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New children’s book teaches tolerance

The drive for education and a practical need for tuition money led Greenville resident Andre Sullivan to a project that is touching the lives of children across the Upstate.

Sullivan, a 2010 graduate of Southside High School in Greenville and a communications major at Coastal Carolina University, is the author and illustrator of “Just Like Me,” a children’s book that Sullivan hopes will shape a more racially tolerant future.

“The idea originally came about because I was looking for a way to pay my tuition and stay in school,” Sullivan said.

The story began as a chapter book with realistic illustrations. After multiple revisions, Sullivan transformed the story into a simple tale with a big message.

“People are being given a lot of information right now,” he said. “It’s making it hard for us to interact on basic levels. It’s heartbreaking. It’s hard to get information to children that they will understand.”

The book tells the story of Cassidy and her 6th birthday. While out with her dad, she encounters another dad-and-daughter pair who didn’t look the same as Cassidy and her father. Cassidy’s father explains that people are all the same — with two eyes, one nose, 10 fingers, 10 toes: “It doesn’t matter how big or how small, red, brown, or blue. We are all connected through and through.”

“My Uncle Danny was with my mom the day I was born,” Sullivan said. “He said he only walked in to make sure I had two eyes, one nose, 10 fingers and 10 toes. That’s really universal. What if children could see a tangible piece of themselves in someone else?”

The book has given Sullivan opportunities to speak in classrooms and offers an opportunity for parents who want to teach their children universal lessons of humanity. He has already completed a sequel, “Cassidy Puts on a Show,” in which Cassidy holds a multicultural talent show in her neighborhood.

“That’s showing love and respect for each other,” Sullivan said.

Cassidy is based on two women who have been very important to Sullivan.

“She has freckles because my mom has freckles,” he said. “She is sassy because my grandmother doesn’t take no for an answer.”

Sullivan has learned that “no” doesn’t mean the end.

“I’ve been told ‘no’ so many times,” Sullivan said. “I sat on this idea for a really long time out of fear. Once I stopped living in fear of my own potential, miraculous things started to happen.”

And that’s yet another lesson Sullivan wants to share with children.

“It’s OK to dream bigger than you,” he said. “A dream should inspire action. Getting it out there is the hardest part — taking that leap.

‘Just Like Me’

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