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For Amber Nieves, 'Our Precious Hearts' - out next week as a short video - is deeply personal.

COURTESY - Amber Nieves, author of 'Our Precious Hearts,' said the book is about 'the things that we know in our hearts.' It's been a passion project for Nieves for several years, finally out this week to coincide with Valentine's Day."If you think about it, every good book is really full of heart," Amber Nieves remarked. "Every interaction with your family and the people you love is full of heart. It's not the things you can touch or see or smell. It's what you feel. That's powerful."

She added, "This is what Valentine's really means, I feel."

Nieves is a self-published author and Forest Grove resident. She's had hearts on the brain lately — not just because Valentine's Day is coming up next Wednesday, Feb. 14, but because she has been preparing to publish her latest animated picture book, a perfect-for-Valentine's title named "Our Precious Hearts."

"It's been one of those things that's just been part of my heart for so many years," said Nieves, who works by day as a Country Financial representative in the Tanasbourne area and considers writing for children a beloved hobby. "I've always kind of had it in my head … and it's finally coming to fruition."

The author said she was originally planning on releasing the book — or for now, really an animated video in which the book is read aloud — during the holiday season. Animation delays pushed that back, bringing the publication date in line with Valentine's Day.

"It magically worked out that way," Nieves said.

Amber NievesThe book begins with a proverb often attributed to the Cheyenne Indians: "Our first teacher is our own heart." Nieves said that pretty much sums up its themes.

"I think it's just real," Nieves said. "It's the things that we know in our hearts. Things touch our heart. We feel with our heart. We love with our heart. Everything has a heart."

As with Nieves' other works, "Our Precious Hearts" is geared toward children. Nieves has a particular love of stories that parents and children can share in reading, and she said she is experimenting with new storytelling formats like this animated picture book.

"My son and I fell in love with reading together," Nieves said. "Every night, we read together before bed. And if it wasn't him, it was with his dad, as well. We read every night before bed, almost through sixth grade. It was like one of these peaceful times when we could just enjoy a book."

Ronan Nieves is 14 now, a freshman at Forest Grove High School. Mom believes that reading those picture books together in his formative years helped build his reading comprehension and equip him for later learning.

While Amber Nieves' passion is children's writing and storytelling, she encourages anyone who has a story in their hearts to express it through their medium of choice — be it the written word, a drawing, a video production or anything else.

"I think the first thing is if you've got that spark, ignite it and put it somewhere," she said. "Put it on a piece of paper. Write it down. And believe in yourself. Believe that you can do it. A lot of people get hung up on thinking they can't accomplish something. Anything's possible."

"Our Precious Hearts" will be available next week on Nieves' website, Mama Picky Pants. A trailer can be seen on her YouTube video channel.

Nieves' picture books are available in both English and Spanish.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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