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Purple Up! We Salute Our Friends

Written by Sarah Scheerger | Illustrated by Leah Giles

We had the pleasure of delving into the inspiring journey of a remarkable author—a dedicated school-based mental health provider and mother of four—who has beautifully melded her professional insights and personal experiences into her children's books. Her latest work, "Purple Up! We Salute Our Friends," shines a spotlight on the unique lives and contributions of military children, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation through its vibrant pages. Join us as we explore her motivations, the heartfelt themes woven into her stories, and the profound impact she hopes to make on both young readers and the broader community.

1. Can you share a bit about your background and what inspired you to write your book?

I am a school-based mental health provider, mom of four, and children’s book author. I am always eager to find books that resonate either with my own children and/or the children/teens with whom I work. I’m also always looking for books that amplify the voices of children. I believe that books are a wonderful entry point for important conversations and emotional growth. I also believe that all children should see their experiences reflected in the pages of a book.

About seven years ago, my children’s school hosted Purple Up! Day. I live and work in a community near a naval base, but I had never heard of Purple Up! Day. I was thrilled to learn about this special day and also the Month of the Military Child. Our school was decorated with purple balloon arches and everyone wore purple. We gathered to honor the children from military families. I saw pride on the faces of our military kids, and I saw awe and respect on the faces of non- military kids. I walked away from that event, thinking that everyone should know about Purple Up! Day.

Since books are my hobby and love, I began researching the children’s book market. I found books that celebrated the contributions of military parents and I found books that talked about coping with deployment, but at that time I did not find many books that specifically celebrated the contributions of military kids. So. . . I set about trying to write one. Many drafts (and years) later, Purple Up! We Salute Our Friends was born.

2. What key messages or themes are you hoping to convey through your book?

The key message in “Purple Up! We Salute Our Friends,” is that the experience and contribution of military children matters. I feel it’s important for military children to be honored/ appreciated. I also feel it’s important that non-military people take a moment to really think about the importance of the contributions of military families and children.

The messages are also of resilience and strength. The overall tone of the book is positive and celebratory.

3. How have your personal experiences (military or not) influenced your writing style or the stories you choose to tell in your book?

As a school-based mental health provider, I’m inspired daily by children/teens and their wisdom, potential, and resilience. This inspiration often finds its way into my writing. My middle-grade novel “Operation Frog Effect” is a story about students learning to find their voices, stand up for what they believe, and make positive ripples. My picture book “Mitzvah Pizza” is about a young girl who finds a way to give back with “pay it forward” pizza slices. And “Purple Up!” is a celebration and recognition of the contributions of military kids.

All my stories are works of fiction, but of course, there is often a real-life experience that launches the creativity. For Purple Up! I was inspired by participating in Purple Up! Day. Both my husband and father-in-law served in the Navy before I knew them. I don’t have any military-wife experience myself, but I do live/work in a community near a naval base. For “Mitzvah Pizza” I was inspired by an actual pay-it-forward pizza shop in Philadelphia called “Rosa’s Fresh Pizza.”

4. Were there any specific challenges or rewarding moments you encountered while writing your book that you would like to share?

Writing for publication in the children’s book market is not a quick or easy process! I have only ever published traditionally, and the process involves submitting to many different publishing houses (and lots of waiting and hoping). It did take a while to find the right publisher, but I’m so glad I did. I love the illustrator they selected. (Did you know that in traditional publishing, typically the author does not get to select the illustrator? Rather, the publishing house selects an illustrator they think will be a good fit.) Leah Giles did a fabulous job.

5. What impact are you hoping your book will have on readers?

I hope that my book will help increase the awareness of Purple Up! Day. I’d love for more schools and communities to celebrate the Month of the Military Child. I hope that this book will help non-military folks have a full appreciation of all military families do, and I hope that all the military kids out there feel seen and appreciated, inspired, and proud.

6. Can you provide insights into any upcoming projects or initiatives related to your book or future writing plans that you would like to share with our audience?

I do have another picture book in the works, but it hasn’t been formally announced, so I can’t share any details yet (shhhh!).

For Purple Up!, I hope to find ways to pair and collaborate with organizations like your own… groups that also work to amplify the voices and experiences of military children. This week, I’m doing a virtual presentation with classrooms of military children in after-school care. We’re going to read the book and then they’ll get a chance to share their own stories/experiences. I’d love to participate in more activities like this.

I’ve created some extension activities that can be used in a classroom (after reading the book), an article with some practical tips, and a coloring sheet. I’m hoping these supplemental materials will make it easy for teachers/childcare providers to utilize this book for activities.

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