Oakley author writing kids book series about daughter’s life

Most kids say and ask whatever comes to mind, and such was the case for book author Justin Kymberly Machelle Cloud when it came to inspiration for her first book in a series titled, “The Adventures of Blu Pigtails: The Invisible Germ Bugs.”

Oakley author J. Kimberly Cloud wrote her first children’s book in a series, “The Adventures of Blu Pigtails: The Invisible Germ Bugs,” about the importance of kids washing their hands. Filled with real-life characters, the book follows her daughter’s inquisitive journey. (photo courtesy of Joseph Cloud)

“When my daughter, Etta Blu, was younger, she would say whatever she was thinking,” said Cloud, of Oakley. “Some of the things required answers I couldn’t explain. One of them was the need to wash her hands, even though there was ‘nothing’ on them.”

Cloud, whose pen name is J. Kimberly Cloud, studied at Barnard University in New York and has a BA from Mills College in Oakland. Her niece, Nyla Gill, age 21, illustrated the book.

Logging many parenting moments on her Facebook page, Cloud said her daughter started talking at the early age of 10 months old. This book reflects those conversations, and now she’s completed her next book, titled “The Case of The Missing Tooth.”

Beyond the 29 page story, readers can follow the behind the scenes of “The Adventures of Blu Pigtails” on the Facebook page under the same title (facebook.com/people/The-Adventures-of-Blu-Pigtails/100085851098968).

“I posted the illustrators’ process and rough drawings too,” said Cloud, who works at a cancer infusion center in Fremont. “I explain who all the characters are in the book; there aren’t any fictional characters. The page is also where you can find information on book signings and appearances. My daughter dresses as her character and takes pictures.”

This first book (amazon.com/Adventures-Blu-Pigtails-Invisible-Germ/dp/163985035X) holds special meaning to Cloud, because when she first started writing it in the summer of 2019, the daughter (who is also in the book ) of her late brother, Reggie Williams, was born, and Cloud always ran everything by her brother first, “because he was so supportive but also very honest,” said Cloud.

“He read the rough draft, chuckled, then said, so when are you going to publish it?’ That’s totally him,” Cloud added. “He’s always pushing you to the next step. I searched for self-publishing companies and saved up so that I would be ready to submit it in the fall.”

On Oct. 3, 2019, Cloud heard the doorbell ring at 10:30 pm

“When my husband opened the door, two detectives were standing there,” said Cloud.

They asked to speak to Cloud’s parents, who were living with them at the time, and at that point, she knew something was wrong.

“After making sure my parents were sitting, one of the detectives said, ‘I’m sorry to inform you, but your son was found in a hotel room.’ We were in silence — as if we were waiting for him to keep talking,” recalled Cloud. “No one said anything. Then underneath her breath, my mom whispered, ‘Are you telling me that my son is dead?’ That’s what I remembered, those words… that’s the date my book went into a box and so I did.”

Next came the pandemic.

“To tell the truth, it allowed me to be still and start healing. I went into my ‘she shed’ every day and just sat, cried, read, prayed and cried some more,” said Cloud. “In 2021, I was cleaning and ran across the book. I read it and of course cried but could hear my brother saying, ‘So when are you going to publish it?’ I stopped what I was doing right then and there and submitted the book to the publishing company.”

“This book is about my daughter,” Cloud added. “The series goes through different stages of her growing up and the different ways I learned to help her navigate the world. It’s dedicated to her godfather, who is my brother, Reggie.”

Cloud couldn’t be happier with the illustrations by her niece, Gill.

“Nyla is so amazing and incredibly gifted,” she said. “Her process is crazy. I would tell her what I wanted, and as I talked, she drew. I’m so proud of her.”

Gill, who was raised in Oakland and lives in Antioch, said she was happy to illustrate her aunt’s book.

“After she saw one of my digital paintings while I was visiting, she saw potential in me and asked me to illustrate her children’s book, which I enthusiastically agreed to,” said Gill.

Currently working in retail and taking on art commissions on the side, Gill has a career goal of becoming a full-time freelance illustrator, working in sequential art and illustrating graphic novels, book covers and more.


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