The sequel to UND graduate Wendy Muhlhauser’s first book, “Jelly Beans the Cheetah and Hope,” is being released July 9.
The book, “Jelly Beans the Cheetah and Hope: Empathy Airlines,” stars a cheetah named Jelly Beans and his friend, Hope, as they teach and learn about empathy through play and humanitarian work with the Barabaig tribe in Africa.
The author will visit Grand Forks to sign books from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 17 at Ferguson Books and More, 1720 S. Washington St.
Before publishing her first book, Muhlhauser worked as an educator and taught children about empathy, acceptance, cheetah conservation and clean water for 18 years.
“I use my characters to teach social-emotional skills to kids,” Muhlhauser said. “When I first wrote the book … I took a chance based on what the kids responded to.”
Muhlhauser said she was humbled when “Jelly Beans the Cheetah and Hope” sold out at her first two signings in Eagan and Fargo.
Muhlhauser attributed part of her success to John Odegard’s and UND’s contributions to her life. She said that Odegard, the founder and former dean of the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, helped her get into UND despite receiving poor high school grades after her older brother’s death.
“John Odegard was an amazing, open person, and he didn’t judge me. He just believed in me and let me in. That was my launching pad,” Muhlhauser said. “UND’s base helped me develop as a person with confidence and I graduated with a theater degree that I used to teach for 18 years.”
Muhlhauser is also grateful to her mentors and interns, without whom she would not have published the book.
Shelby Janikowski, one of Muhlhauser’s interns, got involved as an illustrator through the Perpich Center for Arts Education when she was in high school, and she created the design for Jelly Beans the cheetah and helped illustrate the first book.
“(Seeing the book published) felt really good because being a children’s book illustrator would be my dream job,” Janikowski said.
Janikowski plans to work on a possible third book with Muhlhauser. Currently, she is still an intern for Muhlhauser and is working on a board game and TV show based on the book’s characters.
Readers can attend a launch party on July 7 at 3300 Alden Pond Lane in Eagan, Minn., to purchase the sequel early. People who buy two books will be able to pay a lower rate than in online retailers, and there will be a discount for educators.
When “Empathy Airlines” officially comes out on July 9, readers will be able to purchase it through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Target. An audiobook also will be available through Audible. Muhlhauser wrote the book under the pen name SissyMarySue, which was a nickname her younger brother gave her as a child.