Sarasota resident Amy Diamond self-published her first children’s book, The Adventures of Splash & Shelly: The Lost Octopus, this week.
It’s about a mother octopus and her two octopi children, Olivia and Ollie. Olivia swims away from home when Mommy gets impatient and raises her voice on chore day. In her quest to find her, Mommy octopus and Ollie embark on an adventure, overcome challenges and learn about ways to cope with feelings that can sometimes get too big.
The mantra is, “Let's close our eyes, count to 10 and try again,” says Diamond.
The 29-page book is intended for children ages 2 to 9 years old and includes a fun fact sheet about marine wildlife, along with an activity like a maze or word find. The story it tells is a mashup of the author's real life.
Diamond lived in Los Angeles for 16 years. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, she had to pivot fast to stay afloat in a city where the cost of living is high; moving closer to immediate family in Sarasota last March made sense. For her two sons, ages 11 and 5, the sudden move, along with the social effects of the pandemic, led to nightmares and anxious feelings, but good night stories she invented on the spot always soothed.
“That’s when I started thinking about my characters and making up stories that were relevant to us,” she says.
The underwater setting is a lifelong passion of hers. With a bachelor's degree in marine biology and a master’s in education, she worked at aquariums, where she wrote biology curricula for children. To make it fun for her students, she developed a cast of ocean characters.
“Each character had a background and I wrote a script for each. Once you've lived in L.A., you have to eventually write a script. This was mine,” says Diamond.
Choosing a sea creature with eight tentacles to be "Mommy octopus" was a metaphor for her busy life. She runs a mobile swim lesson business, practices acupuncture and has now launched what will become a book series. Her next book is due in about two months.