In 1998, a little girl named Meana went from living in Amber Curzie’s imagination to living in the pages of a book. It was the first time Curzie tried her hand at being an author and, as it turned out, it was also the first time she had to shelve her story when it didn’t get published.
Fast forward more than two decades, and Meana is alive and well – still in Curzie’s imagination, yes, but also in “Mighty Meana Mullin You Are Loved,” a new Christian based children’s book that hit stores in January.
“I think it was about timing. Meana was meant to be a character that was made and loved by children,” Curzie explained. “I rewrote this book many, many times. It wasn’t always Christian based, but it was always about being the best version of yourself.”
Teaching children to be their best self is a simple, yet impactful, lesson that stands the test of time. Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” Jane Yolen’s “Owl Moon,” Kevin Henke’s “Chrysanthemum” – classic children’s literature is a smorgasbord of building good character, and “Mighty Meana Mullin You Are Loved” is no exception.
Centered around a blonde, blue eyed little girl named Meana, “Mighty Meana Mullin You Are Loved” tells the story of an 8-year-old’s journey to be her best, which, for her, means showing love like Jesus, all while praying for a friend to come into her life.
For Curzie, weaving the Christian themes throughout the book happened rather organically. While her own relationship with Jesus was established in childhood, Curzie was also impacted the last decade-and-a-half by teaching religious education at Jesus the Good Shepherd in Beverly.
“By my 15th year, I had a strong understanding of my faith,” she said.
At the end of Catholic Mass, Curzie explained, the deacon tells parishioners to go and spread the gospel of the Lord. The Delran resident, who spent time growing up in Hammonton, Medford and Voorhees, recognized she already did that with her students, but was ready to do it outside of the classroom.
Enter Meana Mullin. When Curzie was rewriting Meana once again (“I don’t know how many times I’ve rewritten it,” she admitted), she incorporated a religious backdrop for two reasons. One, she was personally struggling and feeling unloved at the time, and that made her rely more heavily on her faith. And two, Curzie discovered there were not many books available to 3- through 8-year-olds on how to be a disciple of Jesus.
“If children can start when they’re young to build a foundation in their relationship with Jesus, it’s really going to help them when they’re older,” Curzie noted..
While she is Catholic, Curzie decided to write her book with a general Christian theme that she discovered makes up 31 percent of the world’s population.
“I made it a general message of the gospel, that Jesus loves you and wants a relationship with you,” Curzie said. “My message wouldn’t have gotten as far if I had focused on just making it a Catholic book.”
With publication, Curzie is grateful to her husband and five children for helping her always be the best version of herself. She’s also thankful for Millbridge Elementary School teachers April Wallis and Noel Marini, both of whom posted about the book on their social media pages, garnering praise and well wishes from women across Delran.
“If I could also just thank those women,” Curzie said. “It made me cry. I was so touched.”
Curzie also credits Maria Gimello, who directs the religious education program at Jesus the Good Shepherd, for her guidance.
“She is just fabulous. She’s always supportive and encouraging,” Curzie enthused. “If anybody in my life has been a mentor, it’s her.”
As far as what’s to come, Curzie already has another book in the works – and Meana Mullin will make a return.