ORLANDO – In her book “Wacky Jacky,” author Jaclyn Stapp writes about a little girl who is different from her classmates.
Wacky Jacky has hair that doesn’t really look like everyone else’s. It’s “poofy and frizzy, zany and lazy. If combs could talk, they would say ‘This hair is crazy,’ “ Stapp writes.
The little girl’s family is from Jordan, and Jacky is more used to eating hummus and baklava than other meals. Sometimes she feels left out of the crowd.
Stapp, who lives in South Florida, said she hopes to send a message through this book that kids shouldn’t be afraid to be exactly who they are, and to believe in themselves, even if they do feel different at times.
“That’s one of the goals of this book, to send the message that it’s okay to be different,” Stapp said.
At the same time, Stapp can understand and relate to young Jacky’s feelings of inadequacy. She shares them, because when she was a little girl, she truly was Wacky Jacky.
“It’s the true story of my childhood experience,” she said, during a visit to the Orlando Public Library on Saturday. “My mom called me Wacky Jacky at an early age, and I truly was Wacky Jacky.”
On Saturday, Jaclyn Nesheiwat Stapp brought the book tour for her children’s book, “Wacky Jacky: The Story of an Unlikely Beauty Queen,” to Orlando, as part of the public library’s “March Against Bullying” series, a special program designed to help children, teens, parents and teachers deal with bullying.
Introducing Stapp to the audience, Kris Woodson, the library’s programs and promotions development manager, asked everyone there to commit to combating the problem of bullying.
“We have a pledge we’re going to bring out later that you can sigh to fight bullying,” she said.
Stapp was invited to join in the series of events because her book examines what children experience when they feel like they don’t fit in, or feel socially awkward, or feel like they’re left out of the crowd.
“It was just being different from all the other girls,” Stapp said. “I was eating hummus and the other kids were eating peanut butter and jelly. It was very difficult. There were so many days when I was hurt because of the things kids said, or just looking different. I looked like a boy. They said to my mom, ‘Oh you have a cute son.’ I wished I was different. I wished I had hair like other kids.”
What helped her, Stapp said, was a mother who was both supportive and encouraging.
“My mom taught me, ‘You’re different, you’re unique,’ “ she said. “She would tell me it’s okay to be different. But there were times when it was hard. I would think there was something wrong with me.”
Stapp felt her own story could be an inspirational one for other children, so she wrote the book, and has even donated a portion of the proceeds to a national outreach foundation, CHARM (Children Are Magical), a 501c3 non-profit that aims to heighten awareness of children’s issues and enrich the lives of underprivileged youth. It’s an organization that Stapp formed to help young people.
“It’s been a dream of mine to write this book,” she said. “I hope to have a series of books.”
She also hopes young girls read the book, and perhaps see themselves in the adventures that Wacky Jacky goes through, and come to believe that they, too, have something special to offer – even if they are a little bit different from their classmates.
“There’s so much bullying today,” she said. “But it’s always great to have a good support system of people who care. When you have these feelings of uncertainty, go to an adult, find a mentor, try to surround yourself with other people.”
That’s why Stapp, who lives in Boca Raton, is traveling across the state to talk about the life of Wacky Jacky – and how she coped with being different.
“We’ll be doing a tour to get the message out,” she said.
Her son, Jagger, who is 12, is accompanying his mom on the tour as her assistant. Jagger Stapp said he’s proud of his mom and her message.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” he said of her book. “I think bullying is kind of stupid. You make other kids feel bad. Bullies are just insecure.”
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