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CSU Student Co-Publishes Children’s Book About Loving One’s Differences

brightly colored illustrations of a brown-skinned girl, pink hippo, orange lion, and zebra

Throughout Colorado State University’s CSUnity conversation, a common theme has surfaced: do not just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Go out and be a part of the action stemming from these conversations.

CSU freshman soil and crop science major, Olivia Wischmeyer, and her high school friend, Madeline Dodge, a freshman journalism major at Louis and Clark University, decided to create a children’s book together called “Does a Giraffe Ever Feel Small?” Since we all have differences, the two creators share the message of loving what we have and loving what others have.

Wischmeyer and Dodge utilized their talents to be a part of something bigger, to culturally represent a society that they want to see in next generations. Art can make even kids feel as though something bigger is being made and they get it. “Kids notice the details,” Wischmeyer said.

The text on this page says: “Hippos don’t fret over what they weigh. Happy in the water, they splash all day.” Wischmeyer said the rhyming was important to the writer Madeline Dodge. Photo credit: Kelly Peterson

One little voice rose up into the air after she read her book to them with an excellent observation: why is the hippo not colored on one page but is colored on the next one? Wischmeyer was pleasantly surprised by the children’s abilities to catch the nuances. The hippo was happy again after she discovered self-love, thus the colors signify coming back to life.

What makes this book special is the intent behind it. All of the proceeds go directly to two non-profit organizations, Reading Partners Colorado and Books for Africa. Wischmeyer and Dodge want the power of words to drift far, which is what these organizations are striving for.

Reading Partners for Colorado offer a tutoring and mentorship program for schools with lower funding. They gather volunteers who work with students each week, developing trusting relationships and reading sufficiency. The program has “seen major successes,” Wischmeyer said.

Books for Africa is a “platform for schools all across Africa to request books and offer school maintenance.”

“Does a Giraffe Ever Feel Small?” was released in April 2017 and by the fall of 2017, they sold over 500 copies. That means the children’s book had raised over $3,000 dollars for these organizations in less than a year. They are still selling their book on Amazon and on their website for $17.99.

The important thing was that the Denver community was a huge support in their journey because they fundraised $3,000 to cover the publishing and miscellaneous costs. Wischmeyer said that it has been a difficult process to self-publish and get rights with bookstores.

Illustrator and co-publisher Olivia Wischmeyer holds “Does a Giraffe Ever Feel Small.” She used watercolors and Photoshop to illustrate the book. Photo credit: Kelly Peterson

Wischmeyer has had to invest a lot of personal time and money into making this book happen. As the illustrator, she knows it takes risks to get your art and messages out there. She has always been interested in activism art and protest work. “I want my art to blossom into something,” Wischmeyer said.

Another awe-inspiring part of their work is how the story honors the African Savannah and its culture. With the textile patterns behind the words, the outfits and physical characteristics of the children painted in the story, and all of the various animals shows what “makes [the Savannah] the beautiful place that it is,” Wischmeyer. The message is beyond powerful. The transformation from self-doubt to self-love deserves a place in everyone’s hearts.