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Book educates children on respect and kindness

by Kaye Hult

For its human rights celebration program in elementary schools in January, the Human Rights Education Institute (HREI) in Coeur d’Alene will use Peace Polly from Pluto, a book published this summer, written by Devi Fournier and illustrated by Ryan Hamm, both of Coeur d’Alene.

Devi Fournier and Ryan Hamm

Devi Fournier and Ryan Hamm show off the book Devi wrote and Ryan illustrated.

Devi, who is involved with the HREI and a member of the Anti-Bullying Task Force for the Coeur d’ Alene School District, has also been making presentations about Peace Polly at several local elementary schools as a vehicle for talking about the need for acceptance of differences and kindness.

Peace Polly tells how Penelope befriended a girl, Polly, from another planet.  Polly was unique in many ways.  She was pink, with cotton-candy-like hair and four arms. Most important was that her teeth were mirrors, so people could see their own reflections, motivating them not to say or do unkind things. 

Bullies, Devi believes, are unhappy people who, out of their pain, want to hurt others.

To make the point about the importance of human connections and the need for young people to identify with each other, she said, “There is nothing we can do in this world without each other.  Who builds the roads?  Who cuts the lumber?  Who creates electricity?  Who grows our food?”

“We all want to be happy.  No one wants to suffer.  As humans, we all deserve to be treated with kindness,” said Devi.

She believes that children, because they are so impressionable, need to receive the message over and over that kindness to fellow humans is crucial.

Not only does the book uplift young people by encouraging them to treat each other with kindness and respect, but also it uplifted one young person, Ryan, who illustrated the book when she was in the eighth grade.

“I enjoy trying to help people,” Ryan said.  “I was in school, so I had to squeeze in time to work on the book and still keep my grades up.”

Devi believes Ryan’s illustrating Peace Polly shows other young people what they can accomplish if they work hard with their gifts and passions.

Devi first developed the story when her daughter was five and asked her what people are like on Pluto.  Often making up stories on the spot, she answered,  “They probably have feelings, like to be happy and don’t like to feel sad.”

She wrote the story and had it professionally edited several years ago, but then put it aside.

Aware of how big the issue of bullying has become, Devi brought the story out again, rewrote parts of it and set out to publish it.

Devi’s life-long interest is to encourage people, especially the young, to see the good in others.

When Devi was a high school sophomore in Twin Falls, Idaho, senior girls circulated a list of the 10 most hated girls in the sophomore class.  She topped the list.  They taunted her for months.

“I couldn’t figure it out.  I didn’t know these girls.  I’d done nothing to them,” she said.

Eventually, she stood up to the girls and the taunting ceased.

“That was a life changer,” she reflected.  “It was mean for them to hurt someone they didn’t even know.  It made me stronger.”

In her junior year, her family moved to Utah, where her father worked for the Forest Service. 

Devi became aware of her love of the English language as a means to express herself.   At Utah State University, she wrote for the community newspaper. 

“While I was learning to be a reporter in college, I always would seek out the positive in the story.  I wanted to make people aware and think about things,” said Devi, who graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

She went to work for Fox News in Salt Lake City for five years, but became uncomfortable telling negative, hopeless stories.

One experience changed her path.   While covering a drive-by shooting in downtown Salt Lake City, she saw a group of teens milling around and went to talk with them.  One red-headed, freckled, blue-eyed youth bragged that he was expelled from school because he had set his desk on fire.

Devi came to believe that children learn many negative things from the media because of the glorification and attention people who make poor choices often receive. 

She wanted to help change the direction of these young people and wanted the youth to be a part of it. She believed teens would listen more closely to things presented by their peers.

She left Fox to work three years for a publishing company in Salt Lake City.  While there, she created a publication for teens, eXceed Magazine, geared toward “Generation X.” 

The art director, Eric Richards, did all the magazine’s graphic work.  Half of eXceed’s content was produced by teens.  She sought to help them foster their talent and passions. 

Devi and her husband moved to Coeur d’Alene.  They had two children.  She wrote a novel, The Gift Exchange.  She became involved in the community, serving on the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theater board and working for human rights through the Human Rights Education Institute.

Devi had known Ryan, now a freshman at Lake City High, since she had moved to Coeur d’Alene from the Los Angeles area when she was four.  She and Ryan’s mother Natalie were friends.

Natalie said when Ryan was two, she would ask her to color with her.  Natalie would hand her a crayon and tell her it was orange.  Ryan would reply, “No.  It’s not orange.  It’s light peach.”

Natalie decided to put Ryan in some fun art classes when she was about four.  In Coeur d’Alene, there were no art classes, but Ryan continued to doodle.

When she was seven, she enrolled in classes taught by a mother and daughter, who have taught her since then.  She entered several art competitions through them and has been first in her age group many times.  Two years ago, she won first in the state.

Ryan has a passion for art and hopes art will be part “of what I do for a living.”  She’s building a portfolio to present when she applies to art institutes.

Trained in the realist field of art—still life and landscapes—she notices details about nature and people.   

She finds doodling in class helps her concentrate.

Like Devi, Ryan wants to help people become more kind. 

“High school can be tough.  Lake City High is full of great people.  If you look past flaws and find ways to bring out the good in a person, there’s less drama and sadness, less fear of judgment,” she said. 

“Maybe if I try to look past all the negativity, others will begin to do the same.  Everyone is much nicer than we may think,”she added.

Ryan was in third grade when Devi first shared Peace Polly with her.  She responded by drawing a picture of Polly standing on a world holding hands with people all around the globe.  She gave it to Devi as a gift.

About three years ago, Devi created gift cards on domestic violence for the Women’s Center in Coeur d’Alene.  She had Ryan illustrate them.

With Devi’s passion to help foster talents and passions of young people, she said, “it was natural to have Ryan work on Peace Polly with me.”

Three adult illustrators had expressed interest in working on the book.  However, Devi had worked with Ryan before, “and I liked the idea of championing her work.  I knew she could do it.  I liked having a local illustrator.”

Devi said that when they began working on the book, they sat down and storyboarded it for several hours. 

“She’s so visionary.  So much of the book is Ryan’s vision.  I gave her a great deal of freedom, but wanted certain words and phrases, such as ‘love’ and ‘kindness matters,’ to be incorporated in a few of the illustrations,” said Devi. 

It took about 10 months for the book to come together.  The art was done on art paper until Eric, who had helped Devi with graphics for eXceed Magazine, took over and computerized it.

She self-published the book with Crown Media in Liberty Lake.

For information, call 208-755-7855 or email devifournier@gmail.com.






Copyright © November 2013 - The Fig Tree