Author Harriet Morse pens ode to self-confidence for daughters while living the lessons of her tome.
Mama, does this make me beautiful?”
The question, asked by author Harriet Morse’s then-3-year-old daughter Jillian, was the inspiration for her children’s book Does This Make Me Beautiful? (Ferne Press; $16.95; 32 pp.)
“I got scared and thought that she was already learning the wrong message. She was already learning that what she had on made her beautiful and not who she was,” says Morse, 42. “As a mother, I was at a crossroads. I could raise her to believe that it was the dress that made her beautiful, or I could do something different. So I wrote this book.”
It took the Huntington Woods mother of three girls only 20 minutes to complete the first draft, but it would take almost seven years (and several rejection letters) before she held the final copy in her hands.
“I did not change a thing — I kept going because I believed fully in the message,” Morse says. That perseverance paid off when her manuscript was accepted by Northville, Mich.-based publisher Marian Nelson.
“I see 6 year olds worrying about how thin they are and what they’re dressing like and how sexy they are. It’s outrageous,” says Nelson. “What Harriet wrote is something that probably bugs any mother out there — kids tie into the media and the fashion, and that’s what they want to be like. But the character in her story learned that true beauty isn’t based on what’s outside. Her message resonated with our mission.”
To that end, Morse believes she is on a mission. She sees Does This Make Me Beautiful? as a powerful teaching tool.
“I think that bullying is such a hot topic these days, at least in schools, and I truly believe that the core of bullying is children that don’t feel good about themselves,” Morse explains. “When you care about yourself, you’re naturally kinder and more empathetic. You’re less inclined to bully.”
Her publisher agrees. “This book stresses that it’s what’s inside that’s most important, not what you look like. The appeal is huge — if we can get to girls and boys when they’re very young, and teach them that they have so many qualities and traits that make them wonderful, special people, they would grow up to be happier individuals,” Nelson says.
With a sequel already being discussed and a spin-off for boys to follow, Morse sees a wide platform from which to spread her message of positive self-worth and internal beauty — lessons that have been underscored by her experience as a first-time author.
“My children, Jillian, Ella and Lexie, are so proud of me,” Morse says. “On top of the message about loving yourself, they get to see a mom who is completely dedicated to them, but also does something that is outside of them to contribute to the world. They love seeing me in this light.”
The author expresses delight at the response her book has received. But, she cautions, she does not measure success by her own achievements.
“I think that, for me, the idea of having the ability to change even one child’s life is powerful,” she says. “I can’t describe what a gift that would be.”