Source: Sherman Publications

‘Belly Button Love’: a children’s book

by Phil Custodio

February 08, 2012

The humble belly button finally gets some respect, in local author Kelly Hagen’s new book, “Belly Button Love.”

“People don’t think usually about it – my publisher said this will change how people look at their belly button,” said Hagen, Independence Township resident.

Inspiration for the book came after abdominal surgery in 2006, which required her surgeon to reconstruct her belly button.

“I was really struck by a sense of loss,” she said. “I couldn’t understand it. But as I thought about it, I realized it’s not just a belly button, it’s the place where I was connected to my mom.”

The children’s picture book is written as a dialogue between a mother and her young child. She wrote it in memory of her mother, who has passed away.

She started “Belly Button Love” in 2008, she said.

“It was New Year’s Eve,” she said. “It was a ho-hum week – 10 at night, I decided I wanted to bring in the new year by creating something.”

Her son Landon, who was about 7 years old at the time, helped her write it.

“We spent six days side by side at the computer – it was a pajama week,” she said. “He had veto power. He’d tell me if something didn’t work. He was in the perfect age group.”

She also wrote “Miscarriage: The Recovery Process and One Woman’s Journey,” a book based on personal experience.

“After my miscarriage, I was in mourning,” she said. “I went to the bookstore and found the books on it were all thick and medical. I thought there should be something nice and concise, about the emotional journey.”

Books she’s working on include “Pinky Swear,” about conflict and love between brother and sisters and a children’s book featuring Mr. Know Know.

“It was my son’s idea – it’s a little boy’s book,” she said. “He’s a guy who knows everything, people seek him out for wisdom.”

She works closely with her books’ illustrator, Maria Rodriguez of Grosse Point.

“I was looking for a partnership,” Hagen said. “Most of the artists I spoke to approached it as a project. I wanted more.”

When she met Rodriguez and saw all the mother-daughter art throughout her home, she knew she was the one.

“She’s been terrific, a powerhouse,” Hagen said.

Hagen got the idea to become a writer when she took a college writing class years ago.

“The teacher wrote a note that I was creative – I never really thought of myself as a writer, but I have things to say,” she said.

She lives in Independence Township with her husband, Joseph, and their children Nancy and Landon.

“My husband loves it. He’s my biggest fan,” she said. “He’s very business minded, while I’m an artist. I like the creative part of the process. When I’m done, he deals with printing. There’s a lot to it. The easy part is writing it.”

“Belly Button Love” is available online, and at Essence on Main, 4 S. Main Street, and Great Turtle Toys, 5530 Sashabaw Road. She hosts a book signing at Great Turtle Toys, 11 a.m., Feb. 11.