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Bear Hugs and Hopeful Tales: Melissa Cannioto's Journey from Military Life to Heartwarming Stories

A Story of Connection, Separation, and the Power of Reunions

Storytelling has been such a backbone of my life – a life filled with adventure, the military, and, honestly, being a chatterbox!

Becoming an author has opened up so many opportunities to connect with families, and I hope that my book has helped children affected by the pandemic, illness, or times of military deployment.

My husband is a U28 pilot in the Air Force, and at the moment, we live wherever the military takes us. It’s been incredible to call so many places (and communities) home, from New Mexico to Florida. As a USAF family, we know firsthand the impact that distance has. My husband has done 6 deployments overseas and countless TDYs, and we both live away from our loved ones (I’m originally from England and he's from Colorado).

My first children's book, 'The Bear and the Hug,' stems from this feeling of separation. It follows Bear as he wakes up in a world where hugs do not exist. I wanted to help young readers navigate situations when hugs aren’t an option - and most importantly, leave them with a message of hope. Bear's friends -  Frog, Sloth, and Chameleon - are all there for Bear to lean on, even when they can't hug each other.

The whole author thing started as a little British girl writing poems and sketching pictures. I did an English Literature degree back in England and worked in marketing for a while before moving to San Diego for my master’s. It was a huge step, but I met my husband along the way and entered the military chapter of my life. Since we got married, we've PCSed a bunch, gone through all those deployments, climbed Kilimanjaro, and I've become a Disney Cast Member and published The Bear and the Hug!

It was so magical to get to illustrate ‘The Bear and the Hug’ myself. I hoped to capture a sense of warmth while having fun bringing to life the characters and visions I had in my head. The whole illustration process took me about nine months.

I had to ensure that every page of the book had the same tone and that the main characters looked the same on every page. It's all worth it when I see kids pick up my book and say, "Bear looks so soft!" or "I want to step into those fairytale woods!"

I'm so grateful to be a published author and know that my book is on children's bookshelves, in libraries, and in bookstores. I’ve been humbled to host school visits and be on TV news, but the best thing has been going to bases and seeing military children relate to Bear and light up at his story. 

'The Bear and the Hug' helps just one military family get through a tough time, I'd be so honored. My husband and I know that the BEST Bear Hug of all is the hug after a lengthy period of distance - whether that be reuniting with old military friends, greeting family back home, or seeing a spouse after a deployment.

I hope those going through kerfuffles in the military  know that there's always support and always hope, for as Bear says, "One day, when the darkness has gone, I'll hug all my friends from dusk until dawn." 

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1 Comment

Love this! So inspiring 📚

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