PROVO — Juliette Eames had an idea. With recent studies proving that family history can improve a child’s self-esteem and better equip him or her for life’s challenges, she wanted to teach her son about his heritage. And what better way than a children’s book, with her grandmother’s life as the subject?
After writing the book, Eames had it illustrated and published, but it wasn’t until she read the story to her son and brought the book to a conference that she realized its potential.
“I’ve had conversations with a lot of people where they’ve said, ‘I really want to write a book for my kids,’ or you know, ‘I’ve always wanted to do a children’s story about fill-in-the-blank,” she said. “It’s been really surprising to me that so many other people have had this idea.”
For most people, though, actually producing a children’s book is another matter since the process is both time-intensive and costly.
“The first prototype that I did cost $2,000 and the products that we’re selling are $29,” said Eames. “So we’re making it so much more available for people, and I think that is the real value of our product is they don’t have to find an illustrator. They don’t have to find the writers. They don’t have to find the publisher. We do all that for them.”
To expand their reach, Eames and her husband, Wesley Eames, launched a Kickstarter project that was fully funded in just over four hours. Their product, FourBears — inspired by the word "forebears," meaning "ancestors" — provides customizable children’s books about the life and legacy of loved ones.
How it works:
FourBears asks for personal details from their patrons to add to their stock content — think Mad Libs meets family history — in order to create a storyline. Each story, therefore, varies to fit the needs of the individual and includes information such as birth, education, marriage, profession and favorite holidays. Patrons also create a personalized avatar to ensure that the main character in the book resembles the loved one they want highlighted.
Illustrators Emma Gillette and Connor Gillette, art director and director of Brigham Young University’s 2017 student Emmy-nominated short film, are also on board. Currently, they’ve designed approximately 40 pages to match a variety of storylines.
“It needs to fit the needs of so many different people,” said Emma Gillette. “Nothing is grounded in reality too much, so that nothing will alienate people, but it’s specific enough to at least show the daily life of these people that we’re telling the stories of. So, it’s kind of dreamlike with really soft, airy colors.”
As recent graduates of BYU’s animation program, the Gillettes have been able to work full time on the project and have devoted hundreds of hours into making sure the illustrations are fun for kids. Their experience in making characters relatable has also played an important role in their design.
“The things that I learned in the program about telling stories and helping people connect to the characters that you’re drawing translates very well into illustration, and especially into this book,” said Emma Gillette.
Juliette Eames added that in her experience, family stories have strengthened her throughout her life. In launching FourBears, she hopes to give others that same feeling of purpose and belonging.
“Our mission with these books is to help children gain that understanding of who they are,” she said. “Along with trying to provide fun stories for kids, we’re also really trying to strengthen families and help children connect. Personally, just with raising my son, I think children yearn for connection and they want to be loved. And they want to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.”