Embracing Identity: Nurturing Illustrating Inclusivity: Fostering Empathy Through Children's Literature - SE4EP3 - Kale Sudhoff

Today, we have Kale Sudhoff, a talented young author and illustrator, who's not only pursuing a career in Elementary Education but has already made significant strides in inspiring children through his heartwarming books. Kale's work is a beacon of encouragement, teaching kids to thrive despite challenges, with a focus on inclusivity and understanding.
As a college student, Enrichment teacher, and children's book author, Kale embodies the spirit of creativity and compassion, making him a perfect guest for our discussion on nurturing empathy and resilience in children. his books tackle important issues like limb loss, limb difference, and emotional regulation, making complex topics accessible and relatable to young readers.
Today, we'll explore Kale's journey, his creative process, and how his experiences as a young educator and author can help parents and caregivers foster a more inclusive and empathetic generation. 
Connect with Kale:
Sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding, Maths and STEM Academy | |

AI Generated Transcription

Speaker 1 (00:08):
Welcome to the Parenting in the Digital Age podcast. Many parents are concerned that their child might be falling behind. Others are just looking for ways to help their children thrive, not just in the classroom, but socially and well into their future careers. Each episode we explore the challenges facing parents in the modern world, from behavior, education, and nutrition to device and gaming addiction. We interview a range of leaders in the area of childhood development to help you successfully navigate parenting in the digital age. Here is your host, Jamie Buttigieg.

Jamie (00:00.274)Hey parents, welcome to today's episode. Today we have Kale Sudhoff, a talented young author and illustrator. He's not only pursuing a career in primary school or elementary education, but he's already made significant strides in inspiring kids through his heartwarming books. He started writing books at 15 years of age. Kale's work is a beacon of encouragement, teaching kids to thrive in spite of their challenges. He's now a university student and enrichment teacher and a children's book author. Kale embodies the spirit of creativity and compassion, making him a
perfect guest for our discussion on nurturing empathy and resilience in children. His books tackle important issues like limb loss or limb difference, emotional regulation, making complex topics accessible and relatable to young readers. Today, we'll explore Kale's journey, his creative process and how his experiences as a young educator and author can help parents and caregivers foster a more inclusive and empathetic generation.

InterviewJamie (00:00.126)Kale, welcome to the show. Please share with our listeners in your own words what you do and what you're passionate about.
Kale Sudhoff (00:07.499)Hi, thank you for having me. The past few years, I've written and illustrated a couple of children's books. I started when I was 15 years old, just coming into high school. And I really feel called to write for those with what we call exceptionalities. This is kids that are learning or developing different than the crowd that they're necessarily around.
And I just really like to write about kids who stand out and show them that they don't have to try and put themselves in a box and show and try and be the same as everybody else. I want them to know that they can celebrate their differences and yeah, just know that it's okay to be different and know that it's actually really good to be different and
Other people should accept them for who they are.
Jamie (01:09.118)Absolutely, that's a powerful vision and mission you got there. What inspired that mission and that purpose of yours?
Kale Sudhoff (01:17.899)Um, well when I was younger I had a pretty bad stutter so I was obviously picked on quite a bit for that. So I always felt different. But I really had to come into the realization that being different isn't always bad and...
I was able to actually phase out my stutter over time, but still my heart goes out to people who are different and who, yeah, just feel different than those around them. And I want to show them that it's okay. And I want to show those who are around these kids that, you know, have to make fun of those who are different than you. And...
Something that makes somebody different doesn't have to keep you from being their friend.
Jamie (02:16.286)Yeah, spot on. And, you know, like I often say this to people around me, we're all different. Like we're all, we all think a little different. We all act a little different. And I think humanity could be well -served to remember that. And you're doing a great job with your books to position that front and center. Let's talk about those books for a minute. Danny the Duck Head South is one of your books. Can you share a bit about the story behind Danny the Duck and maybe what drove you to create this character?
Kale Sudhoff (02:47.563)Okay, so my first book, Danny the Duckhead South, I wrote that when I was 15 years old, it is about a duck named Danny who ends up having an accident when he's flying south. He ends up not being able to fly anymore, he has to find a new way to get south before winter comes, and it ends up at the end of the story that he actually finds a way that gets him there faster than his actual flock can go.
that he can get there faster than he actually could before he got his exceptionality. So I really wanted to bring that point home that it's okay to be different and sometimes it's the fact that you are different that drives you to, well that installs a drive in you to better yourself and to be the best person that you can be. And my second book, which is called Danny and Kevin Conker Camping,
This one is what we call a mission book. My publisher asked me to write this. It is mission books try and specifically target a certain group of people to bring attention to them. Some people who are sometimes overlooked in society. This was specifically for the people who experienced limb loss and limb difference. So Danny's friend, Kevin, who is a pig, unfortunately loses his leg in a farming accident.
and Danny spends the whole book trying to show him that although he lost something near and dear to him, he still has so much in this life and he has the best friend in the whole world and he's not going anywhere and he just really needs to come to the realization that although he did lose something, he still has so much and about
Kevin, I really based this character off of a young man that I saw at a track meet. It was my first home track meet in high school. I was standing in a crowd of my teammates watching the two mile. And the two mile is a really long race. It's eight laps. So we're sitting there watching for a long time. When it begins, there's a young man who comes onto the track and...
