For Yvette Fernandez, losing her sister Jackie to cancer back in 2005 was both heartbreaking and consoling, considering all that she went through to battle her disease for two years.
Today, Yvette is remembering her on what could’ve been her 50th birth year with an illustrated book they co-wrote, Life is Good: A Tale of Two Elephants. It is about two elephant sisters who loved each other dearly despite the differences. One is a stuffed toy, who seemed pessimistic and the other, a glass figurine, saw all that was good. It is a story about love, loss, moving forward, and being happy again.
In an interview with The Good Life, Yvette shares that the characters represent them as siblings—her being the stuffed toy and Jackie being the glass figurine. “It’s probably because she was sick and fragile, and at the time I was living in New York,” she says. “But we were the ones who knew most about each other because we experienced everything together as kids.”
She says the book title is her sister’s personal mantra. She says Jackie was positive about everything, even when she was sick. She’d wear clothes with the statement, “Life Is Good,” and say, “We can do this. I’ll get better. I’ll get well.” Just hours after they wrote the book, however, Jackie went into comatose and breathed her last later in the day.
The book was written spontaneously during one of Yvette’s hospital visits to her sister in Boston. “She just told me, ‘Let’s write a children’s story. Can it be about elephant sisters?’ and so we did,” she recalls. “We finished it in a matter of two hours.”
But having a children’s book published with such a “sensitive topic” would take 10 years. “Some publishers weren’t interested in it because of the topic. I wasn’t sure as well if parents would want their kids to be exposed to the idea of death at an early age,” she explains. “But Anvil took the risk to publish it so I’m grateful to them.”
While Yvette tells us she never knew why her sister chose elephants as the characters, Archie Comics Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit—who was present at the book launch during the Readers and Writers Festival—offers a possible reason. “It’s a fact that elephants remember each other, even after being separated for so many years,” she tells the crowd filled with the authors’ family and friends. “She wanted you to remember that life is good.”
Life Is Good: A Tale of Two Elephants is available online at Anvil Publishing and in stores at Powerbooks Store and National Book Store for P395.