Ever Been Bullied? Children’s Book Explores How Being Different Can Be an Asset
One in four school children last year reported being bullied. This national problem was not lost on New Jersey native Josephine DeFeis. Instead of simply sitting back and watching reports about bullying on the news, the Ocean County resident decided to do something about it.
In the midst of writing a children’s book about horses, DeFeis, a social worker by profession, chose bullying as a theme around which to tell a story. The result is “Pinky,” a fable she wrote to teach youngsters of all ages to embrace what makes them different, to use their unique qualities to shine in the face of bullies, and to realize their dreams.
“Pinky” is set on Pickles Farm, an idyllic place where a wide variety of animals happily lived together; that is, until a black foal with pink spots was born. Her parents believed their foal to be the most beautiful ever born and named her Pinky after the spots that dotted her coat. But when Pinky grew large enough to join the other animals on the farm, instead of welcoming her, they shunned her because she was different. Pinky was stared at, called names, and bullied.
By the end of the book, however, Pinky realized that what her parents had told her all along was true – being different really was a gift, and that she should never give up on her dreams – a good lesson for children and adults alike.
DeFeis, herself, knows what it’s like to be different and to struggle. The Paterson native grew up decades ago in a single-parent home when that was far from the norm. She only went as far as the eighth grade, but later returned to school to get her GED thanks to the Paterson Neighborhood Youth Corps, a program for inner-city kids that provided an opportunity to work part time and take educational courses leading to a GED. DeFeis eventually earned her Bachelor of Social Work, from Ramapo College of New Jersey, Mahwah.
The divorced mother and grandmother said she has seen many people picked on over the years, and she has always been the one to stick up for those being bullied. “Kids get picked on all the time because they don’t have the best shoes or the best clothes or the best address,” DeFeis said. “That doesn’t mean you don’t matter. Everybody has dreams and goals, and nobody has the right to take that away from you.”
“Pinky” is a story about overcoming obstacles, and it has a message for people of all ages, DeFeis said. That is, “It’s okay to have dreams; and if somebody doesn’t like them, you shouldn’t let that stop you. You can’t let rejection stop you because you don’t know what you could have accomplished otherwise. Not everyone has to be like you, but you are important and you do matter.”
Although “Pinky” is DeFeis’ first book, she is a published poet. Her hobbies are acting, voice-overs, poetry writing, commercial print, and continuing her passion to advocate for others. DeFeis hopes to have “Pinky” published in Spanish. Richard Hinton, who will be earning a B.A. in Fine Arts with a concentration in animation at Monmouth University, Long Branch, this May is assisting DeFeis in animating the “Pinky” for YouTube.
“Pinky,” published by Outskirts Press Inc., is available on amazon.com, on Kindle through Amazon, and barnesandnoble.com. For more information, call DeFeis at 732-854-2750 or email josephinedefeis.com.