Western Suburbs Weekly - - Weekly Life - Tyler Brown

PERTH de­signer Joel Blake­ley said it was a “no brainer” when Par­a­lympic swim­mer Jes­sica Smith asked him to il­lus­trate her chil­dren’s book pro­mot­ing the im­por­tance of self-ac­cep­tance.

Smith, a pos­i­tive body im­age ac­tivist, wrote Lit­tle Miss Jes­sica Goes to School based on her child­hood school ex­pe­ri­ences.

She was born miss­ing her left arm, and at just 18 months of age she suf­fered hor­rific burns to 14 per cent of her body af­ter ac­ci­den­tally knock­ing a jug of boiling wa­ter on her­self while get­ting used to her pros­thetic limb.

Blake­ley, who had pre­vi­ously cre­ated a book based on his pet rab­bit, worked with Smith as part of The Fig Cafe’s world record skinny dip and af­ter see­ing his il­lus­tra­tions, she asked him to help with her book.

“I said yes with­out hes­i­ta­tion,” Blake­ley said.

“My favourite books have al­ways been things from Dr Seuss, Shaun Tan and Graeme Base so just hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to work on a kids’ book with a great mes­sage and pop­u­lar name at­tached is a dream come true.

“I’m re­ally en­joy­ing peo­ple com­ment­ing on the lit­tle jokes I’ve lit­tered through­out (the il­lus­tra­tions) but more im­por­tantly, see

-ing photos of kids from all over the world en­joy­ing the book, es­pe­cially the ones in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to Jes­sica.”

Blake­ley took the mes­sage that “ev­ery­body is dif­fer­ent” on the road last week to read Lit­tle Miss Jes­sica Goes to School to stu­dents.

He said he was ex­cited to see how the kids would re­act to the story and to ex­plain why it was such an im­por­tant mes­sage.

“We can all get scared or ner­vous for rea­sons we’ve in­vented our­selves, even as adults, but when you get rid of those un­nec­es­sary fears, the world is a much nicer place to be with many more op­por­tu­ni­ties,” he said.

“Peo­ple are weird and it’s fun to em­brace that.”

For some of the older stu­dents, Blake­ley also spent time teach­ing them about dig­i­tal il­lus­tra­tion tech­niques.

To get a copy of the book, go to www.lit­tle­miss-jes­sica.myshopify.com.

Pic­ture: Martin Ken­nealey www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d442992

Joel Blake­ley with the book he added his il­lus­tra­tions to.

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