Amanda Steiff, a physical education teacher at Arroyo Seco Junior High School, has released a Halloween-themed children’s book, “Pumpkin Kitty,” to spread a message of acceptance.
The idea of having a protagonist being half pumpkin and half kitty came from Steiff’s own son. For an art project, Steiff’s son had made an orange windsock and he decorated it to look like a cat. He called it his “pumpkin cat” and Steiff was hit with inspiration.
She got to work and produced a rhyming story about a pumpkin kitty that is excluded by the witch kittens. By the end of the book, pumpkin kitty shows everyone that his differences are his strengths.
“The goal is to reach those kiddos that need to either realize that their differences can be their strengths, or help teach other kids that just because someone looks different, it doesn’t affect who they are or what is good about them,” said Steiff.
Steiff’s book also includes a science element to it, answering a question that many can’t: Can a pumpkin float? A lesson plan/science experiment is available at bit.ly/3SC3lVj to complete with reading the book.
Steiff had the book fully illustrated and done, but the digital renderings of her story did not match her vision for the book. She took to Facebook and put out a post asking if any artists would be interested in the project. Michelle “Chelle” Thompson was.
“I just really like doing stuff when I know that it’s going to make the kids happy and smile,” said Thompson. “If my art can make someone smile and happy, I’m like, ‘Yay, let’s do this!’”
Thompson said that her main reason for taking on the project was the relatability aspect. The message that “Pumpkin Kitty” sends is one that she tried to relay to her curly-haired daughter when she was 3.
“She was crying and she was using a straightener, luckily it was off, trying to straighten her hair because all of the girls were teasing her because she looked different than all of them,” said Thompson.
Steiff and Thompson worked collaboratively, back and forth, to finally bring Steiff’s vision to life. Thompson worked hard to ensure that Steiff’s book doesn’t blend into other Halloween children’s books and stands out on a shelf.
Steiff and Thompson will be at Barnes & Noble, 23630 Valencia Blvd., on Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. for a book signing and story time. Free science experiments and coloring pages will also be available.