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Education Station: Author from Shaker Heights and Cleveland illustrator inspire students through 'Stella'

Clothilde Ewing and Lynn Gaines read their best-selling children's book "Stella Keeps the Sun Up" to Charles Dickens Elementary students.

CLEVELAND — An author who grew up in Shaker Heights and a Cleveland illustrator literally wrote the book on something every child wants to do most nights – stay up past bedtime. The pair recently teamed up to bring up their bestselling new children's book “Stella Keeps the Sun Up” to students at our adopted school Charles Dickens Elementary in Cleveland. 

"Stella" centers around a wonderfully genius plan by a 6-year-old girl with glasses and afro puffs. She tries everything from offering the sun coffee to jumping on a trampoline to try and push the sun higher in the sky, so that the sun will never set and, therefore, she never has to go to bed.

"It’s a celebration of kid logic. Kids who figure “ok, I always gotta go to bed when it gets dark. If only I could keep the sun away, then I’ll be able to stay up all day," said author Clothilde Ewing.

Ewing and illustrator Lynn Gaines recently read "Stella" to the Dickens students.

"I went to school in Cranwood, which isn’t too far from here. It’s like a chance to give back at home, which is really nice," said Gaines.

It was also a chance for Dickens kids to meet a real-life author and a big-time local artist who look like them.

"Representation was really important to me when I thought about our children. As a mom to two Black children, I was struck by how few books there were out there with joyous Black characters," said Ewing.

So Ewing wrote her own.

"I wanted my kids to love reading and get lost in their imaginations… and I wanted books that reflected that imagination and joy. I’m happy that kids like mine can see their image reflected in a story like this," said Ewing.

And that image – Stella – lovingly sketched locally, gave the Dickens kids inspiration through illustration. 

"It’s important for our kids to see that they can do and be whatever they want, if they apply themselves. They don’t have to be restricted to just certain things. It’s like hearing the kids, like 'Wow! I can draw for a living and they’ll pay me?' It’s like, 'Yes, they will. You just have to practice this and apply yourself like you would any other job and you can do this,'" said Gaines.

The Cleveland Kids' Book Bank bought copies of "Stella" for all the Dickens students to take home. "Stella Keeps the Sun Up" is number one on Amazon's African-American Children's story book list.

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