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A Little Sea Horse Teaches Respect for Different Kinds of People and Self-Acceptance 

May 14, 2022

Efi Foteinou has written her first illustrated children’s book, ‘O Ξεχωριστός Μέλλιος – Special Mellios,’ published by Parisianou Publications. Her path to writing was paved by creative writing seminars she attended after earning a master’s degree in International Marketing Management, which led to work in the Public Relations industry. She now works for the Greek national railway company.

She liked reading books since she was a little girl, and she now enjoys storytelling, traveling, and “dancing like nobody is watching!”

When she doesn’t read, travel, or dance, she writes. Her blog www.nouazetamefountouki.gr is her passion. She likes spreading knowledge by writing in a fun way – infotainment – about books, art, and movies.

O Ξεχωριστός Μέλλιος – Special Mellios is about a little hippocampus – sea horse – who is different from the others.

He doesn’t have one big fin, but two small ones, and that is why he can’t swim fast like the rest. That makes him feel sad and disadvantaged, until the day he meets a small fairy who needs his help!

At first, Foteinou’s story was only for her own children’s eyes and ears and it was her son’s idea to send it to companies in the Greek book publishing sector so other children could also enjoy it.

Her book, which includes an audiobook with the voice of the famous actress Lina Sakka, is available on publisher’s site https://www.parisianou.gr/el and in all Greek bookstores.

‘O Ξεχωριστός Μέλλιος – Special Mellios.’

The National Herald: How did you start writing children’s books? 

Efi Foteinou: Ο Ξεχωριστός Μέλλιος – Special Mellios entered our lives unexpectedly and spontaneously while I was reading books to my children as part of our nightly routine. My son asked me to tell him a story “from your head”! I took the opportunity and made up a story that would present the message I wanted – respect for diversity. Unfortunately, society does not easily accept the diverse; it targets and alienates them.

TNH: Why did you choose a hippocampus as a hero of your fairy tale? 

EF: Because the hippocampus is a fish, but it has a completely different appearance from the classic fish.

It is a special marine organism, which does many things differently, for example, it is the only creature in the world that has the male giving birth to its children!

I also liked its symbolism. It symbolizes good luck, protection, courage and friendship. I come from a marine family, so I wanted the story to take place in the sea, and since the tale is about diversity, the ‘role’ was his, without him having to audition!

TNH: What is the role of the fairy? 

EF: She is the reason that Mellios sees his potential, a fairy who seems to have it all but needs his help. Although he swims slowly because of his two defective fins, he found another way to protect her and lead her safely home!

TNH: What was your vision when you wrote this story?  

EF: To me, it’s a wake-up call. My goal was to pass the following message first to my children and then to others: Respect the different people around you and accept your own particularities and gifts.

We are all different, even though it does not always seem so at first glance, however we live in a society that pushes to the margins those who do not come from the mold of uniformity.

‘O Ξεχωριστός Μέλλιος – Special Mellios.’

TNH: How do you ensure a picture book lends itself well to being read aloud? 

EF: It is good to have a simple story that involves adventure or some kind of excitement that will attract small kids’ interest and simultaneously make them relate and feel a connection with the heroes.

You can touch on deeper issues for kids, by dealing for example, with bullying, sadness, or a number of issues that kids may not want to deal with alone – when the book is read aloud and talked about, feelings can be shared.

TNH: Tell us about the audiobook and the choice of the famous actress Lina Sakka to narrate the story.

EF: Lina’s narration is awesome. Her voice is the fairytale itself!

She told my story exactly as I had it in my mind, and I thank her very much for believing and supporting it from the first moment.

Many moms told me that the story and the song in the audiobook touched their children, kept them interested and occupied in the car and when they listened to it at home. They felt like they actually read the story on their own!

TNH: Do your heroes lead your way through the story or do you decide about their fate?  

EF: It depends. In some stories my heroes lead me, change my thoughts about them, in some others, that is not the case. In this book, I have already decided my heroes’ fate because I wanted to deliver a specific message.

TNH: How do you connect with your little readers and the writing community in general? 

EF: I am a Mom Blogger and through my blog www.nouazetamefountouki.gr and my social media I connect with mothers, educators, teachers, and reading society in general.

I also have two kids and I have a strong relationship with their schoolmates and other kids in their non-school activities.

TNH: Children’s books get the message across regarding social issues. Which is your goal in writing your stories?  

EF: I dream of the day when respect for diversity triumphs in our society, whatever the issue or characteristic may be, whether it is a person’s choice or not, whether it is obvious, such as a feature of our appearance, or a disease that is not visible.

TNH: Which are the Greek children’s books you wish you had written? 

EF: There are so many children’s books I wish I had written! I’m a mom Blogger and I have a collaboration with some of the leading companies in the Greek book publishing sector, to present their new book releases in my blog www.nouazetamefountouki.gr. That means I read a lot of books and it’s difficult to choose one or two. If I have to mention one or two, that would be ‘Ιστορίες Με Δυναμικά Κορίτσια’ and ‘Το Ατακτο Βιβλίο Των Καλών Τρόπων.’

TNH:  What’s coming up next for you? 

EF: I am writing a new adventure of ‘Ξεχωριστός Μέλλιος,’ but I am also in the middle of a writing process for a novel. It’s a love story!

TNH: Do you have any advice for aspiring picture-book authors? 

EF: Look around you, talk to children, connect with them and you will find your story! Then write it your way, be yourself and don’t care if other authors have already written about that. Nobody can write it like you – nobody is you and that is your superpower!




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