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Inspired Stories: Sister - featuring Leia M. Johnson

Photo montage. Top left, a tree with colorful books, flowers, and leaves for the leaves. Bottom left: an author photo of Leia M. Johnson. Top right: Sister picture book cover. Bottom right: Title "Inspired Stories: Sister Featuring Leia M. Johnson.

Welcome to the first entry into our "Inspired Stories" blog series. Each installment in this series adopts an interview-style approach that allows you to delve first hand into a creative's perspective. Today we will share what inspired author Leia M. Johnson to write her award winning picture book, Sister.

At Phoenix Media & Books, our motto, 'Connecting The World Through Inspired Stories' sets the standard for everything we do. If what you learn resonates with you, please let us know in the comments. Thank you and happy reading!

A wall of pictures of the family depicting happy times between the daughter and her parents all around the Foster Care Certificate which shows they are about to start fostering.

What is your book, Sister, about?

Leia: Sister is ultimately about community. The story centers around a family that has entered the world of foster care and adoption, but overall, I want people to walk away inspired to create safe spaces for all people in their sphere of influence.

Who is your audience?

Leia: I wrote the story first for families that have walked this road. I wanted them to see themselves on the pages of a book. But I also wanted people who were curious about foster care and adoption to have a story that would inform them about how things really work. My third audience is the family browsing the shelves of a bookstore or library, looking for a new, unique book to read together. Ultimately, it’s a story for anyone who reads with young children.

A young girl helps her father prepare to welcome a foster child into their home. He is preparing a bed while his daughter hands him a screwdriver, brings pillows, and finds a book for him.

What inspired you to write this story?

Leia: Our real life experiences of fostering and adopting inspired the idea, but what helped me turn the idea into a book was when I realized how badly this book was needed.

I scoured the market for something like this to help my kids process what we were experiencing as a fostering family and was left disappointed. I found novels for older kids and adults that did a great job of representing fostering families and kids in care, but I couldn’t find quality books for young kids that depicted our experience.

There are many books about foster care that are therapeutic in nature and several that have “fostering-ish” stories with animals as main characters, but I wanted a fostering story that centered the human experience.

A girl singing and dancing with her foster brother. Also the foster brother sleeping and cuddling a stuffed animal his foster sister gave to him.

Is any part of your life reflected in your book?

Leia: Much of the story is informed by my family’s experiences. Not only have we fostered and adopted, but I feel like the spirit with which we approached fostering is reflected on the page as well.

I found that there are many misconceptions that people have picked up from news stories, TV, and movies that don’t accurately depict the realities of foster care and adoption. I also wanted to project a “better way” in how I portrayed the family in the book.

A young girl visibly sad and clutching a purple crayon that her foster brother broke as he prepares to leave their home.
The world of foster care can be messy, and it can be made worse when people aren’t willing to work together and center the kids in care. Our experience involved a lot of “same team” thinking and collaboration with first family members and foster care professionals, and I wanted that to be reflected in the experiences of the fictional family as well.

What do you want the reader to take away from this story?

Leia: I want readers to have a better understanding of the world of foster care, and I want this book to be a conversation starter. Maybe it will inspire people to get involved in their local community. I also want readers to be able to reflect on the complex emotions that stir within us when we attempt to do hard things, which is a universal experience.

Foster family welcoming a new foster child into their home.

How does this story connect the world?

Leia: In everything I do, I hope to connect people because I believe like the late, great Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. that “the purpose of human life…is to love whoever is around to be loved.” We’ve created found family over and over by nature of our lifestyle as a military family, so it was a natural transition to open our home to kids who needed a soft place to land during a difficult time.

As the back of my book states, over 600,000 kids move through the system every year, so foster care is something that affects not only the families that sign up to love kids, but it also has ripple effects in their communities, touching countless lives along the way. I hope the book creates a sense that we are all in this together and that other people’s children are also ours. We belong to each other.

Family picnic with the main character, her adopted sister, her parents, and all of the children they fostered and their relatives.

Thank you to Leia M. Johnson for this insightful and inspirational look at Sister. If you loved this story, please consider leaving an online review, sharing this post, or even donating a copy to your local foster agency, library, classroom, or family who you feel would connect with this book. Click here to buy directly from our website, or here to buy from Amazon.

For more information about Leia, please visit her website at

Inspired Stories


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