“And though each new day may come with change,” writes Caroline Lockhart in her new children’s book, “Blue Girl,” “deep down we are all one and the same!”
Lockhart, a Palm Desert author/artist, spent the better half of the last decade working as a nanny. At some point, she had an epiphany while reading a variety of children’s books to kids. She realized all too clearly how those books had a powerful effect on shaping the feelings, perspectives and prejudices of young children.
So, she set out on a mission to create an illustrated book filled with empowering messages.
“I wanted to create tangible illustrations that felt childlike in nature,” Lockhart says. “I found that the children I read to (as a nanny) really engaged with stories that looked like they came from mediums they used — crayons, colored pencils, watercolors. It was very intentional in nature.”
“Blue Girl,” about a girl named Blue, features the artist’s simple yet captivating drawings of red, green, yellow and blue people. As readers follow Blue along her journey meeting various characters, a prominent theme emerges: accepting people for who they are, regardless of their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Basically, tossing judgment aside.
“I’d been painting this kind of abstract blue girl since before 2018 and contemplating the prospect of how mankind would react to someone different,” Lockhart says of her creative process. “Somewhere along the way, I was like, ‘How can I translate this to children?’ Because all these kids I watched, even those I’d only briefly been around, seemed to inherently understand the different issues we, as adults, were actively facing.”
When the idea emerged to create a children’s book, she says the words and images, “came to me all at once.” She tried to include children in the book that she’d been around, imprinting their personalities on the characters.
“They really impacted the art of the story,” she says.
Lockhart, who’s 27 and a graduate of Palm Desert High School, admits to being creative through and through. She says she’s always found inspiration in the desert landscape.
“So many people associate the desert with resorts and going to the pool, but I really loved hiking and going into the mountains — we don’t get enough credit for the beautiful mountains that surround us,” she says. “And I was always inspired by the festivals and music here, like Coachella. There’s something about seeing artists and musicians in their element on such a grand scale that had a huge impact on me.”
For “Blue Girl,” she used colored pens, crayons, markers and watercolors to craft her story — anything you’d find in a typical classroom. Upon formatting it for printing, she used Photoshop to adjust the contrast.
“I wanted it to feel like a child could do it,” she says. “And even reminding adults who read it that they didn’t have to be a huge professional illustrator to get a point across.”
She shopped the book around to agents and publishers for years until another idea came to mind. Since she’d gone to college, in part, to study social media, anyway, TikTok was just a profile setup away.
“Once they allowed three-minute videos, it really blew up for me,” Lockhart says of the social media powerhouse. “I reached a lot of people and that gave me incentive to publish.”
When she finally landed an agent, the book was sent to all the major publishers like Harper Collins. But she was denied — or worse, told that the publishers wanted to change the illustrations in some way or hire someone new to do them.
“I decided to stick to my guns and went through with self-publishing instead,” she says. “I found that if so many people engaged with the original story, they’d be disappointed with something different.”
Now, with more than 50,000 TikTok followers and the launch of “Blue Girl,” she’s already contemplating book sequels.
Above all, she hopes the themes in “Blue Girl” spark imagination and offer children and adults something unique to savor.
As she writes: “We are here to live and love all our days. No matter if the skies are blue or if they’re gray!”
Learn more about Caroline Lockhart at carolin3lockhart.com.
Greg Archer writes about change agents, happenstance and the entertainment industry. His work has appeared in the USA Today Network, Palm Springs Life, Huffington Post, The Advocate and other media outlets. His memoir, “Grace Revealed,” chronicles his Polish family’s odyssey during World War II. gregarcher.com