The picture book follows walruses as they learn how to set boundaries for themselves.
Reminder Publishing submitted images

Middle grade author and East Longmeadow resident Christina Uss will be releasing her debut picture book “The Island Before No” on July 16.

Targeted toward children ages 3-6, the picture book is about an island of “doughnut-loving walruses” who say “yes” to anything they are asked, Uss told Reminder Publishing. When “the Kid” comes and takes over the island using the word “no,” the walruses must learn how to set boundaries.

Christna Uss

Uss explained that she was inspired to write the story by her own experiences having “yes days” with her twins on their birthday. On these days, Uss said “yes” to anything her children asked, as long as it was achievable, such as eating birthday cake for breakfast or going to the park instead of school.

“It was so much fun to have a yes day once a year because, when you have kids, you have to say no a lot and, when you have twins, you have to say no twice as much. So, I started imagining what if there was an island where everyone said yes to everything all the time. Would it be a happy place or would they have problems?” she said, stating that while she never had any issues with her children’s “yes days,” the experiences led her to wonder how the word “no” would complicate a society that only knows the word “yes.”

“The Island Before No” will be Uss’ fifth published book. She began publishing books in 2018 with the release of her first novel “The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle” and has been writing for nearly 20 years, she said. She has since released three other novels for ages 8-12. In addition to writing full time, Uss also works full time at the East Longmeadow Public Library and as a substitute for Richard Salter Storrs Library in Longmeadow.

Writing a picture book was “an idea that wouldn’t let go of me … and when an idea won’t let go of you as a writer, it’s a signal that you really need to write this story,” Uss said. She explained that she “immediately knew” the story she imagined needed to be written as a picture book and matched with an illustrator to create the final book.

Uss emphasized that she intends to continue publishing both middle grade novels and picture books moving forward, stating that the experience of creating a picture book was “so much fun.”

When asked about her books’ “guaranteed happy endings,” she explained that she aspired to write books with happy endings similar to the books that she loved as a child.

“I want to be like those authors. I want to guarantee that when you step into my world, crazy things will happen; weird, wonderful wacky things will happen, but you always know coming out that it’ll have a happy ending,” Uss highlighted. She noted that she felt that it was important to give readers “a heads up” about whether the book would end happily or not, emphasizing that it was helpful for readers when deciding which book to read.

“The Island Before No” will be available to purchase everywhere books are sold on July 16. Copies are also available at bookshop.org, an online website supporting independent bookstores, Uss said.

HWRSD One Book One Community

In addition to the release of her upcoming picture book, Uss also shared her book’s selection for the 2024 One Book One Community in Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District. For this program, her 2020 novel “The Colossus of Roads” was chosen.

This is the 10th year that the district has hosted this program, which allows all families with a student entering grades 1-5 to receive and read the same book with the community during the summer. The books are purchased for families with the support of LUSO Federal Credit Union, according to the One Book One Community committee.

In addition to every student reading the book, activities are also hosted throughout the summer that relate to the chosen book and the author of the selected book visits each of the elementary schools to speak with students during September and October, the One Book One Community committee stated.

“I’m so honored. I’m very excited that they did this,” Uss said of her book’s selection.

Uss’ first book, “The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle,” was also selected for One Book One Community in 2020. However, with the coronavirus pandemic, the corresponding activities and author visits were canceled, Uss said.

The next event for One Book One Community is Road Sign Bingo with the Wilbraham Children’s Museum from 9:30-10:30 a.m. on July 25. It will take place at the museum’s playground pavilion and is open to all students and families from HWRSD, the museum stated. Registration is available at wilbrahamchildrensmuseum.com/event-details/road-sign-bingo.

For more information about Uss and her books, visit christinauss.com/index.html. Uss also encouraged readers to visit her at the East Longmeadow Public Library.