We are all Myrtle the Purple Turtle

From the beginning, it seems, I was always going to be different.  I began life upside down, and from then on, I struggled to find my place in the world.   At times, the difference was visible: the splint I wore as a young child to correct what was then called ‘clicking hips’; the Bells Palsy that for a while paralysed half my face; the period when I made myself stand out with black make up and spiked hair.  At times, the difference wasn’t as obvious: a period of childhood deafness; my sexuality; the feeling that I didn’t quite fit.  So when, in high school, I was targeted by bullies, I was never sure why.  I could only assume there was something wrong with me.

Like many kids, I endured the casual but brutal name-calling so endemic in schools; the name-calling that spotlights any sign of difference.  But I was also targeted by an older group of girls for no reason I could fathom.  Bullying is a brutal process that kids unwittingly play along with of shaping each other into what is acceptable and what isn’t.  It tells us that we are too much of this, not enough of that, stripping us of our uniqueness and telling us that we aren’t good enough as we are.  And there is a shame attached to bullying.  If there is something wrong with us, then it must be something to be ashamed of.  I told nobody I was being bullied.  I still have a clear memory of the intervention of a friend, who realised I was hanging back later at school so that I wouldn’t encounter my bullies on the way home, and made me report it to a teacher.

When Cynthia Reyes’ daughter Lauren was bullied for having a black doll, she began to leave the much-loved doll at home.  She felt that there was something wrong with her that made her different.  To help her feel less alone, Cynthia wrote a bedtime story – Myrtle the Purple Turtle.  Myrtle is a heart-warming story about what it is to feel different, how we try to change to fit in, and ultimately that our differences make us special.

At times, we are all Myrtle.  Sometimes other people make us see difference in ourselves and tell us it is bad.  Sometimes, on comparing ourselves with others, we tell ourselves we aren’t good enough.  Often, it seems society is conspiring to highlight and demonise difference.  Bullying has a long term impact on individuals.  It made me adept at hiding my emotions.  It transformed me from a self-confident little girl into a shy, depressed teenager.  Some of us will emerge stronger.  It will give us insight and compassion for others we may not otherwise have had.  But the effects are long-lasting, and some will not come through it at all.

I wish I’d had Myrtle when I was younger.  I wish someone had told me that I was special as I was.  Myrtle is an important story, helping children to accept and love themselves just as they are.  And today, when the pressures seem even greater, and the methods of bullying have expanded with social media, it is more important than ever that children learn that difference is good, that our unique traits make us special and that self-acceptance and acceptance of others is important.

And now we can all have Myrtle.  Myrtle the Turtle will be available very soon as a beautifully illustrated picture book.  Gentle, funny and uplifting, with a powerful message told in a way that will engage young children, Myrtle promotes the importance of loving the shell we are in.  It strikes me that in many ways this blogging community is like Myrtle’s pond.  We are from a myriad of countries, races and religions, of all ages, differently-abled and from varying backgrounds.  We all have a unique shell that we present to the world and we gather by the pond together and appreciate each one.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes is published on 9th October.

Visit Cynthia’s blog here and learn more about Lauren’s story here.

Take part in the campaign #loveyourshell


147 thoughts on “We are all Myrtle the Purple Turtle

  1. I know that sometimes bullies are copied by other children who are not natural bullies themselves but think it safer to go along with the bully than stand up against them and risk getting bullied themselves. School can be hell. I hated it but somehow survived being eccentric. I don’t know why some children get picked on, while others don’t.

    I know one thing, Andrea, you looked really cool with your black spiky hair! Did you choose to adopt that image, so you would look angry and scary, and people would leave you alone? Not that I think you look scary, no more than I thought my skinhead friend or my greaser friend looked scary.

    Cynthia’s book looks good. I will check it out and see if I can think of anyone to recommend it to. I’m guessing that it’s a suitable book for children to read, whether they’re the bullied or the bully.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes there’s always that problem of peer pressure and worrying that you’ll be next. I didn’t want to look scary, I think I just wanted to look different – which was strange since I was shy yet it made people pay attention to me – and of course, I liked the music!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrea, I love the way you have highlighted the value, suffering, and beauty of being different by interweaving your story with Myrtle the Turtle’s inspired creation and significance as a message all children (and adults?) should carry in their hearts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This one’s beautiful in such a different, powerful way, Andrea. I appreciate the honesty about the challenges you endured growing up, as painful as they were to read. So many of us carry our youth into our adult years, often on our backs (as turtles), or at least in a pocket. I love how you stay true to who you are on this blog and how that very essence has flowered your space here. Keep shining.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. I admire your honesty and courage, and how you’ve made a beautiful connection to Cynthia Reyes’ daughter’s personal experience. What inspiration! And what a fabulous idea to take this “teaching moment” and write about it to reach other children who I’m sure have run into similar cruelty.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Love your hair, Andrea! I wish I had this kind of hair in my youth. I envy you 🙂 ❤ I have never been really bullied, neither was my daughter. Disliked by some, yes, addressed with sarcasm, yes, but never systematically bullied. My neighbor's daughter came from school in tears once. I asked her what was her plan for the next couple of years. Then I said her – keep to your plan and soon you will see where you are, and where your bullies are. You will be very satisfied, I said, and you will feel sorry for them. It all worked out exactly as I said 🙂 No to the victim psychology, otherwise it will pull you down for the rest of your life. Our children are precious and unique, capable of making good choices. We should help them focus on good. Ours is the first generation of women who listen to their children, who treat them as persons. We are learning, and I am sure that the bullying will become a history some day.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: Bloggers Helping Bloggers | Cynthia Reyes - Author

  7. Moving post, Andrea. I, too, was bullied in elementary school for a time. It was agony to face each day! Thanks for pointing us to a book that can address the problems and can offer help to young people who might be facing such difficulties. Wow, that hair was something! 🙂


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