Cassandra Federman and the subject of her first children’s book have something in common.
Federman, 36, says that when she attended school as a teen in Attleboro, she felt ostracized, like “a jock who belonged in the band.”
“The trouble was that I had no musical talent and the other jocks (aka my tormentors) described me as ‘too responsible’ to hang out with,” she said in an email interview. “I was bullied quite a bit from middle school on and had one really close friend — who is still my best friend to this day.
“I think that is why a lot of the stories I write have themes about being an outsider, friendship, bullying, and allowing that which makes you unique to shine.”
Federman, who now lives in the Los Angeles area, will be visiting her old stomping grounds this week to promote her first children’s book, “This Is a Sea Cow” (Albert Whitman Publishing) and also talk with some area kids about it.
On Thursday, she’ll be at Robinson Elementary School in Mansfield, visiting a few classrooms and reading to students.
On Friday, she’ll visit her old elementary school, Hill Roberts in Attleboro, where she’ll give a presentation in the auditorium followed by some drawing and a book signing.
Then on Saturday, Federman will be at An Unlikely Story bookstore in Plainville for a public reading, drawing, and book signing.
“Sea Cow,” she explained, is designed to look like a second grader’s school report on sea cows.
“The subject of the report does not like her portrayal, so Sea Cow — or Manatee, as she prefers to be called — comes to life to set the record straight,” Federman said. “I hope it makes kids and parents laugh while they learn a bit about a species that could use some love and support.
“Sea Cow gets bullied a bit by the narrator, but in the end she gets to explain to the reader what makes her and her species unique and wonderful.”
Federman attended Brandeis University, is married to a screenwriter, and has a 3-year old son.
She originally moved to Los Angeles to work in film and television and thought that she wanted to become an actress. She said held a variety of jobs, including a production assistant on an Adam Sandler movie, but it was ultimately unfulfilling.
Federman said she was depressed about her career and unsure how to overcome that. She thought back to what brought her joy in childhood — art.
Federman said she was fond of drawing but stopped in middle school.
“So I decided to attempt to illustrate a children’s book that I’d written for fun,” she said. “That’s when I fell in love with making books, joined SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and now I’ve got a new career that fills me with happiness.”
Federman said her “Sea Cow” book stems from when she was in college and figuring out what she wanted to do. She did a study-abroad program where she worked directly with marine mammals and enjoyed it very much, later doing an independent study on manatees.
Federman said she was feeding her son one night, was very sleep-deprived and a sea cow just popped into her mind.
Her book tells the story of a sea cow insulting a land cow and how the land cow defends herself.
“This Is a Sea Cow” came out in bookstores on Sept. 1.
Federman said she wants to make literature her life-long career and would also like to illustrate others’ books and have others illustrate hers. She hopes to eventually write for an older audience.
“I’ve always been attracted to storytelling in one form or another,” she said. “For a long time I was trying to tell stories the wrong way. The right way ended up being children’s books.”