It Started From The Heart

We are two moms who first met during a Mommy and Me class in 2004. Over the years, our friendship has grown up right along with our children – and expanded into a richly creative collaboration. We created Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs in 2012 when we were both struggling with grief and loss. A Kickstarter drive made it possible to publish the book and birth it into the world. 

A few months later, LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow discovered our book and asked us to collaborate with him on The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, a new project to help children heal from trauma. The Rhino book was released in 2014, and has been on an incredible journey – including trips to Good Morning America, the International Space Station and being read aloud by First Lady Michelle Obama to children on a military base

 Photo: Leslie Talley

Photo: Leslie Talley

Author & Poet

Hello! My name is Susan Schaefer Bernardo, and I’ve been writing poetry and stories since I could hold a crayon! I am a big believer in the power of creativity. The process of writing poetry or making art allows me to express and understand my emotions. Through our imagination, we find ways to move through painful experiences and transform them into something very beautiful and healing.

I wrote Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs when I was going through a divorce, and grieving when I wasn’t with my kids. Writing the book was a way to reassure my kids (and myself!) that we are always connected to the people we love.  Writing my poem “Tonic Waters” helped me cope with grief over my mother-in-law’s death. I was so honored when “Tonic Waters” was published in an anthology and read aloud at the 2014 World Cancer Day Concert – because it meant my words might console others experiencing similar pain. I’m currently finishing my first YA novel, and collaborating on new picture books with my best friend and fabulous illustrator Courtenay Fletcher.

I love to learn just as much as I love to teach, and I hold a B.A. in English (UCLA), M.A. in English Literature (Yale) and elementary/secondary teaching credentials (Pepperdine). I keep my inner flower child happy and inspired by sculpting, dancing, exploring tide pools, traveling to cool new places, and taking long nature walks with my sons and our rescue terrier Poppy.

My favorite thing of all is to share stories with kids around the world! You can find my poetry and articles in,, Journeys through Grief, The Cancer Poetry Project 2 anthology and All We Can Hold: Poems of Motherhood. Learn more at

 Photo: Leslie Talley

Photo: Leslie Talley

Illustrator & Designer

Hi, I’m Courtenay Fletcher. As a 5th generation Californian and a granddaughter of a pioneer homesteader, the Golden State has always been my home. I grew up spending summers hiking through the Siskiyou National Forest, riding horses and learning to appreciate my family’s independent spirit and gift for storytelling.

I attended UC Berkeley and received my BFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

In 2010, I lost one of my close childhood friends to triple negative breast cancer. She left a 5-year-old daughter behind which broke my heart even more. It was one of the events that started me thinking about the ways in which we can let our children know how much we love them, even if we are parted from them.

Sun Kisses, Moon Hugs was inspired by something my mom told me when I was four. As she left on a trip, she said to send hugs and kisses to the moon each night and that she would send them back to me. Working on this book was the first chance I had to explore the world of children’s illustration and it was pure joy from start to finish! The fact that we have been able to donate copies of the book to various charities that help children deal with loss or trauma, only makes the experience more meaningful.

I feel very lucky to be working with such a talented poet, creative artist, big dreamer and great friend! It is the best job EVER!

When we found out that LeVar Burton had chosen us to help collaborate on his first children’s book, the Star Trek fan in me could barely contain herself! LeVar is an amazing and inspiring educator, actor, writer and all around good human and it was hands down one of the most incredible creative projects I’ve ever had the honor to work on.

When I’m not busy illustrating, I enjoy getting outdoors, taking road-trips with my family, visiting museums, listening to old jazz, and daydreaming about time-travel and space flight. You can check out more of my illustrations at