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Uplifting children's book addresses birthmarks

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Amanda Donahue has self-published her first children's book, "Tyler's Purple Arm" inspired by her husband, Tyler's (above) experience living with Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Former elementary school teacher and now stay-at-home mom Amanda Donahue has self-published her first children's book, Tyler's Purple Arm.  The story of a cheerful young boy named Tyler, who has a purple birthmark covering his arm and hand caused by Klippel-Trenaunay (klih-PEL tray-no-NAY) Syndrome ― also called KTS. 

The joyful, rhyming picture book shows Tyler using his positive attitude to convey to his classmates that everyone has features that make them wonderfully unique, and that it's what's inside of each of us that counts. 

KTS

KTS is a rare disorder found at birth involving difficulties in the development of certain blood vessels, soft tissues, bones and sometimes the lymphatic system. The main features include a birthmark (port-wine stain), ranging in color from pink to reddish-purple. 

First-hand experience

Amanda resides in Bloomington, Ill., with her husband, Tyler, and their five boys, ranging in age from 2-16. Amanda was inspired to write an illustrated children's book about birthmarks after encountering years of curious questions.  "Tyler has spent years coaching our boys in various sports and activities, while I enjoy volunteering at our children's school. We have encountered a lot of kids," Amanda told The Press. "After being in and out of the classroom for different events with our boys, it became clear that there are a lot of curious children out there with no books referencing birthmarks or port-wine stain skin differences."

Amanda also realized that her own children had never brought home a book showing a character with a birthmark. Likewise, she had never encountered such a book as a teacher.  "I wanted to change that narrative and create a child character with a port-wine stain. As a result, Tyler's Purple Arm was born!" She proudly shared. 

Extensive research

It took Amanda over two years to write Tyler's Purple Arm. "In that time frame I lost my father, had a baby, moved to a new home, and dealt with the pandemic," Amanda listed. "Ultimately, I knew I wanted to get Tyler's story in print, so despite the major life changes happening simultaneously, this book was very important to me to finish." 

The children's author spent many late nights fine tuning the story, researching publication, obtaining a copyright, developing her website, and much more. "Tyler was an incredible help through all of this," she said with gratitude. 

After much consideration, Amanda decided to self-publish her book. "I wanted complete ownership of the story, especially because it was a personal one based on my own husband. I also wanted control of choosing my own illustrator, which is not always the case when you work with a publisher," she noted.

Choosing an illustrator

Amanda had a vision of how she wanted Tyler and the other characters to look. "Illustrations are so important to a story, and I wanted kids to be drawn to the bright, cheerful colors and pleasant characters in the book," she pointed out.

Amanda chose Mat Sadler after spending numerous hours looking through her own children's books, and books at the couple's local public library. "I came across Mat Sadler's work in the What Should Danny Do? series. I quickly contacted him, and we began our journey together," she explained. "The funny part is that we've never met in real life because Mat lives in England. We had a time zone difference to work through, and also a few funny linguistic differences. A story I love to share is when I requested a page of Tyler playing football, Mat instead created a page of Tyler playing soccer." 

Amanda released Tyler's Purple Arm on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. "Through self-publishing, I knew the book would be available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. We were very excited when Wal-Mart online picked the story up and started selling it there," Amanda commented enthusiastically. "It has been so fulfilling to have Tyler's Purple Arm in print, and to be able to go into schools and libraries and share this story with children." 

Bringing awareness and acceptance 

The author ultimately wanted to help children by creating a character that has a birthmark. "I hope it will bring more awareness and acceptance to the birthmark community. I hope it gives those children with birthmarks a relatable character that looks like them, while simultaneously teaching their curious classmates about birthmarks in the process," she shared. 

The uplifting, positive narrative is also a story of ability. "I also wanted to show how having different skin does not take away one’s ability to have a beautiful life," she added. "Most importantly, I wanted to focus on more than surface level beauty, emphasizing to children that it is what’s on the inside that counts. My number one goal behind writing this story has been to help children see their amazing ability and give them a resource to help celebrate their beautiful selves." 

Tyler has set a good example for the couple's five boys. "Tyler is the most  kindhearted and patient person I have ever met. I love watching him interact with curious kids who stop and ask him what happened to his arm. He always kneels down to their level, shows them his two hands, and describes what a birthmark is. He loves teaching kids about it, and prefers that people ask him, rather than point, stare, or avoid. I couldn’t be prouder of Tyler,” Amanda concluded. 

For additional information see online www.amandadonahue.net.

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