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Living a fantasy

Labor of love: Susan Love currently teaches at Patterson school in Southwest Philly. She will celebrate her children’s ebook, which has been available since September, with a launch party this Saturday.

A Philadelphia teacher who has made learning fun for her pupils has written a fantasy adventure that comes alive for readers.

Somerton resident Susan Love’s Ms. Love’s Mystical Island Adventure is an ebook whose illustrations are animated. The children’s book inspired by Love’s own pupils has been available since September on Amazon, Barnes & Noble online and Apple iBook online stores. It’s the iBook version’s illustrations that are animated, she said last week.

The ebook “has customized colorful minimovie action clips with sound and music that you would see in a Walt Disney film,” she said. “The great benefit to this enhancement tool is that it may assist a child in comprehending the text in graphic detail.”

Set on an island, the interactive book, illustrated and animated by Patrick Harrington, is the story of Sabrina, Arthur, Miguel and Lucy, who must save a magical orchid from an approaching hurricane. They’re helped by a flower-shaped crystal that once protected the island and whose hidden petals must be found and reassembled. The heroes have some opponents in this quest, Love said, and there is a scene in a castle with those rivals that she believes will be especially enjoyable to readers.

You might say the book just had to be an island adventure. Islands are a big part of Love’s teaching career. Now.

Back in 2002, Love, a former actress, who also is a dancer and model, was fairly new to teaching. As a new school year approached, she was more than a little depressed by her classroom’s prospects. The room was infested by mice and roaches. The kids were uninspired; their parents uninterested. The new year was looking to be another failure, she thought.

But before that year started, Love took a Caribbean vacation. She returned refreshed and with a new attitude. She also, figuratively, brought some of the islands back with her.

She transformed her Southwest Philadelphia classroom into an “Island of Learning,” and encouraged her pupils, many of whom had island backgrounds, to write stories. The kids liked it, and the parents liked it. Grades went up. To say the least, the school year was a success.

Jump ahead a few years, and Love and her “Island of Learning” are now at the Patterson school in Southwest Philly.

The kids like to put a familiar character in their stories, she said.

“The children wrote island stories about me,” she said. “Many of the children were from the islands, and I think they saw me there because I had created an environment that was representing and supporting their culture. Somehow, they connected me to their native island.”

That, and a visit from a regional superintendent, inspired Love to write her book.

“One afternoon, the regional superintendent visited my classroom. Her name was Lucy Rodriguez,” Love said. “She read one of the books that a student wrote that was mounted to the ‘Ocean of Literacy’ bulletin board.”

She then suggested to Love that “this could go to a whole new level,” Love said. Later that day, she was reading the same “Ms. Love’s island” story that the pupil had written and “then it suddenly hit me … My own Ms. Love island story and I can share the creative adventure ideas that the children wrote with the rest of the world … There it was in a moment … ‘a whole new level.’”

There will a book launch party at the Willow Grove Barnes & Noble store (across from Willow Grove Park) from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 17, Love said. She’ll be there and so will Harrington and a magician. It will be a lot of fun for kids and their parents.

Ms. Love’s Mystical Island Adventure is available for $2.99 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. The animated version is available for $4.99 on Apple’s iBooks site. ••

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