About The Books
Boys and Girls
A few months before my daughter, Harper, turned three, she was talking about her favourite colours and stated that pink was only for girls. I was surprised as I knew that no one had ever told her that. I responded by saying that boys could like pink too; her reply was that she had never seen her dad or brother wearing it. I later shared this story with my sister, Luana, who told me that her daughter had also recently said that only men could be police officers and her son had previously believed that women couldn’t be pilots. In both instances, when she corrected them, her children revealed that their views also stemmed purely from what they had seen. We discussed how observant children are, and how, despite our best efforts as parents to prevent gender stereotypes impacting their lives, it’s difficult when it’s so prevalent in the world around them. Both Luana and I have many picture books and often seek out ones with relevant themes when a certain need arises for our children. Failing to find much that challenged gender stereotypes, I was inspired to write my own - I didn’t want to just subtly imply that colours, clothes, activities, personality traits, interests, toys, hair length etc were for everyone, but make it more explicit. I also wanted to include as much as possible, rather than just focus on one element. Thus, Boys and Girls was written.
All Of Us Are Special
We were visiting family one holidays. My niece, Rhiannon, has muscular dystrophy and I noticed Harper watching intently as her cousin received help to stand up from sitting on the couch. Later, she asked why she couldn’t do it herself. In the weeks that followed, I wrote All Of Us Are Special. Children are naturally curious and display an eagerness to learn and understand a world that in many ways, is still very foreign to them. My hope is that this book will act as a learning tool and facilitate conversations between children and the adult reading. Ideally, this would provide them with enhanced knowledge of the different types of people in society, prior to encountering them in the real world - allowing adults to be proactive rather than just reactive when innocent staring occurs or inquisitive questions arise. As the inspiration for the book, it was fitting that I dedicate the book to Rhiannon.
Try Some More
Upon deciding to collaborate on a book, we began discussing ideas as to what the concept for our first story would be, eventually simplifying it to asking ourselves, “What do we most want our kids to learn?” Our answers were both similar: to be resilient and persevere when faced with challenges. Often saying words like “I can’t do it”, we knew our own young children needed to develop these traits as they still had much to learn as they grew. Not only this, but as primary and high school teachers, we had seen students of all ages, as well as adults, struggle to achieve success and fail to reach their potential because they lacked the necessary persistence. We knew that this was an important life skill for everyone and crucial that it be instilled in children as young as possible.
We agreed that we wanted a short, catchy, repeated and memorable phrase throughout the book, in the hope that children and adults could say this to themselves and each other when necessary. Next, we decided to showcase four children learning a new skill each. We surveyed other mothers and settled on the very common skills of riding a bike, tying shoe laces, reading and using the monkey bars. Another thirteen children and skills are featured on the final double page to reiterate that children have much to learn and the message can be applied to anything. We also wanted to demonstrate that developing new skills takes time and many failed attempts, that we should always help and encourage each other, and that there are many different ways to learn.
Colour the World
We knew we wanted to write a book that taught manners and kind actions but with multiple featured in one story as we had mainly seen this theme explored through a series of individual books. For a long time, we struggled to determine the best structure; consequently, we had many, many failed drafts – most of which were so terrible, we’d be embarrassed if they ever saw the light of day! Luana then had the very unique idea of beginning with a dull, grey world, where people and other elements only became coloured through their good deeds. This concept was drafted repeatedly but we were still not happy with it. This time it was Hayley’s turn for a breakthrough and she came up with the idea of superheroes as the main teachers in the book and as a way of connecting the story. Much time was spent discussing how the illustrations would work to depict an increasingly brighter world until finally, the story started to take shape. We believed it was crucial for children to consistently use three words (thank you, please and sorry) and three actions (helping others, sharing and turn taking/being patient) so these underpinned the story. We also wanted to make the point that not only do these behaviours make individuals brighter and happier people, but they also contribute to a better world for everyone – good deeds are indeed contagious. We also chose six different settings, all of which the majority of children would regularly visit, to ensure that they were easily relatable for the reader.