When Missy Mareau Garcia wrote her fictionalized children’s book about living with Type 1 diabetes, she wanted children, families and teachers to see through the eyes of a child who is coping with the disease and to better help understand it.
Garcia and her husband Keith raised their three daughters in Hermosa Beach, but when their oldest daughter Ava was diagnosed with Type 1 in 2006 when she was 5 years old, their lives were changed forever.
“Hopefully kids take away a knowledge of diabetes that wasn't a textbook or a boring speech or PowerPoint,” Garcia said.
“The Ups and Downs of Audrey May” was written for school-age children and their families, Garcia said, and follows the character inspired by Ava and the challenges she has faced with an incurable disease.
Besides entertaining children, Garcia wants to clear up some misinformation surrounding Type 1 diabetes. No one in her family, including her two other daughters, Viviana and Violet, have been diagnosed with Type 1 or 2 diabetes. She said Ava did not get Type 1 from making unhealthy eating choices. Nor does a diagnosis of the disease prohibit children from eating treats like cupcakes.
“I tried to like take all of my frustration and create something that kids would, first of all want to read, which their response has been amazing,” Garcia said. “Especially from teachers in second, third and fourth grade. When they read it to the kids, they are totally invested and interested.”
Garcia has been a screenwriter for years while being a stay-at-home mom, but “The Ups and Downs of Audrey May,” published in 2019, is her first book. She could only find picture or baby books tackling the issue.
“I was always like a big fan of like ‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,’ Garcia said. Those kind of books that are funny, but talk you through real life and making kids feel like… their problems are important no matter what age they are or whatever things they worry about.”
When she sent her manuscript to book publishers, she said many felt it was too scary, “it’s too life or death.”
“That was frustrating to me, because first of all, every Disney movie, someone dies, whether it's a parent or someone, so it's not like life and death is not, it's very real to kids.”
But a main goal for Garcia, who is currently working on a second book, was to have children with Type 1 diabetes see themselves as a brave hero of the story.
“I'm the one that's brave enough to take up to six shots a day until you get approved for the insulin pump,” Garcia said of the reader. “I definitely get very emotional every time I get feedback from kids who have Type 1, but I also love like when I have teachers, they read it to their whole class, and the kids loved it and wanted to hear more and wanted to know more.”
Garcia said Ava is taking a year off to work and save money during the coronavirus pandemic, but she has been studying Musical Theater at El Camino College. She booked her first professional show last year in Cincinnati, with a long-term goal to perform on Broadway.
For more information, visit https://www.amazon.com/Ups-Downs-Audrey-May/dp/1797819666.