“Growing up in Brazil and living in six different countries provided me an amazing opportunity to learn a lot about the children I worked with in all these multicultural environments. These children inspired me to create an imaginary world – one full of animals and fantasy.” LUCIA MATUONTO, CHILDREN’S AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR
Interviewed by Lorrie Holmes
KIDS NEWS & REVIEWS: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself. Why you created your children’s books and what they are about.
LUCIA: I am a physiotherapist. I specialize in working with children with special needs, and I have enjoyed doing this for the past 14 years. For many years, I taught and treated children with motor and cognitive disabilities, and I have learned a lot about children through these experiences.
KIDS NEWS & REVIEWS: You have had some very unique experiences in your personal and professional life throughout your travels. Can you tell us about how this has added to your storytelling?
LUCIA: Yes! One very unique opportunity was being able to work as a consultant for a rehabilitation method that was based on astronaut’s technology. This provided me the opportunity to run lectures in many different countries like Malaysia, Portugal, Germany, Brazil, Cyprus, Bahrain, United Arabic Emirates, amongst other places.
KIDS NEWS & REVIEWS: What an amazing opportunity, to travel so much with your work! Can you tell us why you’ve decided to take your unique background and become a children’s author-illustrator.
LUCIA: I love creating stories for children, drawing upon my knowledge in special needs for children to create self empowering content. Of course, I love to illustrate my own books since painting and drawing are two of my passions.
KIDS NEWS & REVIEWS: What are your books about?
LUCIA: My books are about inclusion, strength, and friendship. I want to show kids and their parents that having special needs or being different is completely normal.
KIDS NEWS & REVIEWS: That’s beautiful! We understand that your books are being offered in multiple languages – which ones are your books currently offered in?
LUCIA: My books are already published in English, Portuguese and Spanish.
KIDS NEWS & REVIEWS: Congratulations! Can you tell us about each of your books .
BOOK REVIEW FOR BOOK NUMBER 1 – ZOE THE CRAB – LOST ON THE BEACH In Book One, Zoe The Crab – Lost On The Beach – the main character Zoe is adorably illustrated by children’s author and illustrator, Lucia of @luciamatuontoauthor. Make sure you also check out Lucia’s kids art tutorials on our Youtube Channel here.
Zoe sets up this series nicely with her interaction with all the other playful and lovable story characters. Love that the main character, Zoe, keeps a journal so she can share her innermost thoughts and feelings with us, not unlike what a child who lives above land would do. To me, what makes this story so relatable to other kids is Zoe’s inner thoughts and feelings which make her so reflective and lovable! Zoe also makes a very sweet little sister to her crab siblings and it’s charming how she likes to try to keep up to her older brothers. Again, as a children’s picture book, this offers so many fun dynamics that we see and are able to relate to between human siblings. Zoe The Crab is definitely a well rounded character and by the end of book one, we get a vivid sense of her world that she lives in which is taking place under the water. I also love that she’s a vegetarian which adds to her humane nature.
This story offers a very unique and playful style of introducing us to Zoe’s life under the sea, and to her desires to get out and explore her ocean world, with all the other story characters in this colorful picture book. Finally, not unlike kids who share these experiences in the human world, Zoe also makes good and bad choices that together, create lots of room for character development. Well done Lucia!
LORRIE HOLMES, KIDS BOOK REVIEWER
BOOK REVIEW FOR BOOK NUMBER 2 – ZOE THE CRAB – MYSTERY ISLAND
This book offers a wonderful combination of storytelling, emotional intelligence, and also, some fun educational components for young kids. The story begins with a celebration of Zoe’s first birthday and with her focusing on her missing claw and the phantom pain this is causing. There is a lot of room in this scenario for dialogue and feelings that are explored between various characters, including her mother who pointed out that she is perfect just the way she is – with or without her second claw. Zoe accepts this and realizes this is what makes her unique – a very valuable lesson for any child to learn. Love that her BFF Ned also has a missing part, which is his tail. There is a very important difference that we learn about the way they both lost these parts: one was by accident, and the other, was intentional. This also leaves a lot of room for thoughts and feelings to be explored and interpreted in this story. We learn that there is a big holiday coming up for the humans, and Zoe and her friends will need to isolate for a couple of days. Of course, the timing of this scenario is very parallel with the Pandemic that we are also living in and this also offers parents and teachers a very subtle opportunity to discuss feelings with kids about isolation and being proactive to avoid danger. The spin on Ned’s perception, that they are in reclusion as opposed to isolation, is fantastic. “We will withdraw from the outside for some days.” This is what Ned says and it’s so fantastic – the operative word here being WE! Zoe and friends (and family) wanted to stop at the riverside but they would have to instead return to their hole for their reclusion as they were not being greeted warmly by the crabs who were residents at the riverside. Understandably so, as these crabs also needed to feel comfortable with being around those that were familiar to them. I found this to also be a very valuable point of discussion that can be related to the pandemic. Next, a crocodile suddenly appears in the story and represents the biggest threat to Zoe’s group. I like that it’s identified as being the highest animal in the food chain in this story, which also introduces the food cycle to be explored. Another important component to this story that I will mention is when a magic bag with many useful items is soon discovered. This bag offers insight into where Ned’s parents have gone and how to reconnect with them. While passing the time, the challenge for these characters is to stay in their hole and to not peek outside where they can be spotted by all of the humans. Finally, after many days, they are able to enjoy a short swim in the ocean. Unfortunately, Zoe is scooped up into the talons of an eagle and carried away to become lunch for its babies. Luckily, Zoe finds a way to escape from the tree top which includes using her one claw and even practicing some yoga! It’s wonderful how resourceful Zoe has become and how good she is at problem solving. The story all ties together when we learn that Zoe is now trapped on an island with pirates where she soon suspects that maybe Ned’s parents are here being held captive too. This is where all the characters have to come together to devise a plan to save Zoe and Ned’s parents.
“Another fun filled book with Zoe the Crab and all her friends and family. The elements of fun and danger are all incorporated in a way that is age appropriate but also allows a lot of room for conversation and problem solving. Well done again! I strongly recommend this book for young kids to read with their parents and teachers.”
LORRIE HOLMES, KIDS BOOK REVIEWER
KIDS NEWS & REVIEWS: We understand there is a third book on the way already – can you tell us about this as well.
LUCIA: Of course! My third book will be published this November. It is called, Zoe The Crab – The Rescue Mission. That’s all I can tell you about it for now! I will be happy to update you soon.