‘My Thumb and I’ conquers bad habits
Children are people too. They need sympathy rather than scolding.
That’s the message of Bette Penney’s book, "My Thumb and I," which was illustrated by Jenni A. Creer and published this month. Dolly’s bookstore will hold a reception and book signing Dec. 16.
Penney, 67, received a degree in English and child development from Mills College in Oakland, Calif. She has always dabbled in writing and had a gift for poetry.
"I’ve written a lot of poetry to people; birthdays and that sort of thing," Penney said. "They are all private things. They are funny, but they are not for publication, that’s a rule."
A few times a year, Penny will rent a hotel to work on her prose in privacy.
"I stay three or four days and write on a legal pad," Penney said. "It fills my soul. It is a passion. I love words, I love vocabulary and I have word books all over the house. I just love the English language."
Most of her writings focus on poems. Without intent to publish a book, she started working on "My Thumb and I" 25 years ago.
"I came up with rhymes that are fun to be in a children’s book and worked on it until it became a story," Penney said.
Penney’s story combines both her majors into a story from which others may benefit.
"I didn’t necessarily want to publish but, it started taking shape and I thought ‘this is really pretty good’ and I decided to go for it," she said. "It’s very close to my heart. It has wonderful humor and all those qualities for a darling children’s book and a happy ending."
The story, written in verse, is for both parents and children and tackles the issue of how to correct a child’s bad habits. It follows a young girl who is a thumb-sucker who takes a journey through overcoming her habit.
"It’s a teaching book," Creer said, "but it also helps people see the humor in a child who is doing something that people don’t approve of."
Penney believes in helping children out in a loving manner. The message for parents is they can tell their children "pretty soon you won’t need to do that anymore," Penney said. "When they are older they should tell them they can do other things like piano and sports and they won’t have to suck their thumb" instead of getting mad at a child, which may only heighten the problem.
"It’s a children picture book for children worldwide using humor, acceptance and anticipation through encouragement," Penney said.
Creer, 72, grew up in a family of artists. Her sister, Lanny Barnard, has a gallery in Park City called Lanny. Creer enters another world when she paints and she immerses herself into the soul of her characters on canvas.
Creer has illustrated other books and she developed a great sense of pride for her work on this project.
"I especially enjoyed doing this book. This book literally explains to people that these ‘no-no’s’ are something children will grow out of, most of the time. Children should not be labeled," Creer said.
Creer believes parents sometimes may lose sight of how to correct their kids. This book, she says, can help them in a fun way.
"We old ladies have to be careful, and mothers and sisters and everybody," Creer said. "It was terribly interesting for me because I think there are some wonderful messages in the book. As parents, we get terribly excited over no-no’s. In various ways it can affect children throughout their lives."
Creer said children need "love and understanding." In the book, children and parents can learn it’s better for children to think, "My mommy loves me and my daddy loves me and thumb-sucking is OK," Creer said.
"I think it has a very deep emotion," Creer said. "There are a lot of other no-no’s that parents go to pieces over. A lot of things are accomplished through loving."
Creer spent countless hours working on the illustrations for the book over the last year. She wanted to capture the essence of the characters in the story.
"I feel like I know these people," Creer said of the characters from Penney’s stories. "These people become real. Sometime you shed a tear over them."
The main character in the book, Annie, took most of Creer’s time in analyzing whether she painted her correctly.
"It took me a while to finally see Annie in the way I wanted her to be portrayed to be adorable," Creer said. "Every child is an adorable person inside. I panted it until it became the Annie that I know."
Creer said in reading the book, "You fell in love with Annie and you knew she would give up thumb sucking."
The book, Creer says is for everyone from kids to teenagers and adults.
"Even thumb suckers look at this book and can laugh and it gives them hope. Through the pictures, they can see a real person. They can love Annie and find it very humorous," Creer said.
Dolly’s bookstore, located on 510 Main Street will have a book signing and reception for Bette Penney and her newly published book "My Thumb and I" Saturday Dec. 16 from 3-5 p.m. For more information, call 649-8062.
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