Artie Sandstone was born and raised in Miami, and always-loved making up names, rhyming and scribbling down characters. Drawing and painting did not fully become a part of his life until about the age of 20, and since then, it has evolved into a real passion, well more so, the creation of new characters that will hopefully make you stop, smile and tap into your imaginative side.
But after his daughter was born in 2013, he was inspired to bring some of his favorite illustrations to life. They were no longer just doodles, as his teachers once said. They were a family called the Schwellberries, here to delight both young and old—as original paintings, and as a new series of preschool-aged children’s books about learning, having fun and being comfortable in your own skin – blue, green, squiggly or wiggly.
The first character you’ll meet in Artie’s books is Wally Schwellberry, a one-eye-browed, bowtie-for-a-nose blue fella who just can’t sit still. Wally wants children to talk—and talk, and talk!—to him, preferably in his native language of Schwellsh. (It’s a silly English developed with Artie’s wife, a pediatric speech pathologist that emphasizes repetition of sounds and teaches phonological awareness through silliness.) Along the way, he’ll introduce children to his family and their home in Schwellville. It’s a place where acceptance and imagination breathes free, and being unique is encouraged. Curvy-head characters grow on trees and change colors, spoons come to life, and even chocolate bars smile.
The core of each book is interactivity. Wally (and Artie) engages children to repeat words, respond to questions, fill in the blanks, and so on. The Schwellberry series currently consists of four books: Pleased To Meet You, where Wally teaches kids how to let loose, be creative and silly; Hey Dude, It’s Time To Eat Your Food, in which Wally gets kids excited about eating by encouraging them to see basic foods in new ways; 14 Things That Make You Say…, a spin on the traditional counting book, with funny pairings and unusual objects that make counting part of the exploration; and We Speak Schwellsh, How About You???, where children embark on a journey through Schwellville, while learning the Schwellsh language and further honing their English language awareness and practicing enunciation, in the natural Schwellberry silly manner.
“Weird is okay, it’s actually great, in fact, it’s the ‘normal’ that is spooky.” – Artie Sandstone