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What happens when you’re an upside-down thinker in a right-side up world? That’s the problem Beatrice faces in her debut book, Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker from first-time author Shelley Johannes.
Beatrice is quite different. And what makes Beatrice fun and unique is that she chooses to embrace her differences — something we should be encouraging in all of our children.
In the story, Beatrice returns from summer vacation to discover her best friend has seemingly transformed — complete with a new sparkly shirt, a skirt, and has ditched her glasses. Instead of trying to change herself to fit in with Lenny, she focuses on how to stay connected despite their new differences.
What I love about Beatrice is she doesn’t have any angst about being herself. While she wants to find a way to still be friends with Lenny, she doesn’t feel pressure to be someone she isn’t – even when she belongs to a right-side up family. Beatrice is a great role model for kids, and especially for those who feel out of place themselves.
I wish I had Beatrice Zinker around when I was little.
As a young kid in elementary school, I was taunted for looking different than other people in my school. I cried once after being teased — no matter the age, it always hurts to be singled out.
Author Shelley Johannes can relate, because growing up, she was different, too. All her life she loved writing and drawing, but she wasn’t sure if those things had value. Her creativity always felt like a flaw instead of something to be celebrated. Johannes was quiet and shy, even feeling out of place in her art classes where she excelled. While other kids her age were openly expressing themselves through their style and charisma, she would sit quietly doing her work.
“Even though everyone was super nice, I just felt out of place,” Johannes tells Babble.
After years of working as an architect, Johannes found she needed to do more with her creativity. She created Beatrice Zinker and released her into the world, hoping to make a difference for kids that struggled like she had. She realized being creative was not a flaw, after all.
“I had to come to grips with that. My brain was intuitive. I thought intuitively, not chronologically. I wasn’t ‘wrong.’ My brain was just different,” Johannes notes.
I think, as parents, we are tempted to want our kids to be “normal,” not because we don’t appreciate them for who they are, but because we don’t want them to face the harsh criticism of the world. But let’s face it — what’s “normal” anyway? The most “abnormal” people in the world are the ones who changed it the most. So instead of wanting our kids to be “right-side up” thinkers, we should encourage them to just be themselves.