‘Everybody love your body’

New Hope residents Harper and Paulette Bonneur look through children’s book “Everybody Love Your Body,” which they authored and launched last month. (SUN PHOTO BY ALAINA ROOKER)

Paulette Bonneur’s first foray into the publishing world included poring over manuscripts in the neonatal intensive care unit.

“I took my laptop to the hospital,” said Bonneur, a resident of New Hope. In the last few weeks, she has given birth to her second child, Hunter, and published a book with her first child, Harper.

The book, “Everybody Love You Body,” is an educational book for children that introduces concepts of body positivity. The story features illustrations of children of differing backgrounds, illustrated by Tatyana Gavva, to teach youth that no body is something to be ashamed of.

Bonneur said the book idea came to her as she observed Harper beginning to make sense of her own body. When it was time to pick out her pajamas and get ready for bed, Harper loved to take off her clothes and giggle and dance in the living room.

“It was this whole strut, dance thing,” said Bonneur, with a laugh. “I didn’t give it too much thought, but after a while, we started talking about it. Things like, why do you love your body? Why is it important?”

As Harper’s bedtime ritual continued to lend itself to teachable moments, Paulette realized not all parents may be as comfortable or willing to have those discussions.

“If you tell kids they can’t do these things, then it scares them away from wanting to talk about it, and they might not ever ask you again,” said Bonneur. “Instead of leaning away from it, I wanted to lean into it so we can get them comfortable and knowledgeable about their bodies and body parts.”

Though Paulette and Harper share authorship of the book, each takes on a different role. Paulette put the pen to paper (often late at night, in bursts of inspiration), but her ideas came as a result of her conversations with Harper. One part of the book features “the naked song,” a little ditty that Paulette overhead Harper singing to herself. The two package book orders together, though Paulette lamented that “sometimes my coworker quits.”

Still, Paulette firmly believes that Harper’s name deserves to be right by hers, on the cover, instead of the dedication page.

“Without Harper, there would be no book,” Paulette said. “I feel she contributed just as much as I did.”

A starting point

Writing a book had been at the top of Bonneur’s “bucket list of business ideas” for some time. She has also created a limited liability company, Harper & Hunter, in which she sells the book and handcrafted children’s bows. Bonneur said she gets her ambition from her mother, who also owned a business, and wanted to share a bit of that spirit with her children.

Bonneur also has a career in higher education and is poised to return to work when her maternity leave time ends. At the college, she has found that even students don’t have a great understanding of their bodies.

“Every year we bring in a sexual education speaker, and it’s very popular, the room is packed to the brim,” she said.

While her book certainly doesn’t rise to that level of information, Bonneur said it is an age-appropriate starting point, the blanks of which can be filled in as a child grows into a teenager. She is hoping to establish a partnership with local elementary schools so her book can serve as that starting point for families.

The book reflects diversity from all of its characters, something very important to the family, as they are West African. Bonneur’s website offers a bundle package, which includes the book, coloring pages and two sets of crayons: a set with the standard colors of the rainbow and a set with eight skin tone colors, from peach to sienna. Skin color and race, she said, is an extension of the conversation that families can have by first talking about their bodies.

“No one should be ashamed of your body,” she said. “So, let’s talk about it so it’s not taboo.”

Copies of “Everybody Love Your Body” can be purchased at loveharperhunter.com or on Amazon.

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