Jo Ann Briseño is a multimedia artist, an author, and her daughter’s most ardent advocate. Art has been an integral part of Jo Ann’s life since she was fourteen years old, when she discovered photography and completely fell in love with it. Since then, she has added illustration and painting to her preferred media and pursued a bachelor’s degree in fine art and a master’s degree in photographic studies (MFA). A Day at the Library is her first book.
Based in Tempe, Arizona, Jo Ann infuses her days with art, activity, and interaction. With an indominable spirit, she grasps on to life’s challenges to wring from them every opportunity and lesson she can, documenting her experiences in her artistic pursuits. Parenting Maya, her lovely and talented daughter who happens to have Down syndrome, has reinforced Jo Ann’s philosophy that beauty and fulfillment are to be sought in each moment and that being present and positive, no matter what your abilities are, lead to richness in life.
When Maya started school, Jo Ann began chronicling her experiences and milestones in daily napkin drawings she put in Maya’s lunch box. Four years later, she had a sizeable collection that inspired an art exhibition and several book ideas. Through whimsical pen-and-ink drawings, Jo Ann illustrates events in Maya’s day so that Maya can mentally prepare and understand what to expect.
“My art, just like life, is never perfect. Drawing in pen and ink is unforgiving, and to me, it reflects life’s messiness. We have to take the good with the bad, and while we always want to do the best we can, we need to realize that what we might think are mistakes might be revealed as the true beauty in our experiences,” Jo Ann says.
The Maya’s Adventures series is aimed at helping kids embrace who they are. They can appreciate what they have in common with each other while recognizing that differences are delightful too. Written in a positive, accepting style, the stories depict Maya’s activities and describe practical responses to events that might occur on such an adventure. “These stories are designed to help children understand what might happen in various environments. If they know what to expect and how to react, they might cope better in experiences that might otherwise be frightening or stressful for them. Just like social stories, these books let kids know that they can be who they are while guiding them on appropriate behavior in particular situations,” the author explains.