By Gena Ansell-Lande
RUMSON – With Easter just around the corner, three friends are hoping to inspire families to start a new holiday tradition.
Last year Rumson residents Jennifer Diehl, Shauna Murray, and Lisa Rettino formed a company called Just Three Chicks. They created a book and stuffed animal bundled product for the 3-12-year-old set called “Bunny with the Basket & the Golden Egg.”
The set includes a plush bunny with a basket, a plastic golden egg, and a hardcover story book illustrated by Little Silver’s Brian Meulener. It retails for $29.95 and is sold at Sickles Market, Little Silver or through the bunnywiththebasket.com website.
The concept is very similar to the popular Elf On a Shelf interactive toy. In a nutshell, the story goes like this: The Easter Bunny receives updates from Santa on who has been naughty and nice. The Easter Bunny then sends the Bunny with the Basket to good kids’ homes all over the world.
Twelve days before Easter, the Easter Bunny sends the Bunny With a Basket to the child’s home in the night. Inside his basket is the golden egg holding a note from the Easter Bunny, which he hides for the children to find in the morning. The children find the egg, read the note, replace it with one of their own to the Easter Bunny. The golden egg goes back in the Bunny’s basket. The next morning, when the Bunny with the Basket returns, they will hunt for the egg again and read the Easter Bunny’s reply, and send another note of their own.
Anticipation grows for Easter Sunday when good kids discover a basket of goodies.
“Children love hunting for Easter Eggs,” said Diehl. “That is usually just a one-day event. In this tradition, children get to hunt for a golden egg each day for several days leading up to Easter. Then there is the excitement around receiving notes from the Easter Bunny and having the chance to write back.”
Diehl, who has experience working with children from her time as a school teacher, points out another interesting byproduct of the Bunny With The Basket is that it motivates children to write letters, something of a lost art among the younger generation.
Writing the book was a highly collaborative process from the start, Murray said.
“We discussed bringing to life the world of Santa and the Easter Bunny between Christmas and the Easter season, incorporating the interactive aspect for children,” she said.
The partners worked together to write the story in rhyme and brainstorm a concept for each page, drawing upon their own special memories and family traditions. Then they went home to sleep on the day’s work. “Inevitably someone would get an idea at 3 a.m. and send out an email that we needed to change something!” said Murray, who has a background in the insurance and financial services field. “We have different personalities but I believe that was key to making our partnership work and letting our creative juices flow.”
Motherhood was also a constant inspiration. The collaborators are in the midst of it, raising two children each, all in the 9-12-year-old age range.
Meulener, the graphic artist, translated their vision to the page. Though he only lives one town over, he came into the “picture” through the recommendation of a friend of Rettino’s in California.
“We were fortunate to find an illustrator who understood our vision and he brought our words to life through beautiful drawings,” said Rettino, who has years of experience as a pharmaceutical advertising executive.
“It’s been remarkable to watch something go from a conversation, to a thought on paper, to countless rewrites, to finding a manufacturer, creating a website, to eventually producing a final product.”
The journey has been fun, said Murray, with sales nationwide and in parts of Australia. Last year they presented Bunny With a Basket at the New York Toy Fair. Their website shows them introducing the book to Gov. Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat, Carson Daly and Matt Lauer.
“None of us had publishing or manufacturing experience yet somehow turned an idea born in a dining room in Rumson to an Easter tradition that is enjoyed by children halfway across the globe,” said Murray.
This article was first published in the March 30-April 6, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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