My first childhood memory of school was being bullied by my peers for having a black doll. I was 4 years old and my black cabbage patch doll Quentin, was in my opinion, the bees knees.. until some kids in my class called him dirty and said they wouldn’t play with me if I had Quentin with me. This hurt – a lot.
My 4-year-old self believed Quentin was a character in his own right and his skin colour resembled so many people in my family. But wanting to fit in and make friends, I started leaving Quentin at home and eventually my parents caught on. I don’t remember much from that time but I do remember feeling like I didn’t belong, that I was different and there was something wrong with me that made me different. You can read more about the story here, but what the story doesn’t mention is Myrtle.
In an attempt to make me feel less alone, my mum (Cynthia Reyes, author extraordinaire) wrote a bedtime story for me about a purple turtle named Myrtle. Being purple, Myrtle was quite different from the other turtles at the pond. Myrtle tries to change her appearance to fit in and her loved ones comfort her, letting Myrtle know that what makes her different makes her special. She is awesome. And looking different from others is A-OK.
I loved this story. It resonated with me, gave me comfort, confidence, and hello – she’s purple (purple was 4-year-old Lauren’s favourite colour). This story was my jam and it inspired me to embrace what made me different from my peers. I carried Quentin with pride and asked Santa for another black doll that Christmas.
Nearly 28 years later, Myrtle is about to be shared with the world. Myrtle the Purple Turtle will be hitting bookshelves on October 9, 2017 and to say I’m excited would be an understatement.
Acceptance and self-love never go out of style and it’s never too early to start instilling the importance of both in children. I think now, with everything negative (and at times, terrifying) happening in the world, the message of Myrtle the Purple Turtle is very much needed.