Alum Illustrates Children’s Book About Student Cancer Survivor

By Purnell T. Cropper | February 4, 2011

By Heather C. Mick ’11

Meloni Kinckner ’06 is an art teacher by day and a published children’s book illustrator by night. As part of a collaborative project with a fellow teacher and student at Luis Marin Elementary School, Kinckner created How My Sun Got Its Smile. The book is based on the true story of Deana Vega, a fifth-grader who is a cancer survivor.

“The inspiration for How My Sun Got Its Smile came from Vega’s dream as a cancer survivor to help inspire other people facing adversity,” says Kinckner who graduated with a B.F.A. in Art Education and Ceramics. “Her main message is to stay positive and never give up!”

When working on the book, the trio came up with the words first. Once written, Vega brainstormed ideas for the illustrations that Kinckner then brought to life with pencil, sharpie, and watercolor.

“We hope to be picked up by a major publishing company so that we can take the book to a national level,” says Kinckner. “We also hope to be able to set up a college trust fund for Deana as well as make donations to a variety of cancer foundations with a portion of the proceeds from the book.”

How My Sun Got Its Smile was recently honored by Public Citizens for Children and the Youth’s Picasso Project with the 2011 Kassandara Madison Arts Education Leadership Award.

“I hope the book inspires people to overcome their personal hardships,” says Kickner. “I also hope that it allows them to thrive in an ever-changing and diverse world.”

To learn more or to purchase the book, visit: