White Rock’s Marya Sopova is celebrating National Literacy Day Jan. 27 with a reading from her book

White Rock’s Marya Sopova is celebrating National Literacy Day Jan. 27 with a reading from her book

Local author marks National Literacy Day

The MouseTronaut is a novel tailored specially for children aged nine and up – by a White Rock author who knows her market well.

Marya Sopova is a reading teacher, who assesses children’s reading skills and programs their reading to their strengths and weaknesses. She has also advised school districts on children’s books that are appropriate for different reading levels.

The MouseTronaut – her first published work (she also has two plays and numerous poems not yet in print) – is the captivating tale of a brave mouse, Myshnik Mishnovsky, who happens to be a graduate of the MouseTronaut Training Institute in Moscow, Russia.

With his friends, the Russian orphan Vanya and his Canadian English teacher Miss Bramblebee, also known as Tyota (aunt), Myshnik embarks on a series of adventures that take him from Moscow to White Rock, the U.S. and even – as the title suggests – into outer space.

It is, by turns, a story that is touching, heartwarming, humourous and full of word play. It is also enlivened by the charming pen-and-ink sketches of illustrator Kathleen Parker, of Lake Forest, Calif. – who, it turns out, is Sopova’s sister.

The MouseTronaut is so much fun, in fact, that children just may not detect its serious purpose – to encourage literacy, a cause very dear to Sopova’s heart.

“Reading is so important for children,” she said. “If you can’t read, you can’t go on with all the other different subjects.”

To mark National Literacy Day next Thursday (Jan. 27) Sopova plans a reading for children nine and up – and their parents, who are likely to be just as captivated by Myshnik’s story.

The reading will take place at a White Rock residential complex from 7 to 8 p.m., at 1355 Winter St. (doors at 6:30 p.m.) and the first 10 parents to reserve a place at the limited seating event will receive a free copy of The MouseTronaut.

They will be in good company – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s daughter, Rachel, was sent a copy late last year, right after Sopova self-published through Printorium Bookworks. Sopova, who also sent copies of her book to U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian Federation President Dimitry Medvedev and their families – closer international ties are also a strong part of her message – said she was stunned to receive a personal reply from Harper’s wife, Laureen.

“That came on Christmas Eve – I couldn’t believe it,” she said of the missive, which congratulated her on the novel and the workbook and thanked her warmly for “welcome additions to Rachel’s library.”

“I will encourage her to share them with her friends at school,” Harper wrote.

As fanciful and playful as it is (“children love humour,” Sopova said) the novel also includes a carefully researched factual background, including up-to-date facts about current space exploration initiatives, the history of the Sputnik and Apollo programs and even the status of the planet Pluto. It’s the only novel of its kind that she can think of that comes with it’s own workbook, Rocket of Fun and even a teaching plan.

But it also has a deeper personal significance for Sopova, a fourth generation Canadian with a proud Russian-Ukrainian heritage, who has been a White Rock resident for 25 years.

She said The MouseTronaut was partly inspired by the mice and dogs who were carried aloft in the first Sputnik space missions. But she admits there’s another real-life inspiration for her story of a highly adventurous rodent – and its happy ending.

When her own daughter, Wendy, was nine, she had a pet mouse named Oscar. On a trip to California, Oscar was misplaced at the airport – only to be found and delivered back to his worried owner by taxi.

To reserve a seat for the reading, call 604-536-6749.

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