The world had completely shut down in March of 2020. Things were eerily quiet and strange, and no one knew what the future had in store. My son was a year old and my dad had bought him a simple ukulele to play with. One day during his nap, I picked up his ukulele and the tuner that came with it, and I decided to just play for myself. I loved to sing but had always given up before truly starting, discouraged by the complexity of all the chords to make up a complete song. I looked up some tutorials and tips, and quickly became a fan of Bernadette Teaches Music on Youtube. With a little patience, little by little, chord by chord, strum by strum, the independent chords came together to create a sweet melody. I learned to play “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. As I strummed the strings on our porch, I felt my spirit lifting, my heart lighting up, and a sense of great peace. It was as if I had reunited with a long-time friend. I heard the birds start to sing along with my tune. A symphony of birds joined in with me and that sweet message resonated… “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing is gonna be all right.”

I wanted to share this wonderful feeling with the world and to encourage children like my son to play, and I wanted to learn to play all the love songs for my son. There are so many benefits and reasons to play music, including the development of creativity and motor skills. Music makes children more active listeners and improves memory and learning ability. Music is an expression of emotion and often helps us to lean into what we’re feeling. Music is a celebration of life and learning how to play the ukulele inspired a new kind of gratitude in my world.

I was also a bit disappointed to find in my research that there aren’t more children’s books about the lovely instrument, nor did I discover any stories that incorporate the history and culture in a fun, creative way. I developed my ukulele character, naming her Ulani, a Hawaiian name that means “cheer”. The words and rhymes came together, quickly and naturally, until they formed 16 pages. I was grateful to then find an incredibly talented artist, Reza Fazu, who could bring the story to life. I am also very thankful to the many authors who have shared their process, including Joanna Penn and Ammon Brown, author of Bobo and The Fuss (an adorable book about a dog who isn’t so happy about the new addition to his family). Star Keeper by Faith Pray and Always Love You Hoo by Rachel Bright inspired me to tell this story with big, bright, beautiful colors. I love the way they take up space with a harmony of illustration and text, the way the images immerse the reader into the story. Big Magic by Liz Gilbert was also like a friend holding my hand through the process, constantly reminding me of the magic that we have inside ourselves, and the incredible beauty of connecting with divine inspiration. I recommend reading (or listening to) this book to anyone, but especially to anyone who is gearing up to start a creative endeavor.

A few months later when Reza sent me the illustrations, I was brought to tears! I was moved by the way he had captured the story, and the artwork was more beautiful than I could have imagined. I have never been part of such a beautiful collaboration of art like this before. I brought the formatting text and images together using Canva (and registered the book for its ISBN and with the library of Congress), and now, we have a legit storybook to share with the world! Hooray!

boy playing uke for friemds

I am independently publishing Ulani Ukulele, and I am printing this book in bulk with NinjaPrint so that I can self-publish and maintain a lower product price. Pre-order purchases will significantly bring the costs down and help us to bring this book to life in quality print! My hope is to have all pre-orders mailed out by December, in time for Christmas! So if you’re looking for that special, unique gift for a little music lover in your life, please consider Ulani. We will also have a limited amount of gift sets that include a plush ukulele. My little guy enjoys hugging this soft ukulele and it is great for getting smaller children exposed to musical instruments before their fingers are totally ready. We will also announce some exciting launch news soon that could benefit your local library! Please join my email list on the Home page to know when pre-orders are available and for future updates! We’re getting super close to introducing Ulani to the world!

Thank you for supporting this little dream of mine, which I hope will inspire other little dreamers to explore their own inner magic.