Kale Sudhoff (05:09.387)There's nothing different about this young man besides that he looks, that he just simply looks different than everybody else. He's not running differently, he's not in the back, he's actually running really well. But as he comes around, the whole crowd that I'm standing in just erupts in laughter and screaming hurtful comments at this person who simply just wanted to live a life like anybody else. And, um...
But as this young man comes back around the track, the crowd's still in an uproar and he looks right at them and he smiles. And everybody's sort of taking it back at this point, even me. And every time that he comes back around, his smile got bigger. And no matter how hard these people tried, they could not take that joy out of his eyes. And I really want to, through my books,
give kids this same mindset that if as long as you know who you are and who God created you to be then nobody can take the joy away from you and Yep, that's really my whole mission through my Authoring and illustrating
Jamie (06:29.438)Now maybe I missed something there. What was different about that runner that caused the crowd to react that way?
Kale Sudhoff (06:38.859)Um, well, I'm not really sure what his affliction was. He had some sort of facial deformity. I never got to actually meet this young man. I never got to know his name, but just his character. I really want to be able to give that to other kids.
Jamie (06:56.926)tremendous, it shows tremendous strength and resilience and for a young person at that age to have a challenge or a difference to have that sort of attitude is extremely powerful. So thanks for sharing that. Your latest book, I think your latest book is Stuart H Quills and his explosive emotions deal with emotional regulation. So what motivated you to tackle this subject in particular?
Kale Sudhoff (07:25.579)Um, while I'm studying to be a teacher right now, um, I've been working at a preschool for a few years and I'm hoping to teach either third or second grade, possibly in the future. But throughout all my time with kids, I've really noticed a lot of explosive emotions. And I really think that this is a topic that would do well in a school. Um, the character, Stewart H. Quills is a porcupine and
Stewart really does not like change. He's a very smart porcupine and his teacher, Mrs. Owl, decides that he's not learning enough in his, um, in his class out in the woods. So she sends him to the Big City Academy where he, where she feels that he's going to be more challenged. And when he gets there, he finds that his classmates are so much different than him and he allows his nerves.
just to bubble up so much that something special happens. And whenever Stuart gets nervous, this special thing happens, and this really prevents him from being able to make friends. And this whole book is centered around the idea that Stuart, the only thing that was standing in the way of Stuart making new friends was himself, because he couldn't let his nerves hint and his, um...
emotions get out of the way. So I just really wanted to bring the point home that you can have emotions and emotions are good. God gave us emotions. But yes, we do not want them to bubble up so much that when you get so much of them that they just explode.
Jamie (09:14.91)Yeah, well said. Can you walk us through perhaps our listeners might be interested in your creative process, like from the initial idea when you have for creating a book or a character, how does it all start to the process of finishing a book?
Kale Sudhoff (09:29.643)Well, I had never actually tried to write a book until I was 15. And I was honestly really surprised at how naturally it came to me. It's almost like I was internally wired to do this. And I just sort of discovered how to do it. So that was really cool for me. But it's really simple for me, honestly. I simply...
get an idea to write down that my whole story is going to be centered around. So for instance, with Danny the Duck Head South, he's trying to find a new way to fly south. So for instance, some of the ways he tried was taxi or plane or train or things like that. I'll just write a number one for each page and so on. And I'd simply just write the one word, car, train, and then...
As my day goes on or as I go about my week, ideas just sort of come to me and I'll be able to pull out my phone, get Google Docs and just write, jot down that idea and go about my day. And the book just sort of ends up writing itself, honestly. So I think that's really cool. For illustrating, that takes, that's pretty time consuming, but I've been drawing.
for as long as I can remember. I was always the art guy in school. And yeah, that really has come naturally to me too. If somebody would have told me long ago that I'd be an illustrator, I would have believed it a lot easier than if somebody told me I'd be an author.
Jamie (11:09.182)That's an interesting process and it's great how you're able to do both like many authors or illustrators and you managed to do both. What challenges have you faced in your journey and how have you overcome them?
