Jul. 29—Differences are dynamite, according to local author Sarah Manuel.
Manuel published a children's book in April that follows a group of six animal friends as they learn about and embrace the many differences between them.
"Instead of being ashamed or trying to hide our differences, they should be celebrated," said Manuel. "That is what makes each of us special."
The book features Michael Mouse who has been sick and in the hospital; Nathan the Cat who has six toes on one paw; Sophia the Dog who has one ear that stands up and one ear that falls in her face; Betty the Butterfly who has a difficult time with reading; Paul the Dinosaur who is really smart, and Rebecca Rabbit who lives her life in a wheelchair.
While embracing all differences, Manuel said she felt it was important to highlight individuals with disabilities because she also lives her life in a wheelchair.
"I have experienced what it is like to have differences all of my life," said Manuel. "If I had learned to celebrate these differences much earlier, my childhood it would have been much easier."
Manuel said while her book features a character with a disability, it is not specifically about disabilities.
"It's not disability specific, it is human specific," said Manuel. "We all have differences."
Manuel said she hopes her book will encourage kids to look favorably and confidently at their own differences while learning to be kind and make friends with those who are different from them.
"You don't have to be the same to be friends or fit in," said Manuel.
Manuel said the book will also help parents and educators start an age-appropriate conversation about kindness, diversity, prejudice and anti-bullying.
The book was actually written 13 years ago, said Manuel, while she was finishing up her schooling to become a school psychologist.
"I had to put together a preventative intervention program," said Manuel.
From there, the story developed but Manuel said she had no thoughts of publishing it until just recently.
When she decided to release the book, she hired an illustrator and then got to work self-publishing the story.
"Differences are Dynamite!" is available to purchase on Amazon in both English and Spanish.
Manuel also offers online classes aimed at personal improvement and empowerment.
For more information, visit https://sarahmanuel.com/book/.
Manuel said free printable coloring pages are also available on her website.