Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! For this interview, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Melinda Gibbons, author of the charming and MCA award-winning children’s book, You are the Perfect You! You are the Perfect You is a story about a lovable little T-rex with a big heart named Tex. In this heartwarming adventure, Tex shares valuable life lessons about empathy, kindness, and self-acceptance, even in the face of bullying. You are the Perfect You is as equally well written as it is beautifully illustrated, with vibrant colors and captivating detail that help to tell the story of Tex. It was such a treat to be able to hear all about her inspiration and development of You are the Perfect You straight from Melinda. The entire interview is published below, so take a look!
MCA: Hi Melinda, thank you so much for joining us today, and congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! Can we start off the interview by finding out a little bit about yourself?
Melinda: I studied Fine Art at New York University and have a BFA and a Masters in Art Education. I’ve been teaching art in NY for over 20 years. This upcoming year I will be teaching elementary art, kindergarten through 5th grade, at Fairfield Elementary School in Massapequa. Reading to my students and helping them build literacy skills at a young age is particularly important to me. Some of my hobbies include painting, sculpting, designing, and creating silver jewelry. I live in New York with my husband Daniel and our daughter Jemma.
MCA: Your artistic ability is evident throughout You are the Perfect You, the illustrations are truly exquisite! Was it your teaching career that lead you on your path to becoming a writer?
Melinda: I started writing this story when I was on bed rest, pregnant with my daughter. I had a lot of time on my hands and thought this would be the perfect way to turn my negative experiences from having been bullied as a kid, into a learning experience for my daughter. I wanted to write a story about something children are fascinated by dinosaurs. The purpose of the book is to help children feel comfortable talking about sadness and emotions while showing how important it is to be kind and compassionate. I wanted to tell a tale that would help children see that their inner strength is stronger than they realize, and they shouldn’t let anyone diminish their self-worth. I started the illustrations after my daughter was born. Her naptime was my painting time. The paintings took a lot longer than you would imagine because I wanted everything to be perfect for her. My main motivation was picturing her reading the book when she’s old enough to fully understand it and being proud of her mommy.
MCA: I think it’s safe to say you succeed in your purpose for writing this book! You are the Perfect You teaches valuable life lessons about being compassionate, accepting, and kind, to ourselves as well as others. How did the current climate of the world influence your writing You are the Perfect You?
Melinda: While there has been so much dividing people lately between politics and the stress of the pandemic, it is important to remember that our children see our actions. It is important to remind them that kindness is key. The relationships we have with others, how we are treated and treat others will stick with them for a lifetime.
I remember being bullied as a kid like it was yesterday. Even today, I doubt myself and deal with anxiety due to my experiences in school. Sometimes I still feel like that 7-year-old kid that nobody wanted to play with because my clothes were hand-me-downs of hand-me-downs.
The effects of bullying don’t go away just because the bully stopped, or you ignored it and pressed on. They stick with you. Often, they define who you become, and you have the choice to turn it into a positive or let it bring you down. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in my skin. I was embarrassed and kept it to myself. I didn’t want to burden my parents because they had enough to worry about, like paying the bills and keeping a roof over our heads. Not talking about my feelings was probably one of the worst things I could have done. I wrote my book to encourage children to talk about their emotions especially if they do experience bullying. I hope my story inspires children to be proud of who they are and celebrate their differences. Even if a child does not experience bullying firsthand, it would be wonderful if my book helped them understand empathy and the importance of showing kindness to another in need.
MCA: Developing a sense of empathy is such an important developmental process for young children and one that will benefit them well into adulthood. What are some of the key lessons found in You are the Perfect You?
Melinda: You are the Perfect You is about being proud of who you are, no matter what anyone else thinks. It is about finding the value in your differences and how those differences can be your super-power. My book instills important lessons such as being good to one another, helping others in need, and loving yourself even in the face of adversity.
MCA: It most certainly does instill those important life lessons! Why was it so important for you to spread positive messages about loving yourself as you are?
Melinda: There are so many challenges kids face every day, from making friends and feeling accepted, to dealing with anxieties. Having a positive self-image was one that I dealt with. I don’t want my daughter or any child to grow up questioning their greatness. I want our children to grow up confident and strong. Even if someone laughs at them, for whatever ridiculous reason, I want kids to know that their worth is not based on someone else’s opinion. I want our future generations to know that they are special and hopefully, our children will use their strength and courage to make a difference in the world.
MCA: What is the importance of starting young in teaching children about self-esteem and self-love?
Melinda: It’s never too early to teach self-esteem and self-love. When kids develop self-esteem, they are more likely to have the courage to try new things. Having confidence and believing that they can be successful gives them the motivation to keep forging ahead, even if they make mistakes along the way. They are less likely to just give up. Building self-esteem helps kids realize their abilities and fill their power buckets. They learn how to be self-sufficient as opposed to self-conscious.
MCA: We couldn’t agree more. Your book has received some great reviews since being released in May! Can you share some of the responses to You are the Perfect You from your readers?
Melinda: I have received several emails and messages on social media from parents who were thrilled about the positive lessons in my book. A couple of these adults have told me that the book made them cry because it was such a feel-good story. Some parents have said that it was fun to read because of the rhyme scheme. Parents have told me that the illustrations are eye-catching and the drawings kept their toddlers and young readers engaged. Older children have mentioned that they enjoyed the book as well and they wished it were available when they were younger. I’ve done read-aloud in a few elementary schools and have received standing ovations. Getting such a positive response from the students felt fantastic and truly made me feel that the long road to creating You are the Perfect You was worth all the hard work.
MCA: That is so rewarding! Thank you for giving us some insight into your award-winning book as well as the author behind it! We look forward to hearing much more from you in the future.
You can learn more about Melinda Gibbons and her award-winning book, You are the Perfect You by visiting her MCA Shop pages.