When Kyla Lee, a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer, was eight years old, she dreamed of being a writer when she grew up.
“I wrote stories and I sent them to publishers … like in pencil on loose-leaf paper and drew the illustrations myself,” she said, and added that publishers would often send her the nicest rejection letters back. “If I could get in a time machine, I’d be like, ‘don’t worry – you will publish a children’s book one day.’”
In collaboration with a Nanaimo children’s illustrator and publisher, Lee was able to realize that dream and bring Sit Still Jackson to life.
The children’s book tells the tale of a little boy who “can’t stop squirming around all the time” and isn’t as big as he wants to be. He’s told that if he sits very still, all the conserved energy will make him grow tall. After several days of sitting still, he grows up to be “as tall as airplanes fly in the sky,” but is cut off from his family and friends and becomes very lonely.
Before becoming a lawyer, Lee worked as an education assistant and helped many different kinds of neurodiverse children.
She said that her character being able to harness his differences and use them to his advantage is a metaphor for the lifelong journey that many people with neurodiversity go through.
“[Neurodiversities], in lots of ways, are superpowers – learning how to use your differences, or things that make you unique, in a way to get what you want,” she said.
However, the writer said Sit Still Jackson is not explicitly about neurodiversity, but rather recognizing that getting what you want is not always all it’s cracked up to be.
“I think about this in my life … I always seem to get what I want in a way, but never in the way that I want it,” Lee said. “It’s almost as though we romanticize what life is like if we had different abilities or advantages or situations … and then we realize there’s sometimes a downside that comes along with it.”
Illustrator Lindsay Ford, who has written, illustrated and published more than a dozen children’s books herself, said she was excited to jump on Lee’s project as the message similarly aligns with her own work.
“Writing books for kids isn’t just about a bunny or a dog just going to school,” Ford said. “It’s something more than that. It’s more like … learning problem solving and life lessons … common situations we see all the time.”
Sit Still Jackson was published through Ford’s Bread and Clutter publishing house, and the illustrator indicated she would be interested in collaborating with other writers as well. The book can be purchased online at www.sitstilljackson.com.