Bedtime in the ‘Burgh

Written By Sarah Gibson

Rachael Bindas and Alyssa Minkos are two college students who are trying to bring a little more variety to the medium of children’s literature in Pittsburgh.

“Before the Sun Wakes Up” a children’s book currently in production with a planned release in March of 2018. It’s a book with an intended audience of children ages 1-to-4 years old, and follows a child protagonist watching different personified celestial bodies waking up and going to sleep. What sets it apart, however, is the illustration. The main character is a small child of indiscriminate race and gender in a yellow onesie. This is intentional.

“As artists and creators, we don’t think about it until we are presented with the idea of doing so,” Alyssa Minkos, illustrator of the book and a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said on the subject of writing diverse characters across the spectrum of race and gender. “As an adult I have developed a belief system, as we all do, and I was finding it hard to express those beliefs, but this book gave me a way to do that.”

“Especially in this political climate that we’ve been facing currently, I just wanted every kid to feel like they could relate to it, even if they were only 1-to-4 years old,” Author and University of Pittsburgh student Rachael Bindas said, when prompted on why she wrote the book. “I have a four-year-old sister, and she loves books. I went home over the summer and I would read books to her all the time, and while I was doing that I realized that the characters in these books were predominantly white.”

Bindas, who has been longtime friends with Minkos, brought up the idea of teaming up to create a children’s book around the idea of a narratively ambiguous poem.

“It was Alyssa’s idea to have a main character of an ambiguous race and gender, so there wouldn’t be any subconscious gender norms that it would have to live up to, even in a book intended for children,” Bindas said. “It’s a great way to introduce representation to children without presenting them with these complex concepts.”

What makes this project even more impressive is the age of the creators. Both Bindas and Minkos are 20 years old and working towards college degrees. Bindas is majoring at the University of Pittsburgh for a degree in English Writing with a concentration in fiction. She has also achieved a certificate in sustainability and wants to work in publishing. Reading has always been a big part of her life, which in part inspired her to write the children’s book in the first place. She has had several short stories and poems published previously. Minkos is currently attending the Rochester Institute of Technology for a degree in 3D animation. She is an art director for an on-campus magazine and is an illustrator in her free time, and has illustrated one children’s book before this for a friend. When she graduates, she hopes to become a 3D artist because it allows her to use light and texture in a way that two-dimensional art does not.

At the time this article was written, the Kickstarter funding the book still has a month to go, and has already raised more than 65 percent of their original g oal.

“Self-publishing is definitely harder than I figured it would be, and I’ve took a class on publishing before,” Bindas said when asked about the process of publishing her book. “But the Kickstarter has been really successful because of so many different supporters and people who really believe in the message of our book, and I think that’s just fantastic.”