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Canberra Today 20°/22° | Monday, January 24, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Sticky Icky Vicky learns to put courage over fear

New authors Alysia and Michael Ssentamu.

MAWSON couple Michael and Alysia Ssentamu have just published their “debut” book, based loosely on their daughter Rhea.

Michael is a consultant respiratory and sleep physician at Canberra Hospital and Alysia was a registered nurse, so they’ve worked together before as colleagues and as partners.

“It was a very good experience actually, my wife has worked with me in the ward, but this was something completely different that we decided to do, so it was very rewarding,” says Michael.

Cover of the book based loosely on Rhea.

“Sticky Icky Vicky: Courage over Fear” is a children’s story, but Alysia says everybody could learn a lesson from it.

“It can have a message in it for parents if they take it, in regards to listening to their positive voice instead of their negative,” she says.

Rhea is now six years old, but when she was younger she had grommets and recurrent ear infections, so she had a fear of putting her head underwater.

Alysia and son Tyler were doing a course that talked about the negative voice in people’s heads. In “Sticky Icky Vicky” the voice is called Negative Ned.

“She was pretty young, around three, so I tried to talk to her about the negative voice. I don’t know whether she grasped the concept of it as such, but she was willing to give it a go,” says Alysia.

Rhea started attending swimming lessons and, with some patience and perseverance, she learned to blow bubbles, then eventually put her head under the water.

“She’s fantastic, she’s like a fish now, she loves the water,” says Alysia.

In the “Sticky Icky Vicky” book, the character Vicky looks like Rhea, and the illustrations of the parents match the appearance of Michael and Alysia.

“It wasn’t actually intended, I just said I wanted a white mum and a black dad just because you don’t see many mixed-race couples in books. I thought it would be nice, something different because that’s what our family is like,” says Alysia.

Rhea and Tyler both love the book, and it is a frequently requested bedtime story in their house.

“They’re watching the whole process, which is really cool. They see the illustrations come through and I talk to them about what they think we should change, or if the illustrations go with the text and they give a little bit of feedback,” says Alysia.

The illustrator, Noor Alshalabi, is based in Jordan.

Alysia found her online and messaged her through Instagram. 

“She started working with us, and she’s working with us on the second book, too, which is really nice,” says Alysia.

Tyler and Rhea Ssentamu looking at their parents’ book.

Michael says they’ve received good, positive feedback from friends and colleagues, who think they have done something that is very special in trying to encourage people to face their fears.

“We’ve written a second one already and it’s being edited. It’s about Vicky being bullied for being dirty. That’s coming out in February hopefully,” he says.

“We tried to make it about choosing to be yourself. There’s bullying in it and Vicky doesn’t do what she loves to do, but in the end she chooses to be who she is,” says Alysia.

They are looking at things that kids may face, that they can help with through books.

“We’re going to see if we can look at social issues, environment, climate change and things like that,” says Michael. 


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