Kale Sudhoff (11:24.331)Um, well, I think like all writers, I've sort of hit a mental block a few times in my books. And I think that's just the time where you need to just take a step back, let your work be and, um, yeah, just sort of, um, I'd say take a break from it. So go about your day, go about your week and just.
of let the ideas come to you rather than you trying to make up the ideas.
Jamie (11:55.998)Yeah, good advice. I often face the same thing if I'm staring at a blank screen or can't get my work out, I'll often take the dogs for a walk or just go and make a coffee. It's just good to reset the brain. But I'm interested, I'm curious, I suppose, how do you balance your time between college, teaching, your passion for writing, illustrating, how do you manage to balance all that?
Kale Sudhoff (12:21.643)Well, it requires a lot of patience. Right now, since I'm about to have finals for college, I'm taking a break right now. But once summer hits, I'm ready to go. I'm really excited to start writing again. It's just, you have to be willing to make sacrifices. You have to be willing to just, yeah, devote.
If you love something, you're gonna make time for it. So, if I'm not doing homework or anything, even if I'm just watching TV, I'll have my iPad out and I'll be drawing or I'll be illustrating and writing or anything. I'm a great multitasker, so, and I like background noise, so if the TV's ever on, I'm most likely drawing. And, yeah, just take your wins where you can get them. Just try and...
Always have that drive in you. Don't ever let go of that drive to want to accomplish your goals.
Jamie (13:28.926)Yeah, you did right. If you enjoy what you're doing, if you're passionate about what you're doing, nothing can stand in your way. A quick question on your, you mentioned you do some illustrating on the tablet or your iPad. Is there a specific app that you use for that? There might be some parents that are interested or their kids want to get into digital art or illustration. I'm just curious.
Kale Sudhoff (13:51.435)Yes, I use Procreate. It's a really cool app that has all different kinds of brushes, all different kinds of templates and things. It's really cool. It has a color wheel that I'm able to make any sort of color that I could possibly imagine. So that's really awesome. At college right now, I'm actually taking some Adobe Illustrator classes. So I'm liking that. All right. It just deals a little bit more with shapes and things like that, whereas...
With Procreate, I'm able to get really fine lines and I think it just sort of comes out a little bit better with what I'm looking for, but they're both really great programs.
Jamie (14:33.118)Thank you for sharing. I'm sure many parents will be interested in that also for the young budding artists. If I'm not mistaken, you're currently working on a book to raise awareness for hearing loss. Can you share a bit about that book or the maybe the inspiration or goals for this project?
Kale Sudhoff (14:51.243)Yes, this book will also be a mission book. It is for those with hearing loss. It's called Born to Stand Out. It is about an elephant named Evelyn. She's very artistic like I am. She likes to paint, but she's not able to hear her classmates or anything, so this makes it really hard for her to make friends. She has a very active imagination.
So she likes to go on adventures and things like this in her mind, in her room, and she has these stuffed animals that she goes on adventures with that sort of come to life, and I really like that. But she goes on this journey where she finds that she needs to go out and sort of put herself out there and make friends at her school and...
Yes, stop letting fear get in the way. She likes to live in her imagination because it's easier for her rather than trying to put herself out there and get put down. So some encouraging words from her mom really help her to just realize who she is and that's...
Although she may experience challenges in life, that shouldn't stop her from wanting to live a full life and go after what she wants.
Jamie (16:24.254)Yeah, great moral of the story there. One I'm sure many kids and adults for that matter will get a lot of benefit from. I was also reading in my pre -show research that a portion of your book sales are donated to support people with disabilities. So what organization does this benefit and how did you decide to support this cause?
Kale Sudhoff (16:47.179)Yes, a portion of all my book sales goes to the Action Club. It's a club here in Ohio for people with exceptionalities and they get to come together through this club and sort of have a family dynamic and they'll get to go to, well they arrange things where they can go like bowling or to the movies or anything like that and just really bond through that.
And I actually came into contact with them because, yes, I was approached about giving a speech there. And I went there and I talked and I was just really moved by the people there. There was this one older lady in particular that said, people are afraid of us when they see us on the street. And that just really touched my heart. And I just really want to raise awareness through my books. And,
I believe if a child sees something in a book or even on TV that they're more likely to treat that as normal when they see it in real life. So if they see characters that have exceptionalities in their, in my books or on a TV show, then they're less likely to point or point things out when they see it in real life. And they're not going to be afraid when they see these people.
these people in real life and it's going to be a lot better for everyone and we can all learn from each other.
Jamie (18:21.534)Hale, you are wise beyond your years. It's some very profound stuff you're sharing there. In what ways do you think maybe technology or digital media can help or hinder children's understanding of complex issues like you address in your books?
