Julia Cook has a lot of hope for her latest book.
Cook, a national award-winning children’s author from Fremont, has a new book called, “A Flicker of Hope.”
The colorful picture book is designed to encourage and give children the tools to talk about sadness and — when they feel helpless and hopeless — to look for help.
And never to stop asking for that help.
The book, set to come out Dec. 4, begins with the story of Little Candle, who feels like giving up. She struggles with bad grades, feelings of hurt caused by social media and worries about making the team.
She wonders who her real friends are and — to top it off — struggles with the loss of someone dear to her.
All she can see is darkness. And the dark clouds that hover over her seem heavy.
Then along comes someone — a hope builder — who reminds Little Candle that she has a purpose and her own unique gifts.
And that she isn’t the only one who deals with dark clouds.
Little Candle’s flame will keep growing brighter as she continues to talk.
Eventually, she’ll become a hope builder for someone else.
By becoming a hope builder, Little Candle’s own light will shine even brighter.
The new book is endorsed by Sally Spencer-Thomas, an international speaker on resilience, mental health and suicide prevention.
“A Flicker of Hope is a much-needed resource for our times,” said Spencer-Thomas, adding that it helps show readers how to build caring communities.
At the back of the book, Melissa Reeves, a nationally certified school psychologist, also has supplied a list of hope-building tips for parents and educators who want to help children overcome life’s adverse situations.
Cook, who regularly speaks at national education and counseling conferences, has published books on a wide range of character and social development topics.
She has more than 2 million books in print.
This is her 88th book.
“It was the most difficult book to write that I have ever written, because it has to say things — without saying them — and it’s near and dear to me,” she said. “Everybody has loved ones who have dealt with depression and being in a dark place.”
Cook said she wants the book to help prevent suicide, but the word is never mentioned in it — so the book can be read to someone, who feels hopeless, and encourage them to ask and keep asking for help.
Cook, who’s been described as a parenting expert, said kids across the country are depressed, suicidal and taking their own lives.
Various factors can play a role.
Cook notes problems caused by electronic devices. When playing video games, for instance, a player can push a button and get an automatic reward which releases the chemical dopamine in their brain which makes them feel good.
But real life is tougher than screen life.
“Achieving in the video game world is five times easier than achieving in real life. So they put the same amount of effort into achievement in real life,” Cook said.
When they don’t get the same result, they can quit.
“But while it’s harder to make an achievement in real life, it’s five times better,” she said.
Another problem can be lack of sleep due to all the screen time.
“When a person misses sleep, the first symptom is irritability. The second symptom is anxiety and the third symptom that takes over is depression,” she said.
Kids then go to school, tired, quick to react, anxious and depressed, she said.
Cook advises that parents have their kids plug electronic devices in a different room at night to charge so they can get uninterrupted sleep.
“You might have the best kid in the world and her neighbor texts her at 2 a.m., saying, ‘I dyed my hair blue, help me un-dye it,’ and the kid’s up all night. You can’t control other people texting your kid,” Cook said.
Social media influences can cause problems as well.
“It used to be that if you didn’t get invited to a party, you were the only one who really knew about it, but now everybody and their dog knows about it because it’s on social media that you didn’t get invited,” Cook said. “It’s called ‘photo letdown.’ It’s hard on kids.”
Reeves lists other factors such as bullying, pressure to succeed or conform, not feeling as talented as others, losing someone they love or struggling with a mental health challenges.
The psychologist lists the importance of hope.
“Hope is essential to life,” Reeves said. “Without it, we simply can’t survive.”
Warning signs that kids may be depressed can include anxiety, apathy, extreme negativity, withdrawal and thoughts of suicide. Those contemplating suicide may give away possessions.
Cook encourages parents not to minimize a kid’s feelings and to stress that “I’m always here for you no matter what and nothing you can say or do can ever keep me from loving you.”
She stresses the importance of developing trust and communication with children.
Cook also talks about the importance of spending “quality unplugged time” with kids. Cook cites a study where 74 percent of kids said they feel undervalued, because their parents won’t look up from their cell phones when they talk to them.
“Five minutes of authentic time off of your cell phone can be more valuable than three hours with your child while you’re on your phone,” she said.
“A Flicker of Hope,” which sells for $9.99, will be available Dec. 4 at juliacookonline.com and on Amazon. If ordered off Cook’s website, she can autograph it.
In the meantime, she remains hopeful about the book’s impact.
“If this book can save one kid, it’s worth its weight in gold to me,” Cook said.