shot, not pucks, but tennis ball after tennis ball after tennis ball."
Michael has "taken us along for the ride" of his tremendous success, said Brandee, who is not naive about the benefits of his celebrity.
She realizes there will always be people who downplay her accomplishment as a children's author because of her brother's fame.
"You know what? I'm not too proud or dumb ... I'm not going to say, no, it didn't help me. Of course it did, it got my foot in the door … but hopefully it's my words that have taken me farther."
And if she needed any further validation, who better to give it than Bruce Allen, the straight-talking manager she now shares with Michael?
"He said to me, 'Kid, I don't know anything about kids books, but I know this is good. And don't think I'm stupid enough to take this just because you're Michael Bublé's sister because that would just make me look stupid.'"
Work has already started on the second book in the series, Jayde the Jaybird (named after her daughter this time) which should be released in the summer of 2015.
Meanwhile, she's been nurturing the proud momma side of her life.
When Brandee received her first advanced copies of the book, Jayde asked to read it to her class. Knowing how hard her daughter has worked with a special tutor to overcome her own dyslexia made it an extra special moment that brought Brandee to tears.
"To see her read my book that day, it was amazing. And she was so proud."