Today is International Children’s Book Day. It is also Hans Christian Anderson’s birthday. The annual event is sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People and has been celebrated since 1967. Each year a different national section gets to be the international sponsor of the day. An author from that country writes a message to the children of the world and a well-known illustrator designs a poster for that year. The 2019 sponsor is Lithuania, and both the message and this year’s poster are by author illustrator Kęstutis Kasparavičius, with the theme for the year being “Books Help Us Slow Down”.
The objective of the day is to share great children’s books, so of course, who but the fabulous Myrtle the Purple Turtle could I share on such a day?
Written by Cynthia Reyes for her daughter Lauren, the first Myrtle book shares the lesson that while people might sometimes appear to be different superficially, we are all just the same. It shares messages of love and friendship and never judging before knowing all you need to know. Illustrating book one was wonderful and terrifying in equal measures for me. I did not want to get it wrong. I am sure I did get quite a lot wrong, but Cynthia and her family were all involved in the birthing of the visual Myrtle into the world, and they were kind and patient as the little purple turtle came to life.
Myrtle is a lovely Turtle. Not an ordinary Turtle. She is Purple and different from other turtles. After being bullied by another turtle, Myrtle tries to become someone else. In the end, Myrtle and her friends help children learn to not be afraid of being different. Myrtle the Purple Turtle is a thoroughly engaging story that stresses the importance of self-acceptance and friendship.
Myrtle’s second adventure was much easier, illustration-wise, but I was plagued with life dramas that just kept coming, so it took a lot longer to become reality than it should have done. Once again, the Reyes and Reyes-Grange family astounded me with their patience and care, and Myrtle did indeed get to show a whole bunch of animals that just because you’re a little slow, that does not mean that you can’t succeed at anything that you set your mind to.
Myrtle the Purple Turtle returns with another great adventure! Myrtle and her friends are turned away when they try to join in a game with others. The friends walk away, feeling hurt, but that’s just the start of the story. Find out how Myrtle, Gertie, Hurtle and Snapper solve the problem, in this second picture book about Myrtle the Purple Turtle. A perfect book for children ages 3 to 8 (and adults who like turtles), it follows Myrtle the Purple Turtle — a bestseller, praised by thousands of children and adults, teachers and librarians around the world.
Now Myrtle has begun her third adventure. There are new creatures around The Big Pond to meet, and a new obstacle to be overcome in this sweet little purple girl’s own inimitable way. This journey will be much quicker to publication than the previous two, so watch this space for more of Myrtle.
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.
After this past year of epic
chaos interestingness, I am happy to say that I have learned a lot, and strangely, even the really unpleasant lessons are now showing me their value – retrospect is a fine thing indeed. Now, tempered to the strength of old boots, while hopefully not looking too much like one of them, I am happy to say that there is quite a lot of fabulousness to come over the next few weeks. Beginning with the epic launch in the next weeks of the beginning of her public life, Cynthia Reyes’ amazing Myrtle the Purple Turtle, closely followed by some unadulterated genius of science-fiction by the one and only Joelle LeGendre there is a lot coming up – all happy and wonderful beginnings from some very talented people.
I’ve made sure this time, that failing the actual end of the world (wasn’t that supposed to be today by the way? – ah well – maybe later – the day is still young) no internet or other problems will be tolerated. Calmness rules now….mostly…..ahem.
I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs while being mostly in internet darkness. I have found ways, which include zooming around the bush, swearing in ways that only writers can, in my car holding my laptop out of the window looking for signal, to ensure that the important things don’t get lost or undone because of internet devils ever again. I’ve mainly concentrated on work, such as illustrating, editing, proofing and so on over the past months, relegating my social media activity to the last place in the line – obviously focusing on making sure that I don’t let any of my authors down with the surreal things that have happened to try and knobble me – that red guy with the tail and fork kind of overplayed his hand though – it’s impossible for those kinds of problems to win when you’re looking at them and giggling hysterically – hah!
First up. Look out for Myrtle’s introduction here in the next day or two, where I will share the story of how she came to be, and the amazing woman who created her, together with her wonderful and inspiring family, and the honour and pleasure of being allowed to bring that gorgeous little turtle to life with illustration. I will tell all in Myrtle and Cynthia’s own post though – I’m just saying Hi Again to all of you lovely bloggers with this one. Hiiii there guys!!!