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Never too young to tell a story

Hillsboro author, 7, releases first book

Photo Credit: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Helena Macalino holds her first book, The Reflection, which will be released Saturday during a party at Jacobsens Books & More.Seven-year-old Heléna Macalino, a self-described “bundle of energy,” has channeled some of that energy into writing and publishing her very own book.

“The Reflection,” an Oregon twist on “Alice in Wonderland,” will be released Saturday during a party at Jacobsen’s Book & More in downtown Hillsboro.

Heléna is the youngest member of a family of writers. Her mother, Tonya Macalino, is the author of several urban fantasy fiction books — most recently “Faces in the Water" — and a writing instructor.

Dad Raymond is the author of two children’s books, “Damien and the Dragon Kite” and “Percy's Planetary Surprise.”

Heléna's brother, Damien, 9, published a children’s book, “What if an Alligator Ate an Avalanche?” last year, and is hard at work on a children's graphic novel set for release next year.

Heléna has been crafting stories since she was 3, first dictating to her mom to write down ideas, then writing and illustrating her own books.

In a book she made last year with her first grade class, Heléna described herself as “silly, beautiful, smart” and also happy — but afraid of spiders.

“Well, I’m not happy when I see spiders,” she said.

Heléna certainly maintains those qualities as a second-grader at Hillsboro’s Jackson Elementary School, and now can add “published author” to her list.

She’s also, she notes, a good speller.

“The Reflection” is about a girl who steps in a rain puddle and falls through to find herself in a very different world.

The idea for the book stemmed from a deep puddle — something of a permanent puddle — Heléna encountered on her way home from school.

“I saw a reflection of the trees and the sky,” she said.

The book is illustrated in vivid watercolor paintings with whimsical characters by Polish watercolor artist Justyna Pawluczuk.

Heléna, an accomplished artist herself, knew what she was looking for in an illustrator for her book, Tonya said.

“Mom and dad made suggestions. Ultimately, it was not our decision,” Tonya said.

Heléna said she is pleased with the artwork in her book.

“I’m really impressed. I didn’t know you could do that with watercolors,” she said.

Her favorite characters in the book are the rabbits who guard the very colorful gate, because one has a floppy ear, Heléna said. Of course, rabbits are Heléna's favorite animals.

Her stuffed rabbit, Brownie, is the recipient of an ongoing narrative that Heléna shares with the rabbit each evening.

Besides being a writer, an artist, a piano player and a baker (Heléna recently concocted a delicious cake with chocolate and raspberries), she's also a savvy entrepreneur.

"Our family goes out and sells books every weekend," Tonya said. "She wanted to get in on the act, too."

For Heléna, the sky is — quite literally — the limit for dreaming about her future.

"I want to be an astronaut. I want to be a lot of things," she said. That list also includes hairstylist, clothes designer, shoe shopper and a foster "parent" for animals.

"I want to go to the planet behind stars," Heléna said.

Could be the start of her next children's book.