A Blue Sheep? Teaching Kids about Acceptance and Diversity

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

One of our favorite authors, Gabrielle Yetter, has a new book that we're delighted to share with our wandering educators. Entitled Martha the Blue Sheep, it's a story of fitting in - or not, of taking care of those in need, of good deeds and celebrating life. It's a lovely tale, beautifully and colorfully illustrated by Daro Sam and Monnyreak Ket. It has much to teach us about acceptance, helpfulness, and diversity. Read it with your kids, and then find (or be) your own Marthas in life. Highly recommended!

A Blue Sheep? Teaching Kids about Acceptance and Diversity

We were lucky enough to catch up with Gabi, and ask her about the book, inspiration, the artists, and more. Here's what she had to say...

Please tell us about your new picture book, Martha the Blue Sheep...
Martha The Blue Sheep is a book about a sheep named Martha. As the result of an incident, her coat turns blue and she no longer blends in with the rest of the flock. She is different.

Since Martha is a shy sheep, she is distraught. She wants to be like everyone else but has now become the center of attention in her circle of friends..

However, one day, something happens that teaches her a valuable lesson --she learns that being different can be a blessing, not a curse. 

Martha The Blue Sheep is a story about acceptance, tolerance, and diversity. It's a story to inspire children (and children at heart) not to be just one of the flock, but to celebrate being an individual who brings richness and color to the world.

A Blue Sheep? Teaching Kids about Acceptance and Diversity

What inspired you to write this book?
I love writing stories with a message and was inspired to write Martha The Blue Sheep as I was struck by the challenges young people often encounter when they believe they are different. I was a shy child myself and recall how it felt to (a) have a strange accent as I moved from Bahrain to South Africa as a teenager, and (b) have an unusual name (I would have given anything at that age to be called "Jane" or "Susan" or "Ann").

My intention with Martha The Blue Sheep (as well as my first children's book, Ogden The Fish Who Couldn't Swim Straight) is to inspire children and show them there's magic and acceptance everywhere and that they can be part of it, just by being themselves. In fact, in being different, they often have even more to contribute and in time will realise what they can teach others around them. 

Some of my favorite books include Antoine St. Exupery's Little Prince, Shel Silverstein's Giving Tree, and Oscar Wilde's Happy Prince, as I love books that reach deep into the heart and leave a lasting impression. 

I guess the overall message behind my stories is to show that every child is special, every child has a significant place in the world ,and every child has someone in their life who can inspire them. 

A Blue Sheep? Teaching Kids about Acceptance and Diversity

I love the illustrations! Can you please share more about the artists?
Daro Sam and Monnyreak Ket are two young Cambodian men I met when I lived in Phnom Penh. They were referred to me by a friend when I started searching for an artist for Ogden The Fish Who Couldn't Swim Straight, and I fell in love with their talent, enthusiasm, and aptitude in providing exactly the right design personality for my characters.

Daro has a bachelor's degree in design and is a self-taught 2D animator and concept artist, and Monnyreak is in his final year of a bachelor's degree in visual communications and works as a part time graphic designer and illustrator.

So, when I decided to publish Martha The Blue Sheep, they were the obvious choice to work with and, once again, provided exactly what I was looking for -- whimsical, colorful, fabulous designs that brought the story to life.

I love the message of acceptance and diversity - what do you hope kids take away from this?
If Martha The Blue Sheep were to touch even one child and help him or her discover how their being different is special and unique, I would consider my work a success. 

Kids often feel they have to blend in with other kids -  in their class, their social settings, their families -- and a lot of young people believe there's something wrong with them if they are different.

We often carry that message around with us for years, sometimes decades, and one never knows where we might discover a message that will touch us. 

For some, it may be a movie, for some, it may be a person and for some, it may be a book about a shy blue sheep named Martha.

A Blue Sheep? Teaching Kids about Acceptance and Diversity

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