I recently had the good fortune to receive a copy of Jess Ballier’s new children’s book Tess’s Tree. I enjoyed it a great deal, and in many ways it could be considered the perfect children’s book. It balances entertainment with education, and the illustrations are rich yet simple, ideal for the age group it is aimed at (4-8).

I had the opportunity to interview Jess Brallier on Blog Talk Radio, and it certainly was an interesting 30 minutes. It turns out that Jess is no beginner in the book world, he has published numerous adult and factual children’s books, although Tess’s Tree is his first foray into this particular style of writing.

Tess’s Tree has a very interesting story behind it. Apparently it came about after his wife told him a story about her friends little girl. Her parents had chopped down a dead tree in their yard, and Tess was upset, she liked the tree and missed it. She decided to hold a funeral service for the tree. Jess liked the story so much that he used it as the basis for the book.

Once written and illustrated the next problem was where and how to publish it. They decided that the internet was the perfect vehicle. Jess Brallier is the manager of Funbrain.com which is one of the most popular children’s sites on the internet. In a vary daring marketing move the entire book was made available for free online. In fact even though it is now in print Tess’s Tree is still freely available on Funbrain.com. Something like 50,000 children a day visit the book! The site statistics show that people from more than 90 countries have read Tess’s Tree.

So successful was the online experiment that Tess’s Tree was spotted by the prestigious publishing house Harper Collins, they approached Jess with the proposal of turning it into a real book. The rest, as the say, is history.

Tess’s Tree is available in better bookstores everywhere or online from The Blue Bunny, oh and if you ask nicely they may still have some signed copies 🙂

You can listen to the whole interview here.

Simon Barrett

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