We had three books at home when I was growing up: The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, Betty Crocker Cookbook and The Thorn Birds.  Not exactly great options for a curious kid.  Luckily, Mom took my sister and me to the public library, where she allowed us to choose our own books.

Tales of Edgar Allan PoeBetty Crocker CookbookThe Thorn Birds

Mr. Popper's PenguinsI fell in love with Mr. Popper’s Penguins -- a fun story that was a desperately needed window to a fantasy world so different from my impoverished, lonely childhood.

The Hundred DressesI devoured The Hundred Dresses because I needed a mirror of my own life – a creative girl who was made fun of for wearing the same thing to school day after day. 

Those two books provided me essential windows and mirrors. 

As an adult, I made up for my lack of childhood books in the house by filling the bookshelves in our home to overflowing.  Hubby and I plan our vacations around indie bookstores.  Asheville meant a visit to Malaprops.  New Orleans found us poking around Octavia’s dark wood shelves.  And when we hit Nashville on our next trip, we’ll be purchasing books from Parnassus.

It pretty much takes the Jaws of Life to extract us from indie bookstores.

So, it’s no surprise that when we moved to South Florida twenty years ago, we found our way to all our indies – Classic Bookshop in Palm Beach, Vero Beach Book Center and Books and Books in Coral Gables. 

Liily and DunkinAs an author of books for young people, I create stories that offer both mirrors and windows, heart and humor.  This is truest in my new novel, Lily and Dunkin -- a dual narrative of a big-hearted, word-nerd transgender girl and a boy who harbors a huge secret and deals with bipolar disorder.  Two important topics deserving light shined on them to promote a deep understanding and prevent stigma. 

It’s my hope that Lily and Dunkin creates pathways from heart to heart -- pathways of understanding, empathy and kindness.  We could all use a little more of that in this world.

And Lily and Dunkin is also my love letter to the luscious landscape that is my South Florida home.  So, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include flamingoes.  Yes, there’s a pink, plastic lawn flamingo mystery throughout the book, because even the most serious of topics deserve a sprinkling of humor and fun.  Every book deserves its penguin (or flamingo).

Because you never know when a young reader will desperately need them.

So, thank you wonderful indie bookseller for putting Lily and Dunkin into the hands of young readers and those young at heart and contributing to making this world a kinder, gentler, more accepting place . . . one beautiful book at a time.

Donna GephartDonna Gephart’s award-winning novels are packed with humor and heart. They include Death by Toilet PaperOlivia Bean, Trivia QueenHow to Survive Middle-School; and As if Being 12-3/4 Isn’t Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President! Donna is a popular speaker at schools, conferences, and book festivals. For reading guides, resources, writing tips, and more, visit donnagephart.com.