A few weeks ago I was introduced to Jono, a friend of a friend who has the most incredibly heart warming story. He and his wife have 2 children, born 1 year apart. His daughter Hannah is 6 and his son Tate is 5. Understandably life was busy with 2 kids under 2, but even more so with the growing concern that something wasn’t quite right with their son. After a diagnosis of Tate’s Autism Spectrum Disorder, parenting took on a whole new meaning. While the diagnosis was a shock, Jono and his wife were relieved to have some answers and pave the way ahead for their precious boy.
Along with a difficult diagnosis, Tate needed additional time, energy and attention and both Jono and his wife were stressed, and to be honest, exhausted (as ANY parent can imagine). His wife was also not well at the time which added to the exhaustion of every day.
With everything that comes along with such a diagnosis (despite the emotional toll), seeing specialists, special needs school, new financial pressures, and the demand both of their jobs had on them, they noticed that their daughter was also starting to take strain (she was around 3 at the time). Her brother couldn’t talk, he screamed a lot wasn’t able to play with her in ways we would presume normal. They realised that Hannah was aware of the pressure they were under and needed some extra time and attention too. Based on all this Jono started spending more intentional time with Hannah telling her bedtime stories, helping her try to relax and unwind at the end of the day. Jono and his wife would alternate nights putting each kid to sleep. (I mean if you’re a parent reading this, you can feel the immense demand on them can’t you?)
Hannah soon began asking for more and more of Jono’s imaginary stories and so after a while (still with no plan to do anything with them) he started recording them onto his phone as he told them. The character of Mr Brown Mouse became the hero of the stories. While story-telling, he would always include a positive message, something that Hannah could relate to with what their family was going through at that time. He included themes such as a willingness to try, courage, a sense of adventure, friendship, being helpful and positive etc. It was a gentle but strong message that even in the midst of the hardest challenges or experiences that Mr Brown Mouse was going through, ‘everything was going to be okay’.
It was here that Jono stumbled upon the unsuspecting benefit in keeping the story recordings on his phone. On the nights where he and his wife were just too tired or needed to give extra time to Tate (or even take some much needed time for themselves) they could ask Hannah which story she wanted and she could listen. It is a beautiful picture – the image of Hannah and her mom or dad lying next to her, intentionally being together, listening to stories, but without the pressure of being ‘on’. The value and relief for them was life changing!
With the discovery of what a gift this was to their family, Jono began to wonder if he could do something with the stories and if other children (and parents!) might appreciate them. This was when the idea of creating audio books came to mind. Working in TV advertising meant that he had plenty of experience working with voice over artists, music and sound effects. He re-wrote and refined the stories, received outsiders opinions as to how best to tweak them and the rest is history. It truly is a beautiful outlet for his whole family to embrace any fears, challenges and the unknown as they walk this journey.
In his own words, “Our hope is to first and foremost be an awesome source of help to parents who might find themselves in a similar space to us and occasionally need to take a moments rest in the midst of the busyness. We also hope to be helpful to children with (even in a small way) helping them see that everything is going to be okay; that everyday is a possibility for adventure, and that it’s good to help others, to care and to always try, especially when things are hard“. Jono De Canha.
A personal review: So, that’s the beautiful story behind the audio books, but I’m not lying when I say, since putting them on one night for the kids, my boys have asked for them EVERY NIGHT since – no word of a lie. They have been an enormous hit, and I’m desperate for Jono to release some more!!
You can buy these (instantly downloadable) audio books for R29.95 each or R149,95 for the set of 6. The MP3 can be saved to your itunes library for quick and easy access. Each story contains originally written and scored music, professional voice overs with multiple characters, age-appropriate sound effects and comes with a full colour illustrated ‘cover art’ for the MP3. (Pics in this blog post)
Here are some summaries of the first 6 stories:
1) MR BROWN MOUSE MEETS MRS GIRAFFE
Mr Brown Mouse rides on the back of ditsy Mrs Hippo and crosses the river for the VERY FIRST TIME! Join him as he crosses paths with crocodiles, elephants and lions and makes friends with the tallest animal he’s ever seen! A gentle first adventure, perfect for bedtime.
2) MR BROWN MOUSE & THE BIG BIG FIRE
Join Mr Brown Mouse on a courageous adventure to help save the animals and the forest from a big, big fire! With a little bit of thought and a sincere desire to help, almost anything is possible… But who will help Mr Brown Mouse when all the animals are running away? Listen again and again to this daring story of courage and character!
3) MR BROWN MOUSE & THE OWL BABIES
After waiting THIRTY DAYS, Mr and Mrs Owl’s babies are ready to hatch! It’s terribly exciting and Mr Brown Mouse wouldn’t miss it for the world… after all, Mr Owl is his first ever friend!
4) MR BROWN MOUSE’S FAMILY IS COMING TO VISIT
Mr Brown Mouse’s family are coming to visit but he’s out of Honey Biscuits and tea! What will he do? Would he dare to ride on the back of big, old Mr Crocodile, all the way down the river to get more? Who will he meet on the way?
5) MR BROWN MOUSE & THE OSTRICH EGG
Mr Brown Mouse finds an egg! A VERY BIG EGG! It’s even bigger than he is! What will he do and how will he find it’s mum. And can he stop Mrs Hippo from accidentally sitting on it?
11:45 duration with wonderful character voices, sound effects, music and narration.
6) MR BROWN MOUSE & THE BEAR
In his most daring and epic adventure yet, Mr Brown Mouse soars on the back of Mrs Eagle! Join him as he travels over the mountains to visit his old friend Mr Bear. But will Mr Brown Mouse be able to wake Mr Bear up.