For Bari Wald, the idea to write a book has been there for quite some time. With a background in marketing and public affairs, the Senior Area Programs Manager at USO Okinawa has now made that dream a reality with the recent release of “O is for Okinawa”. The children’s book aims to help kids who are learning their ABCs, as well as give them a little lesson about the island. Beyond its educational value, the book also serves as a nice memento for those service members looking to remember their time here. Wald recently spoke with Stripes Okinawa to chat about the book.
Q. Tell us about your background, and how did it help you come up with the concept for the book?
A. I have a background in marketing and public affairs and have always loved creating tangible products. In college, I worked a lot with kids and had an idea to write a children’s book about a traveling ladybug, but I never took the time to do it. Fast forward 15 years, and that particular concept has been done a lot, so I wanted to write about something different but none of the ideas I came up with really excited me. A few months ago, I picked up a copy of Oki 123, a very cute counting book that is Okinawa-themed, and that’s what sparked the inspiration for an Okinawa ABC-style book. I even reached out to the authors of that book, fellow military spouses, and they answered some publishing questions I had and gave me insight into their experience writing their book.
Q. How has Okinawa had an impact on you? Were there any memorable experiences that stand out?
A. Okinawa has had a huge impact on me and my family. We had our children here, explored all over the island (and off-island in the Pacific), and have met some incredible locals who have given us the opportunity to see things from a different perspective in life. I personally feel that every American should travel and/or live abroad to get a more global view of the world, and be able to appreciate different cultures. I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to live here for four wonderful years, and we already look forward to returning with our children when they are older to show them where they were born.
Q. The motifs you picked for the letters in the book cover various aspect of everyday life in Okinawa, including local traditions, wildlife, food, locations, etc. What was your idea behind the selections?
A. Picking out the corresponding selections for each letter of the book was the most challenging part. Some letters had multiple things that could have been used, so I tried to keep each letter as general as possible to represent an overall view of Okinawa that most would be familiar with. I also wanted this book to be able to spark nostalgia for those service members (and their families), who have ever made Okinawa their temporary home.
Q. In the book, each letter is put in Okinawa Bingata-style designs. How did you come up with the idea?
A. The Okinawa Bingata-style design is a beautiful staple of Okinawa. It seems anywhere you go on-island, you will see that pattern. Last year I created a custom-framed artwork for a good friend of mine and used Bingata fabric. When I went to the mall to pick out the fabric, I was shocked at just how many different Bingata color choices there were. With this being a children’s book, I wanted to use bright colors that would interest kids, but not plain colors or patterns. That’s where the Bingata idea came from. I chose five color selections (red, yellow, blue, pink, and black), and used that theme throughout. The patterns of each color-scheme are slightly different too, which adds a unique touch.
Q. Children are the main target audience of this book. What would you say to sell parents on getting the book for their children?
A. “O” is for Okinawa” is meant to be a fun, culturally diverse way for kids to learn or practice their ABC’s. It’s great for language too since some of the words are actual Japanese words, such as “K” is for Kokeshi and “M” is for Mochi. My two-year old loves to repeat the words after me and look at the pictures. She has even pointed out things she’s learned in the book when we’re out in town. I think if parents are looking for a fun book for their kids that captures Okinawa, and that can be a memorabilia piece of their time here, then this is the book for you.
Q. How can people get a copy?
My book is available on Amazon in paperback and as a Kindle version. I frequently do giveaways on my Facebook page as well – Facebook.com/OkiABC
Q. Do you have any future writing projects planned?
A. Well, we’re headed to San Diego next, so I’ve started working on “C” is for California… learn the ABC’s Cali Style.” It’s a good thing my husband is a California native, so he can help me with letter selection! I hope to have this edition complete in January 2019.