From Friendship to “Firu’s Forest” – How a Children’s Book Was Born in Sarasota

From Friendship to “Firu’s Forest” – How a Children’s Book Was Born in Sarasota

Seven years ago, at the school café on the Ringling College of Art and Design campus, two women met—one a student and one a mother.

Although they were at different points in their lives—one working ardently on an art career at one of the world’s most renowned art schools and the other working just as ardently at raising two humans—they had one thing in common. Both had families from a very small town nestled on the banks of the Danube river. This was remarkable considering they were now almost a world away, again on the banks, only this time of the Gulf of Mexico.



Janice was immediately drawn not only to Danica’s exceptional talent—something that had earned her a full scholarship at Ringling—but also to her deep understanding of the human condition and how to transform it into art. By the second cup of coffee, she had an idea—the two of them should collaborate on a children’s book. Ever since Janice had become a mother, she had dreamed of writing children’s literature that would impart some important life lessons she was just learning now as an adult. Growing up with traditional fairy tales, Janice was surprised to find an array of children’s books discussing real world topics like empathy, self-acceptance, bullying, cultural differences, and learning to stick up for what’s right. She had become an avid collector of these books and felt that somehow there was a story that had not yet been told, and that she and Danica would marry their skills to bring it to light.

Danica Jokic - artist for Firu's ForestFast forward seven years and a trip to Costa Rica later, and Danica is receiving an excited phone call from Janice. She had it! She finally had not one, but three stories for a book! Janice had recently arrived from a trip to the rainforest where she had gone to study the ancient philosophy of yoga and the sutras of Patanjali. So many were the life lessons she learned there, coupled with the landscape, people, and wildlife of Costa Rica, that she had a deluge of ideas. She had been writing furiously in the little brown leather notebook she carried with her and already had rough drafts and photographs from her trip with which Danica could work. What she received in return was more than she could have hoped for. Danica’s artwork was breathtaking! And so the two were well on their way to publishing their very first book “Firu’s Forest,” three stories inspired by life lessons about the value of community, taking care of one another, letting go of the past, and learning to set boundaries so that we can better take care of ourselves and those closest to us.

J. Leigh Shelton - author of Firu's ForestOn January 11, from 11am-1pm, the two will be holding an inaugural release party at the independent bookshop and café The Reserve. Both Janice and Danica will be on hand signing copies of their new book “Firu’s Forest.” For those who want to add a mindful children’s book to their home library, this is an event not to miss. It is free, family friendly, and open to the public. For more information, contact Kathy Edwards at The Reserve at (239) 218-2292. Also, if you are interested in children’s literature, Janice has turned her love of children’s books and ample time waiting in school car lines into a book review on Instagram called @carlinepicks or check out her FB page. She currently has over 1,000 followers and posts several reviews weekly.

The Reserve
1322 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236

Photos from Janice Shelton



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book release party, book signing, Ringling College of Art and Design, The Reserve

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