With a lifelong passion for learning, Anita Pazner now has the chance to enlighten others with her new children’s book, “The Topsy-Turvy Bus,” based on the real eco-friendly vehicle with an upside-down, right-side-up design originally created by Ben Cohen, of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream fame. The first bus was donated to Hazon, the largest Jewish environmental organization in North America. The Detroit version was commissioned by Hazon-Detroit.
Pazner, a mother of four who recently earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, never expected this would be her breakout story. The well-educated author, with a journalism degree from Oakland University, previously worked as a freelance writer. Before having kids, she even earned a master’s degree in gardening from Michigan State University so she could write a column on the topic for a local paper.
Currently, Pazner has more stories in the works. “I always wanted to write novels and I read constantly,” said the author who has a penchant for historical and young adult narratives.
Born in Germany, she currently lives in West Bloomfield with her husband, where their children went to Bloomfield Hills Schools.
When she was four, she demanded a journal, which was more like a diary back then. But she hesitated to fill the pages.
“I wanted to wait until my words were perfect,” she said. “Spelling and punctuation scared me. But as every writer knows, nothing is ever perfect. Everything takes revision.”
Upon earning her MFA, she gave herself a weekly goal. “When I graduated, there were so many political issues in the world, we were at a standstill,” she said. “It was too hard to look at the news every day.”
She decided to write a picture book a week. “Not that they’re easy by any means,” said Pazner. “I would start on a Monday and send it out on Friday.”
But it wasn’t until a friend, Wren Hack, the former director of Hazon, was taking the Topsy-Turvy Bus to Channel 4 to be interviewed for a story and asked her to tag along, did she find the right fit. “It runs on veggie oil and the exhaust smells like donuts,” she said. “I am a firm believer in recycling and sustainability.”
When it clicked that this should be a picture book, Hack encouraged Pazner to write it. She submitted it on a Friday and heard from her publisher in a matter of days.
The educational tale shows kids how to protect the planet. “I had been writing for decades and it was all about opportunity and being in the right place at the right time, making the world a better place one tiny idea at a time, which is at the heart of the book really,” she said.
Illustrated by Carolina Farías, the picture book can be found online and at independent bookstores like McLean and Eakin in Petoskey and Book Beat in Oak Park.
Pazner, who has presented lectures and coordinated conferences for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, enjoys speaking to elementary schools. Her upcoming book launch will feature the Topsy-Turvy Bus, and local bookstores will have signed copies with free bookmarks printed on post-consumer waste paper.
She wants children to know they can make the world a better place. “I want to give them hope,” said Pazner. “I want them to read my book and say, ‘Wow. There is something I can do.’ I want my message to be: Just the little things you do can make a difference and they might lead to something big.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow