How often have you picked up a children’s book and found a character that looks like you, or even represents your race or skin color?
Beato Goes To books actually portray the people from each country. Many of the characters in the book – including my real cat Beato – are people who I actually met during my travels. They look, dress, talk and enjoy the same things in real life, as they do in the books.
In Beato Goes To Brazil, the main character (besides Beato), is Amanda Villa-Lobos, a girl from Rio De Janeiro, who I first met in Atlanta. Amanda worked for my nonprofit, Go Eat Give, as a multimedia intern and eventually ended up being my travel assistant. We went all over the world together – Brazil, Armenia, Georgia, The Philippines, Chile, Mexico and Mongolia, as she took photos and videos, while I wrote about the different places. Amanda visited my grandma in India with me, and I stayed at her home when her family moved to London.
Amanda was raised in a diplomat family, so she got the opportunity to live abroad, learn multiple languages and meet people from different cultures. She is always open to trying new things (specially new foods), and picks up at least a few words in every language when she travels.
I decided to dedicate this book to Amanda (the illustrations are based on her actual photos of when she was a kid in Rio), because she embodies the spirit of a true Carioca (which is what they call a girl from Rio) – fun loving, sporty, always on the beach, kind to animals, eating lots of fruits, and curious about the world.
You will also find other real characters in the book, such as Pietro Maia, a young Brazilian boy I met while speaking at an elementary school in Atlanta. Like Amanda, Pietro also loves to play sports, soccer being his favorite. At only 7 years of age, he approached me after class during the book signing and asked me to write a book about his country, so here I am.
I attended the Carnival in Rio in 2017, but decided to show a real dancer in the book. Andrea Moreira is a famous Brazilian samba dancer from Bello Horizonte (also a place I visited in Brazil), who I met in Atlanta. Andrea performed at a Go Eat Give fundraising event and is possibly the best samba dancer I have seen. She can dance anywhere anytime – be it the beach, pool or the office!
Most of the illustrations in Beato Goes To Brazil are based on places I was at and activities I did. Though my illustrators in Romania did a terrific job of replacing me with a cat!
I hope you enjoy the new book and continue to be inspired by Beato’s travels where he learns about different cultures and destinations. And if you like Beato Goes To Brazil, share it with your family, friends, schools, libraries and organizations.
Who knows I may pick you as my next character 😉