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A young girl faces ridicule and bullying about her birthmark in: HAYLEY’S COURAGE

By Linda M. Steiner

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HAYLEY'S COURAGE is a first-of-its-kind children's story that has the potential of reaching out to children worldwide.

A true story of one little girl's courage amid adversity.

A true story of one little girl’s courage amid adversity.

Born with a noticeable birthmark on her face, young Hayley asks her mom about the mark on her face. Her mother’s response provides Hayley with a healthy perspective—a reminder of how special she is.

Steiner’s debut book shines a refreshing light at uniqueness. Using her daughter Hayley as the inspiration for her story, Steiner focuses on a child with Sturge-Weber syndrome. While most commonly characterized by a congenital facial birthmark, Steiner never once mentions this rare disorder by name. What Steiner does instead is address Hayley’s birthmark as something that is a natural yet distinctive trait of her physical design. Steiner goes a step farther by answering another of Hayley’s questions. Wondering if kids will laugh at her, Steiner’s realistic approach not only creates a critical turning point in little Hayley’s life, but also a foundational tenet. Steiner’s frank response presents the possibility that Hayley may receive ridicule, but balances it with this stellar comment:  “. . . you should always have courage inside you. Remember that you were born this way and that being different means being special!”

True to Steiner’s words, Hayley is confronted with adverse conditions but Hayley’s self-confidence never wavers. The table turns as Steiner includes another true account when a boy that once bullied Hayley comes to school with a rash on his face. While there is no medical explanation, the boy’s sudden facial inflammation becomes the point of ridicule and Hayley comes to his rescue when he is verbally attacked. As mentioned earlier, Steiner never points out the term that describes Hayley’s condition. Cleverly omitted, Steiner’s story is designed so that parents can easily substitute Hayley’s syndrome with their child’s exceptional characteristics—be it an illness or physical or mental challenge. Great examples include cancer, diabetes, learning disabilities, as well as personality traits like shyness or nervousness. This unique plot feature also provides opportunity for parents to engage in conversations with their children to address these issues that block them from fitting in with their environs.

Aptly complementing Steiner’s engaging narrative is Leo Latti’s colorful illustrations. Combining mixed media, Latti’s equally engaging depictions capture the family dynamics and the determined spirit of one little girl who will not allow anyone to crush her self-esteem.

HAYLEY’S COURAGE is a first-of-its-kind children’s story that has the potential of reaching out to children worldwide.