Goodbye Butterflies: Educator writes children’s book about overcoming fear

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2021

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LAPLACE — Gerzalle Blanks is all too familiar with the feeling of butterflies in her stomach. She felt the butterflies the year she moved back home from Denver, Colorado and started her eighth grade year in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Now an educator of eight-plus years, Blanks felt the butterflies again when she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a children’s book author during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blanks, a 2005 East St. John graduate, is the author of “Goodbye Butterflies: A Story About Overcoming Fear and Making New Friends.” She’s received wonderful feedback since the book released on January 1, and a recent book signing at Bayou Booksellers in Hammond garnered an overwhelming response. The line of people waiting for signed copies trailed out the door for the duration of the two-hour event.

“This is definitely a story that students can relate to. I get a lot of new students, and they do feel nervous coming in. I’ve even gotten a lot of parents who can relate as well, being a member of a new group, starting a new job or moving to a new state,” Blanks said.

In “Goodbye Butterflies,” Jasmine Jones is extremely nervous to start her first day of third grade at a new school. Illustrations by Gabrielle Fludd show butterflies around Jasmine’s stomach to represent her apprehension. As the day goes by, Jasmine realizes that each friend she meets shares a common interest with her. One by one, the butterflies leave, and her nervousness fades away.

Blanks has dreamed of becoming an author since she was in elementary school.

“I am originally from New Orleans. I moved to Colorado, and there I was introduced to creative writing by my third grade teacher, Eliza Taylor. She inspired me to become an author,” Blanks said. “I reconnected with her a year ago, and I was able to send her a copy of my book. She’s actually the teacher in the story.”

With the exception of the main character, all of the children in the book are inspired by Blanks’ former students. Her current class of firstgraders at Hammond East Side Magnet has also been able to incorporate “Goodbye Butterflies” into their classroom discussions.

“I’ve had two new students come in since then, and I was able to read the story. The teacher in me of course created a bonus page that has discussion questions to help with comprehension,” Blanks said.

Parents have expressed that the discussion questions have made it easy to start a dialogue with their children, especially those going through virtual learning. The book currently has a five-star rating, and reviewers have pointed out that it can be used as a great tool against first-day jitters.

One reviewer wrote, “As a school counselor, I am always on the lookout for books that validate feelings and support children through their real life challenges. It’s essential that these books feature diverse characters so that they can be both mirrors (reflecting who the reader is) and windows (letting the reader see into the lives of others who may at first seem different). This book fits the bill!”
With her students as the inspiration, Blanks writes all of her stories through the eyes of a child. She self-published the book through her own company, “Perfect Page Publishing.”

“My publishing company’s motto or goal is to develop books that are inclusive and diverse for all readers to relate to and enjoy,” Blanks said.

Blanks recently received her master’s degree in educational leadership from Southeastern Louisiana University. She encourages others to take risks and follow their passions.

“You never know what might come from it,” she said.

“Goodbye Butterflies” is available in hardcover, paperback and electronically through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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