MESSY PENNY BY ROOPA WEBER
1) Please provide a short excerpt of what your children’s picture book is about
Messy Penny® is a story about a lovable peacock who discovers that beauty is not about how you look, it’s all about how you feel. Penny wakes up with excitement only to be disappointed when she does not look beautiful—her hair is a mess, her feathers are all rumpled and her face is missing that special glow. When Penny focuses on the happiness in her heart, not even her messiness can stop her from feeling beautiful.
2) What inspired you to write this book?
My husband and I began reading to our daughter at a very early age and so I thought a lot about the messages in the books we were reading and what I wanted to teach her as she grew up. One of the most important qualities I wanted her to possess was self-confidence. I truly believe when one can fully embrace who they are – differences, uniqueness, quirks, imperfections and all – true happiness is realized. It brought me to think about my own mother and how she was able to instil confidence in me by valuing kindness, respecting myself and others, having humility, accepting and being grateful for what you have. I wanted to find an avenue to instil my mother’s wisdom in my own daughter and carry the message forward generationally. And, so I wrote.
I chose a peacock because when I was growing up, the peacock feather was a good luck symbol. I thought it would be lovely to start with a little luck and so Penny was born.
3) How did you come up with the title or series of your book?
In the spirit of luck, I always pick up a penny for good luck. When I was visualizing the character, I always just referred to her as Penny. I thought it was a sweet name and it conjures up goodness and simplicity to me. It just seemed to fit so the Penny the Peacock® series came to life.
4) Why did you pick this genre?
I adore children and almost became a grade school teacher, but I followed a path in the financial industry and have been writing on the side. That said, I have always been a big proponent of early childhood education/development and truly believe those early years are critical in defining who you may become. Kids (and adults) are shaped by how they are treated and the love they feel around them. If you can give a child a sense of security, safety, love and understanding early on, they will look at the world differently, and hopefully with a sense of optimism. I hope this book brings joy and invites acceptance and appreciation of the simple things. In the end, if you feel good about yourself, you will treat others well—kindness brings great things.
5) How do the illustrations complement your book? What was important to you as an author?
The illustrations bring Penny to life. Manda, my illustrator, did an incredible job and I am so fortunate to have had her dedication and care with this project. I wanted the book to be colourful and upbeat. My hope is that the message allows all of us to embrace ourselves and be grateful for the simple pleasures. As an author, I want Penny to be a character that readers connect with and want to see more of. If that happens, I will keep writing and spreading Penny’s goodness.
6) As a child, what books and/or authors influenced you the most and why?
I loved Charlotte’s Web, Corduroy and the Berenstain Bears because they brought back wonderful memories of my childhood. I have re-read them with my daughter, which was pure magic when I saw the wonder, kindness and excitement in her eyes with the very books I adored. Today, I think Mo Willems is ingenious and advante garde in his story telling, approach and use of imagery. I can still hear my daughter’s giggles every time she picks up his books.
7) What is the most fulfilling thing about being an author?
I love being able to make a difference in a child’s life. If a kid smiles because they love the pictures of Penny, or talks to their loved ones about their feelings, or ask questions, we are creating a love of books and making progress by opening up a dialogue. I think it’s important to introduce the concept of self-esteem much earlier in a child’s life on a proactive (versus reactive) basis. Instilling positive messages at a young age shapes a child’s view of the world. As an author, I have also met so many fantastic families and I feel such gratitude about the support and encouragement I have received.
8) What do you hope children will take away with them after reading your book?
I hope children and parents alike will be kinder, more accepting, and less judgmental of themselves and others. I place great value on being a good person above all else and try to impart that on my daughter every day. You can certainly work on yourself and strive for the best, but at the end of the day, you must find a place of peace and happiness with who you are and what you have.
9) Who is/are your favourite author/s as an adult and why?
I read a little bit of everything and wish I had time to read a little more. I think Khaled Hosseini, who wrote the Kite Runner is an incredible and captivating story teller. On my nightstand is his other book, And the Mountains Echoed as well as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
10) What are you working on now?
I have written two other Penny books and am hoping to get them illustrated if there is success and traction with Messy Penny®. My goal is to make the Penny the Peacock® series a staple for all young children. I hope I can make a difference, remind people about what matters most, and bring a smile to someone’s day. What a joy…what a joy that would be to continue on this journey.