In 1990, self-published author Gill McBarnet released “The Goodnight Gecko,” a story about a young gecko who learns to overcome fear and embrace his imagination. Inspired by her son Will, it remains a classic that has sold over 250,000 copies since it came out. She will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the book this November with a limited run of 10,000 copies featuring an embellished version of the original cover with a special edition stamp on it.
"Without my husband Terry to urge me to put pen and paint brush to paper and without my children, and now my first grandchild, to inspire me, none of my books would have happened,” McBarnet said. “I would never have had the nerve to write, illustrate and publish all 13 books that I have done to date since beginning this journey 30 years ago.”
McBarnet’s journey into the world of creating Hawaiian-themed children’s books didn’t begin out of the blue. Before moving to Maui with her husband, she was a teacher and magazine writer in her homeland of Zimbabwe. She released her first book, “The Whale Who Wanted To Be Small,” on her own dime in 1984 after not having any luck finding a publisher. Using money from her savings, she printed 5,000 copies.
“It’s one thing to have books on the shelves, but another matter to draw attention to them,” McBarnet shared.
In the early days, McBarnet and her husband staked out bookstores, libraries and schools—often with their three kids in tow. Over the past three decades, she has gone on to become Hawaii’s bestselling children’s author, selling an estimated 1 million copies combined of her 13 books.
The popularity of her stories has transferred from the page to the stage with a theatrical adaptation of “Goodnight Gecko,” which ran every spring at the Palace Theater in Hilo from 2004 to 2006. The production was by Quack Moore, former musical director for “Saturday Night Live” and Emmy Award-winning songwriter for “Sesame Street.”
On December 19, Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) will put on a full production of “Goodnight Gecko” at the Maui Ocean Center, including a performance of the original composition “Happy Night Song.” Two of McBarnet’s other works, “The Shark Who Learned A Lesson” and “The Brave Little Turtle,” have been performed at schools throughout Maui as part of MAPA’s education tour.
“We grew up with these books and now we’re reading them to our kids,” said Jeff Swartz of Islander Group, which has been distributing McBarnet’s books for over 25 years.
“Writing children’s books has always been a family affair,” McBarnet shared. “The success of ‘The Goodnight Gecko’ was due to their encouragement and inspiration. Having the opportunity to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this book, which has been a part of the lives of so many local children, really brings everything full circle.”
McBarnet will host an ukulele-accompanied story time reading of “Goodnight Gecko” on Oahu at Ala Moana Barnes & Noble on December 5.
To find out about special events surrounding the 25th anniversary or to purchase any of the books in McBarnet’s collection, visit hawaiianchildrensbooks.com.
Copyright 2015. Hawaii News Now. All Rights Reserved.
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