Ole Miss alumni work to publish books to offer positive stories for children

Published 7:00 am Monday, February 27, 2023

University of Mississippi alumni and co-authors Samuel and Freda Narh are on a mission to create children’s books that introduce diverse cultures and spark meaningful conversations.

The husband-and-wife team released their second book, “Milko,” about a young boy missing his mother, on Jan. 9. This follows their debut book, “A Kite for Melia,” in 2021.

“All of our characters are inclusive and inspire positive things in children,” said Samuel Narh (BSME 08). “‘A Kite for Melia’ is about perseverance, being resourceful, and going the extra mile. ‘Milko’ is set in Bolivia, and Milko’s mom travels to Ethiopia for work, so we introduce children to the fact that there are only two seasons in some countries.

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“We want children to see themselves in a positive light as well as expose them to different concepts they should understand.”

The Narhs’ independent publishing journey began two years ago with “A Kite for Melia,” which received national recognition as one of the Best Indie Books of the year by Kirkus Reviews. It went on to become a Northern Lights Book Award recipient and won first place in the Purple Dragonfly Book Award by Story Monsters.

“Before our daughter, Merrit, was born, we wanted to find books that would highlight our family or families similar to ours,” Samuel said. “I’m from Ghana and Freda is from the States. Sometimes you find that people like us are not usually represented in a lot of children’s books, especially in Western countries.

“That was the genesis of Chasing A Spider Publishing, a name inspired by the Ananse folktales I enjoyed as a child.”

Besides creating characters their daughter can see herself in, they like to focus on topics rarely highlighted in children’s books. “A Kite for Melia” is about a little girl who makes a kite in memory of her dog.

“A friend of our family lost their dog and shared that ‘A Kite for Melia’ was the only thing getting them through,” said Freda Narh (BA 05, BA 09). “Another mom told me that her daughter was making a kite after losing her dog.

“It’s very rewarding to know that our stories are helping children make those connections. It’s why we do what we do.”

In addition to helping children of color to see themselves in stories, Freda hopes that when they see Black authors, they are inspired to pursue their dreams. She recalled the virtual story times and in-person book tours for their first book and how children responded during those events.

“The children were so happy,” she said. “They were reading from the book and saying they want to be an author like me. I don’t think they are exposed to authors of color, so I was really happy to do that.

“My hope is that if someone is telling them they can’t do something, they see that they can.”

The Narhs, who live in Sacramento, California, are offering virtual story times for schools and organizations across the country that purchase their books. On Feb. 10, Freda did a second virtual story time for the Turnerville Educational Resources in her hometown of Clarksdale to introduce “Milko.”

Besides publishing their own books, the Narhs offer consulting services for aspiring children’s book authors, by guiding them through the publishing process.

“Because we’ve gone through this process for so long and understand what it takes to publish a high-quality book, we know all the details using the traditional route or helping people self-publish,” Samuel said.

“We understand how much effort it takes to get everything in line and get the finished product, so I’m willing and able to assist any author who’s interested in learning about the process and wants to have their work brought into the world.”

While the Narhs continue to encourage others, the person who inspired it all continues to encourage them.

“Our daughter is like, ‘You’ve written two books; you can’t stop now. You have to keep going,’” Freda said.

Samuel confirms that’s the plan, sharing that the couple has enough stories to publish one every two years for the next 20 years.

“We want to create beautiful books, and we want you to experience the books in a beautiful way,” he said, noting how they are intentional about using words that are soft, gentle and lyrical. “We also want to represent everyone because the world is diverse, so you have to remain diverse in the way you experience the world.”

To purchase “A Kite for Melia” or “Milko,” or to learn more about Chasing A Spider Publishing and its services, visit https://www.samuelnarh.com/shop.