Kale Sudhoff (18:40.331)Um, I'd say technology can be a great thing if it's in moderation. Um, kids that are like all, um, I've talked to kids who go home after school and all they do is play on their iPads or play video games or watch TV and they don't interact with anybody and they just, that's all they do is watch those things and.
that I would say is hindering their understanding and that's probably hindering their development, if I'm being honest. But technology is also a great resource that can really enhance your understanding and yeah, just connect you with a lot of valuable resources that are gonna make your brain smarter and yeah, that could really help you in life, but.
If you're using it too much, then I'd say it's probably not great for you.
Jamie (19:42.526)Yeah, well said there. I can certainly agree with that as a father and a parent and a grandparent now. Yeah, definitely agree with you on that, Kale. You started writing books when you were 15 and you've had a remarkable journey. You had some amazingly successful books that are making an impact in the lives of people you're contributing to a more inclusive society. This is incredible stuff for a young man of your age. What advice do you have for young people who might be interested or inspired by listening to you speak?
who want to illustrate or write their own books. What's one piece of advice you can give them?
Kale Sudhoff (20:18.571)Okay, one thing I'd say is you've got to get out of your own way. When I first had the idea to write a book, I really didn't think that I could do it. And it honestly just took me a while to get out of my own way and actually believe in myself. When I first started writing, it felt so natural to me. And it honestly felt like a hole in me was being filled.
because I had just discovered this and it was amazing. And yeah, it took me until I was 15 to ever discover this passion and develop these skills. So for someone who hasn't yet found their giftings in life, just be patient and try new things. Try everything that you can to try and find those skills.
and eventually you'll find what you were made to do.
Jamie (21:18.654)Great advice. You know, so many people complain, maybe is the right word, but they often share that they haven't found their passion, but they don't go out and try things. And that's again, wise beyond your years, Kale, get out, try things, put yourself into different situations and different hobbies and different communities and different networks, and until you find your passion, and maybe you don't find your passion until you're 50 years old, or maybe they're fortunate like you and discovered at a very young age and can live a very happy purpose -driven life.
Another question, like you're obviously pursuing a career as a elementary school teacher or he would say primary school teacher. How do you envisage incorporating books into your own classroom?
Kale Sudhoff (22:01.547)Well, I'll definitely have a shelf with all my books up there. And especially when I'm first starting out, I'll be able to show these books to my kids and show them that someone who's not even that much older than them, who was just in their shoes in school just like them, is going out and doing these things. So what's to stop them from doing that? And I just really want to inspire people to follow their dreams and to not let anything hold them back in life.
Jamie (22:31.39)I think you're already doing a great job at that and making a tremendous impact, Kale. One fun question we like to ask all of our guests as we round off the podcast, and that is, if you had a time machine and you were able to go back to your, which isn't so long ago for you, but if you're able to go back to your 12 year old younger self or 10 year old self, what's one piece of advice that you give to young people?
Kale Sudhoff (22:54.859)I'd say definitely be more confident. I wasn't always very confident in my skills and what God made me to do and I'd really encourage myself to just know that I was fearfully and wonderfully made by God just how I was supposed to be and that although my path...
Although these skills hadn't yet come to me yet, that I should be patient and just go out and try as many new things as I possibly could.
Jamie (23:30.75)good advice. How can our listeners get in contact with you or first of all find your books out on the internet but also maybe how can they connect with you on like Instagram or any social channels?
Kale Sudhoff (23:43.691)Okay, I have a website called kalesidoff20 .wixsite .com slash portfolio. It's a really long name. That's my website. My books are also on Amazon or a few other websites, I believe. Even if you just Googled my name, all these different things will come up that you can find my books at. So that would make it really easy.
easy and um yeah.
Jamie (24:16.094)Fantastic. We'll put those notes in our show notes. Kyle, look, thanks so much for the work you're doing, particularly for contributing to a more inclusive society. I know that the books like this serve a terribly important role in our society, especially for young people to grow up and have belief in themselves and go on to live wonderful lives. So thanks for your contribution. Thank you for your time. And I hope we cross paths again soon.
Kale Sudhoff (24:44.267)Thank you for having me, it's been great.
Jamie (24:46.429)Cheers, bye for now.

If you enjoyed the show, please connect with Jamie on LinkedIn or Instagram. You'll find links in the podcast description. Parenting in the Digital Age is sponsored by Skill Samurai Coding and STEM Academy for Kids. Skill Samurai offers afterschool coding classes and holiday programs to help kids thrive academically and socially while preparing them for the careers of the future. Visit
This episode is sponsored by Skill Samurai - Coding & STEM Academy