Carmel Valley resident Danielle Depratt Koelbl and her 5-year-old daughter Taylor have turned their bedtime storytelling routine into a sweet series of little books with big lessons. The mother-daughter team has published “The Girl Who Loves Unicorns” and “The Girl Who Asked for Presents,” available for purchase on Amazon and recently donated into the collections at the Del Mar and Carmel Valley Libraries.
“I love being a children’s book author,” said Depratt Koelbl, who hopes that their little books spark creativity, determination and time well spent with a friend or loved one.
Taylor, a preschool student at Horizon Prep who will be in kindergarten at Sage Canyon Elementary School this fall, said “spending time with mommy” was her favorite part of the creative book-writing experience.
She also had an ulterior motive: “I wanted to write books to help kids stay up later,” the tot author said with a giggle.
Depratt Koelbl and her husband are Wisconsin natives who came to California to attend college. They have lived in the Solana Beach, Del Mar and Carmel Valley area for the last 10 years, parents to Danielle and her 3-year-old sister Alex.
“What started it all was when Taylor was 4-and-a-half, we were going through common parent-child disconnects, like her always asking for treats and presents,” Depratt Koelbl said.
“I don’t do it anymore,” Taylor clarified for the record.
Depratt Koelbl figured out that bedtime was the one time Taylor really wanted to listen—as she is a strong advocate of kids staying up later.
“At bedtime, I started creating stories that were half about her. Very quickly she identified that they were half about her so she started contributing to the stories,” Depratt Koelbl said.
She found that the stories helped facilitate discussions between mom and daughter about different topics, their storytelling often winding their way toward a useful lesson, valuable moral and a happy light’s out.
Depratt Koelbl got the idea to turn their stories into children’s books and together they wrote six books in four weeks. It can be hard to communicate with kids sometimes, she said, and working on the books together created some special bonding moments.
A friend and graphic designer in Chicago, Erin Bonham, offered to illustrate two of the books and the first book, “The Girl Who Asked for Presents,” was accepted into the Kindle Direct Publishing/Amazon on-demand print at no charge. The book was ranked the #1 new release in Early Children's Education and held a Top 100 Children's spot for its first two months on Amazon.
“It teaches you that you should be thankful for your toys and that there’s something special even in empty boxes because you can make a castle or doghouses or whatever,” Taylor said.
Taylor came up with the story for their second published book, “The Girl Who Loves Unicorns,” while on her way to a unicorn birthday party. In the story, a little girl is determined to find a unicorn, working with her mom to try and entice a unicorn to come by setting out treats like lollipops and marshmallows, stickers and a sparkly headband.
Taylor came up with the ending that the little girl knew it was unlikely that a unicorn would visit because “they live at the top of rainbows”— she says, “I really just wanted to imagine I could find one just so I could spend time with you.”
“My heart melted,” Depratt Koelbl said of the sweet ending. “Taylor is my snuggle bug, she wants to snuggle and play with me all the time.”
In the end, a unicorn is peeking through the window as the mom and daughter devise a plan for how they can find a mermaid.“Unicorns” was released on Amazon a few weeks ago and has ranked #9 new release in Children's Values Books and #3 in Early Children's Education.
Depratt Koebl loves the message of that book, reminding parents and families about the importance of spending time together. She admits that she can get caught up in work sometimes as the president and CEO of a healthcare software company but she has realized that, “The only project that really matters is making sure that I raise good and empathetic humans, being a mommy and showing my girls that they can do anything.”
“Time spent together is the best time spent,” she adds, noting that her girls never let her forget a “family day.”
The Koelbls submitted several manuscripts to publishers in February including “The Girl Who Says ‘That's Mine’” and “The Girl Who Wants to Choose Her Outfits” and “The Girl Who Asks For Treats”—similar to the book about asking for presents, an adult finds a sneaky way to get children to appreciate a healthy snack.
Depratt Koelbl said being artistic does not come natural to her as it does to her daughter. Taylor has a big imagination and she loves to sing and write songs, draw and send handwritten letters to her family members in Wisconsin.
Taylor is also an avid reader and the family is always swapping books with friends. Taylor said her favorite books are “Danny Dog,” a book about a rescue dog written by another local author Sid Shapira, and “Clean Water for Elirose” by Ariah Fine about a group of children that realizes they can make a difference in the world by saving up money to build a well for those who don’t have water. After reading that book, Taylor said she wanted to help others too.
Depratt Koelbl has also been inspired to make a difference—she is hoping to donate “The Girl Who…” and “The Boy Who…” books to Rady Children’s Hospital, books with blank pages so every kid can write their own stories.
“So many positive things have come from our project, whether it's another child saying, ‘Wait. Taylor wrote this? Can I write a book too?’ Yes you can! Or a parent telling me their children now create castles out of Amazon boxes because there is beauty in an empty box,” Depratt Koelbl said. “It makes me feel so wonderful that my family, and other people, are finding tiny moments as a result of our hard work.”