In Steiner’s debut children’s book, a young girl displays courage when teased by other children for her unique appearance.
Hayley was born with a large, red birthmark on her face. As she grows older, she realizes that she looks different from other kids. A bright, vignetted portrait shows Hayley as a child, peering into the mirror. Hayley’s mother eloquently explains that the birthmark is simply, “like having a warm glow on your face all the time.” When Hayley inquires whether children will laugh at her birthmark, Hayley’s mother says, “They might laugh at you, but you should always have courage inside you. Remember that you were born this way and being different means being special!” Hayley applies her mother’s wisdom when approached and teased by children at the supermarket and school. Showing poise and maturity, Hayley calmly explains to her antagonists that she is “as pretty as can be.” Her confident declarations charm all. And in a somewhat idealized rendering of children’s behavior, Hayley and one of her former tormentors quickly accept their differences and become friends. In the final pages, Hayley becomes an advocate for other children who are different. Steiner’s writing is straightforward and easy for an emerging reader to understand. In her foreword, the author explains that although the story depicts a young girl with Sturge-Weber syndrome, it’s intended to be applicable to children living with any difference. Moreover, Steiner posits the book’s lesson could be used by caretakers and professionals to open a conversation with a child facing any physical or mental challenge. Aside from Hayley and her birthmark, however, there is a lack of diversity among the white, able-bodied children. Latti’s illustrations, which combine elements of pen-and-ink and watercolor, are colorful and clear, but the character’s clothing and the settings are old-fashioned.
A commendable message artfully delivered but would benefit from more diversity.