By Dawn Krebs
MARTIN COUNTY -- Growing up, some children realize that they like things that are different from the other children.
But realizing that those differences are acceptable can sometimes be hard to explain.
Stuart resident Jennifer Adkins realized this, and wrote a children's book to address the issue.
Called "Mom, am I different?" the book chronicles the journey of a mother and daughter as together, they explore how feeling different can empower someone to do great things.
"The story is a conversation the mother and daughter has, and shows us we can make positive changes in the world if we choose to use those differences rather than try to fit in," said Ms. Adkins.
She has seen firsthand how being different affects children, as she is a first-grade teacher at Marsh Pointe Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens as well as the mother of two elementary-aged children.
"Undoubtedly, there are pieces of my daughters scattered throughout the book," she said. "The young girl in the story reminds me a lot of my youngest daughter, whose inquisitive nature is constantly prompting her to ask questions about our world and the things in it."
She found when she was reading books to her own children that many books do not directly address the feelings of being different.
"Words such as 'unique' or 'special' are frequently tossed around and do little to legitimize the very real, and sometimes heartbreaking, feelings that children experience when they feel they don't fit in," Ms. Adkins said.
The idea for the story came to her one day a little bit at a time.
"The first two lines kept running through my head, so I went and wrote them down," she said. "By the day's end, I had a rough draft."
After that day, it took about seven months for the book to wind its way to being printed.
Ms. Adkins did a lot of research, and selected Georgia Stylou from Greece to do the illustrations.
"I knew how I wanted the story to play out, so I looked for someone who could bring the visions in my head to life," she said. "I looked at about 125 portfolios before choosing Ms. Stylou."
Now that the book is in print, the response has been rewarding for Ms. Adkins.
"So many people, regardless of age, have been able to relate to the feelings of the little girl in the story," she said. "What has surprised me the most is how many adults told me they often felt like they didn't fit in or were a little different than other people."
While she doesn't currently have any plans to write another book, she enjoys the experience she had creating this one.
"This is a universal message that everyone can relate to," Ms. Adkins said. "I feel that if I was given one chance to leave my children with a message to live by, it would be to embrace their differences and use them to leave their mark on the world."
More information on the book can be found on the web site www.momamidifferent.com or on Amazon.