When I started working with the illustrator on Caroline Girls, I had two items that were very important to me: the Caroline character and the message on the last page of the book of inclusivity.
Being a novice in the children’s book publishing arena, I didn’t want to come across arrogant or a know-it-all. But I really wanted to make sure this Caroline character looked like my little Caroline. I sent the illustrator several pictures of Caroline and invited her to look at my social media newsfeeds. We went through several revisions before I felt like the Caroline character was just right.
Before the illustrator began her process, I had to storyboard the book. In case you are unfamiliar with this term, story boarding means I drew out the book as I saw it with the text. However, because I cannot even draw a proper stick figure, it was basically pathetic scratches with arrows to notes about what I meant for the illustrator.
The last page had several notes. Even before I story boarded the book, the illustrator and I had talked at length about the last page. The most important message of the book is on the last page; which is inclusivity. I’ve always strived to be an inclusive person, I never wanted anyone to feel left out. It’s a trait I hope to pass along to my daughters.
I think my little Caroline is an inclusive girl. She attends a developmental preschool because she has hypotonia, or low muscle tone. At rest, muscles have a certain amount of resistance. Hers do not. When she was born, they called her a floppy baby. She needs physical therapy to overcome her low tone. However, many of her classmates have more challenging obstacles to overcome – such as autism, low vision or hearing impairments. But to Caroline, they are just her friends in her class. She loves them all so much, and she talks about them daily.
When you read the book, I really hope you take notice of the inclusivity on the last page. I hope you see all the different types of Caroline Girls. Black, white, Asian, in a wheelchair, with braces, with an uncommon name, with a common name and an unusual spelling … it doesn’t matter. Any little girl with a heart of gold is a Caroline Girl, and that message is so important to me!