Myrtle the Purple Turtle is the first, of I hope will be many, children’s books in the Weaverback Press stable. I’ll tell you more about Weaverback soon.
This is a very special story, and is already doing great things. Children all over are absolutely loving it, and it has had only glowing reviews, as well as lots of wonderfully complimentary communications with Cynthia from top educators and librarians. There is so much hatred and cruelty in this world of ours, and sometimes we unintentionally teach our children that any kind of different to what we are is not quite right. It’s not always easy to show our children that we are actually all just the same, and little ones get hurt all the time for being different in all sorts of different ways. Cynthia has made it a lot easier with her little purple love. Apart from the educational power of this story, it is a tale of love and of friendship that all can enjoy for what it is—a wonderful childhood adventure.
I fell in love with Myrtle the very first time I read through the story. My heart broke a little when the mean turtle laughed at her simply because she was purple, and then her fabulous mother and friends healed it right up again for me. Myrtle’s creator, Cynthia Reyes, had sent it over to me with a view to me illustrating it. I really wanted to do it, but as I had never before illustrated a whole book before it was most definitely a leap of faith for both of us. It’s odd being terrified of taking something on at the same time as just knowing that it’s meant to be. As things turned out, Myrtle became real right out of the gates. She must have been hanging around in the ether since she was first dreamed into being by Cynthia many years ago, and become even more real as Cynthia and her lovely family told and retold Myrtle’s tale.
The entire process has been a learning curve for all of us, but Myrtle actually taught me a major lesson. I’m confident with my writing ability—that is definitely my comfort zone, and I can’t think of any part of anything to do with writing that frightens me in any way—I love all of it. I’m also confident with my work with putting books together and getting them published for Indie authors. That stuff all takes me to my happy place, but art was another animal altogether. I’ve always loved it, but have never, ever attended any sort of art class—not even at school level. As a teenager I had it in my head that any “real” artist should be able to paint anything from straight out of their head, and that what they produced should be pretty much photographic quality. I, on the other hand, loved drawing dragons, fairies, and Disney folk and flora, which ornate as they were, didn’t strike me as proper art at all. Then Myrtle arrived and showed me that putting the adventures of gorgeous little purple turtles into images in the pages of real books is most certainly art, and she is very real to me, bless her little purple heart.
I was hoping, as I completed the final image in the book of Myrtle and her friends heading off to the big pond, that that wouldn’t be the last I’d see of her, and I’m very, very pleased to tell you that Cynthia has let me know that not only will there be a French translation very shortly, but also another adventure for Myrtle and friends early in 2018. I can’t wait to see what she gets up to next!
Below is the story of how Myrtle came to be.
Cynthia has two daughters. One day her four year old daughter Lauren came home crying.
She had brought her “Cabbage Patch®” doll, Quentin, to nursery school, but the other children refused to play with Lauren and him because of Quentin’s skin colour.
The children had never seen a dark-skinned doll before, and thought he was dirty.
Lauren, who also has brown skin, felt hurt.
Quentin used to go everywhere with her, and slept on her bed beside her. Now, she would not bring Quentin anywhere with her.
Cynthia, her husband Hamlin, and older daughter Nikisha all tried to comfort Lauren, but she was still hurt. So Cynthia made up a story about a turtle who was purple (purple was Lauren’s favourite colour).
Myrtle the Purple Turtle became a favourite story in the family. With each telling, the family helped improve the story through their questions and suggestions. Myrtle the Purple Turtle served as an effective way for the family to talk about differences in not only skin colour, but several other differences as well.
Weeks before Christmas, Lauren surprised the family by requesting “a black doll” as her gift. Such dolls were so rare back then, that the story of the family’s difficult search and ultimate success was featured in Canada’s largest newspaper, The Toronto Star, and revisited in a follow-up story in 2015.
Cynthia and her family decided to publish the story of Myrtle to give parents, grandparents, and teachers a way to talk to children about difference.
Click on the cover image to buy your copy of Myrtle, and visit Cynthia’s website to find out more about this awesome lady and her fabulous turtle.