Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Book Birthday Blog with Martha Johnston


Welcome to SCBWI-MI's Book Birthday Blog!

Where we celebrate new books from Michigan's authors, illustrators and translators.


Congratulations to Martha Johnston on the release of Iki and his Mighty Friends


What was the inspiration for your book?

My daughter's Chihuahua mix, Iki, with this crazy one blue eye inspired the book. I made some drawings of him as a present for my daughter and it snowballed from there. When I was visiting my daughter on Maui, we came up with the entire book concept in a single morning walk and then I spent the next few months creating all of the illustrations.

What was the most difficult part of writing/illustrating the book?

The most difficult part of the book was not the writing, but actually the illustrations. Each illustration is hand drawn and then edited through digital media. I remember when my kids were little that they would become obsessed with a single book and just want to read it over and over again, so I made all the illustrations with the parents in mind, because I wanted something visually beautiful and interesting for them if they have to read the book 10 times a day.

What is something you hope your readers will take away from your book?

My hope is that parents and children will see that little things are powerful. Iki is only 5 pounds in real life, he’s tiny, but he makes a big impact on our lives. His name actually means the little one in Hawaiian. As he grows his garden, he learned all about the power of bugs and how they make a really big difference in a positive way for growing food. My daughter’s husband is a regenerative farmer so teaching kids from a young age that we don’t need to kill bugs, and they can actually be our friends is something that I really hope they take into the future.

What are your marketing plans for the book and where can we find it?

Our marketing plan for the book as of now is to reach out to local organizations to garner support. We’re hoping that some nonprofits in the environmental space will also put a seal of approval on the book since the heart of the message is around regenerative farming and gardening. I put up the book on Amazon and made it available for different resellers. We also created a Shopify shop. We’re also running a few ads for the book and selling prints of Iki and his friends as well.

What's next for you?

What’s next for us is to continue our Iki series and to also bring in my daughter’s other dog Ulu for the adventures. We would love to do one on the ocean and how what we do on land impacts our waters.

More about the book . . .

What are they good for? As it turns out, a lot!
This playful book, written and illustrated by a mother-daughter team, reveals just how important the smallest creatures are in keeping our environment happy and healthy.
Iki is a curious dog excited to grow his first garden this year. But soon after his plants start to grow, he notices some unwelcome visitors: bugs!
Good thing his friend Eddy is here. Eddy is a regenerative farmer who teaches Iki all about how bugs help us. They make soil to grow our food, help flowers turn into fruit, and even make yummy honey.
Kids will love this beautifully illustrated story about the magic of bugs, the wonder of nature, and the power of little things. Iki means “tiny” in Hawaiian, and children will discover alongside Iki how small things can make a big difference.

Publisher: Self-Published

More about the creative team . . .

Martha Johnston is an artist, graphic designer, and dog enthusiast. She was inspired to write Iki and his Mighty Friends about her dog-grandchild, Iki, and the Maui farm where he lives. She lives in Michigan with her husband and 3 dogs. You can find her at

Samantha Garcia is an author, digital marketer, and certified permaculture design specialist. She co-founded the non-profit Regenerative Education Centers with her husband, Eddy Garcia, in 2015. They live on their Maui farm with 3 dogs (including Iki), 7 cats, 5 salamanders, sheep, peacocks, and millions of bugs.

Iki is 5 pounds of loving and neurotic Big Stud energy. He's a Chihuahua mix who lives in Lahaina. He loves whipped cream, his family, hates wind, and digs holes when he's stressed. 





  1. Congrats on your book release, Martha and Samantha. It must have been fun collaborating on this book.

  2. What a great basis for a story! Did I read that your daughter's farm is in Maui? Fabulous! Best of luck with this book and your upcoming series!

  3. Congratulations! A wonderful message that can be applied everywhere.