Six years ago, Dr. Shreya Hessler promised her middle daughter, Bianca, that if she ever wrote a book, it would be named after her.
“I just didn’t have an idea on the topic until a few years later,” says Hessler, who wrote “Bianca Finds Her Bounce,” a book about a girl who struggles with anxiety. “Once the idea came, the story came naturally. And the vision in my head was the bouncy personality of my own child. Everything clicked.”
The book was released this year by Baltimore-based The Omnibus Publishing.
“Writing a children’s book had always been on my bucket list,” says Hessler, a Perry Hall resident who is a licensed psychologist and founder and director of the Bel Air-based MINDset Center, a comprehensive practice of therapists that specializes in tutoring children with learning disabilities and offering psycho-educational evaluations.
She wrote the entire book in a 15-minute sitting in 2016, and it took six weeks to complete the editing process.
“The story came with some ease — it’s a language I speak every day in my work,” said Hessler, who is also the president of the Maryland Psychological Association. “The process of penning the book didn’t take very long at all.”
She believes her book is important because it addresses a myriad of topics.
“Anxiety in children has increased in prevalence over the span of the last decade,” Hessler says, attributing this to the ability to recognize the symptoms; children’s having access to more information than they need; and children feeling more pressure than they have seen in past generations. “The good news is it is very treatable. Kids — more than adults — are open to strategies and tools.”
She thinks the book is relatable.
“I was really hoping that this book would be an every-child book. Lots of kids feel worries. I wanted this to be something that would work for anybody,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s not what we worry about, it’s the how we worry about them. I wanted this book to be relatable to a child that has a worry of any kind.”
Hessler, who is of Indian decent, also thought it was important to base the character’s ethnicity after her daughter, who is biracial.
“When [my daughter] was young, she was looking for a book where the title character was her. She was looking for a heroine that looked like her,” says Hessler, who adds that her three children — ages 7, 12 and 15 — love the book. “My children are biracial. I thought this would be a great opportunity for a child to be represented in a multitude of ways. Not just in skin color — but with female empowerment. The feedback that I love is that girls of many different ethnic backgrounds see themselves in this character.”
Nancy Fiorentino, a private practice psychologist based in Towson, has read the book and finds it “hopeful.”
“I think it talks candidly about anxiety and children,” she says. “I think it’s a hopeful book. So many children and adults struggle with anxiety and they struggle with the language. It gives children and adults a way to describe what’s going on inside.
“Kids can relate to the characters. Parents can relate to having an anxious child,” says Fiorentino, who has known Hessler for almost two decades. “They are able to talk to them about anxiety.”
Hessler’s background also gives her book a unique voice, according to Fiorentino.
“It’s a very real-life approach,” she says. “She’s approaching it with her clinical-psychology brain and mom brain.”
Hessler has plenty more stories she wants to share. She’s working on a children’s book on being mindful.
“It shows children how to take a pause and be present,” she says. “I’m also taking a stab at a teenage novel.”
"Bianca Finds Her Bounce"
The book, written by Dr. Shreya Hessler and illustrated by Fanny Liem, was published in January by Baltimore-based The Omnibus Publishing. It sells for $19.95 on Amazon and is available at Harford County public libraries.