A story about a friendly tortoise who likes to dress up and decorate her shell sounds like a cute children’s book, right?
“The Tortoise and the Flair” is that, but it also dives into a deeper issue: depression.
While not using that term directly, Julieta, the tortoise with the flair, sometimes wants to retreat into her shell and stay there.
In her third children’s book, Brooke Smith addresses the issue with sensitivity and in terms children and their parents can understand.
“Julieta is feeling low,” the book reads. “She doesn’t know why, and she doesn’t need a reason to feel this low. The feelings just come along all on their own.”
Two friends of Julieta come to ask how she’s doing. She tries to dress up and act with her usual bravura, but they realize she doesn’t feel well.
“Frank and Joe see past Juliet’s smile and her colorful mud-lipstick and also her flashy sash. Frank and Joe see emptiness in Julieta’s eyes, and they feel her sad energy, and so they simply sit with Julieta. They hold her tortoise foot and they talk.
“Because even though Frank and Joe understand that Julieta isn’t feeling her sparkle right now, she will feel it again when she knows that she had friends she can trust, just like they trust her.”
Smith said she wanted to write a book that addresses children’s feelings without making them scared of depression. The book was inspired in part by her family’s pet tortoise, which she brought to a recent event at Pine River Library that featured local authors and artists.
Smith’s previous works are “The Mango Tree,” published in 2018, and “Brinley Discovers Santa, A Bold Introduction to the Meaning Behind Santa Claus,” her first book, from 2015.
On her website, Smith said she writes children’s books to foster conversation. The mango tree grows while discovering inspiration and development from somewhere within itself, but also from the surrounding world. In Smith’s first book, Brinley faces some hard facts and makes a choice to participate in random acts of kindness and to carry forward the true spirit of Santa every day.
Smith said she writes children’s books to promote conversations with young readers.
“Children are open and willing to talk,” she wrote on her website. “They are able to be vulnerable, still. They want to share. They want to be heard. They want to know that we care, that they have a place to explore their opinions and feelings.
“This is the reason for my stories. To talk, to open the conversation, to be vulnerable.”
She will hold a reading from “The Mango Tree” at 10 a.m. Jan. 12 at Dolores Public Library, then at 1 p.m. at Mancos Public Library. Her readings of “The Mango Tree” often include a snack and craft, where children create their own picture of a mango tree.
Her books are available at Maria’s Bookshop.