An exchange with her daughter helped lead to the idea for a children’s picture book for local resident Maria Ragone.

An exchange with her daughter helped lead to the idea for a children’s picture book for local resident Maria Ragone.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Change of clothes leads to children’s book for resident

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published August 27, 2021

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FARMINGTON HILLS/WEST BLOOMFIELD — Maria Ragone said writing a children’s book is something she wanted to do for a long time.

The current Farmington Hills and former West Bloomfield resident said she has “toyed” with different ideas, but prior to this year, nothing inspired her enough to complete the task.

That changed around mid-March, after a brief exchange with her daughter.

“My daughter is 3, and she likes to wear all of her dresses,” Ragone said. “She was going on her third or fourth change for the day. … Out of frustration, I said, ‘Angela, you do not wear 20 dresses a day.’ And then it sparked an idea.”

The idea that was sparked led to a self-published children’s picture book titled, “Nina’s 20 Dresses,” which came out in June and is available for purchase on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

“‘Nina’s 20 Dresses’ is about a little girl who loves wearing dresses, and she has a lot of (them),” Ragone said. “She can’t decide which one to wear every day, so she comes up with a great idea to wear them all. So she devises a plan to have a party. She works out her muscles to be able to wear her dresses because they’re heavy, then puts them all on and realizes that it’s not as great as she thought it would be.”

After getting the idea for the book, Ragone went to work.

“I finished the book within a week or two. The idea flowed, and writing it was really easy,” she said. “I found an illustrator, and that took another six to eight weeks. It was (around) May when it was actually complete.”

The illustrator Ragone chose to help complete her book is María Angélica Guerrero, who resides in Colombia.

Guerrero shared details about how she became involved with the book.

“Maria held a contest on a freelancing website, where she asked for a single illustration of a scene with the main character. I sent my entry on the very last day,” she stated via email. “I really wanted to give it a try because it seemed like a great and fun project to be a part of. Thankfully, she chose my design, and the rest of the process started from there.”

Guerrero received feedback from Ragone remotely during the process.

Despite the work that went into bringing the illustrations to life, Guerrero enjoyed herself along the way.

“One of the most fun parts was to design each dress that appears in the story; to think of the length, the color combinations and details to make them look interesting,” she stated. “The most challenging part, which I also enjoyed, was to portray the expressions and body language of the characters. I would stand myself in front of the mirror, making faces and poses that I could use as reference to draw.”

Near the end of the book, Nina’s friends come up with an idea to try to help her.

Ragone, who graduated from Bloomfield Hills’ Marian High School before going on to Western Michigan University, where she double majored in fine art and textile apparel studies, discussed some of what children can take from the book.

“I think a big goal is to show children that friendship is really important, goal-setting is very important, and perseverance,” she said. “There are female heroines in it just to show little girls that, even though they might (want to) wear a dress and that they’re really girly, that they can be a hero.”

Despite “Nina’s 20 Dresses” being a children’s book, Ragone would like for more than just the little ones to be entertained by it.

“It is a little bit funny, too. I’m hoping that little kids laugh and that it’s appealing to parents, because as a parent, it’s nice when the book is interesting enough to hold the parent’s attention, because oftentimes they’re asked to read it, like, a hundred times,” she said. “So I appreciate a book that I like, as well.”

Guerrero reflected fondly on being a part of Ragone’s book.

“I personally love to illustrate for children, to try to stimulate curiosity and wonder, even just a little,” she stated. “In every illustration I make, I like to transmit warmth and love for what I’m doing, which I hope can be seen in what I did here, and motivates the little ones to pursue creative paths.”

Ragone owns West Bloomfield Lifestyle Magazine and is also the mother of a 1-year-old boy. She recalled what it was like to see “Nina’s 20 Dresses” in finished form.

“It was a great feeling to be able to open up the very first package with my very first print copy, see my name on the cover, all of the illustrations come to life in print, and all the words on the pages come to life,” Ragone said. “It was a really great feeling to know that I did this. … My daughter was super excited to see it, too. She loves the story.”

Ragone discussed how things have gone since the book’s release.

“I’ve gotten great feedback, good reviews, lots (of) purchases, so I’m happy with that,” she said. “My goal has never been to get rich off of this or anything; it’s just something I’ve really wanted to do, and knowing that I’ve done it is a great feeling.”

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