The cover of 'The Sticker Kids,' a new children's book by local writer Tyler Hall. The artwork and illustrations are inspired by local artists Daniel Christopher Cain and Natalie Austin. / Illustration submitted by Tyler Hall

Author of new children’s book ‘The Sticker Kids’ hopes message of self-acceptance sticks with youngsters

BUCKHANNON – For most of his adult life, Tyler Hall considered himself a grim novelist.

He believed he was a writer who mined his mind for dark subject matter that would speak to mature, more ‘adult’ aspects of life.

It might surprise you, then, as it surprised Hall himself, that he’s inching closer to making his writerly debut as the published author of a colorful and uplifting children’s book.

Hall, a Buckhannon native who enjoys writing fiction and playing music, has penned a kids’ book titled “The Sticker Kids,” which he hopes will give youngsters some courage to accept themselves in the face of a constant barrage of perfectly manicured social media images. But to do that, he needs assistance from local backers.

While the “Sticker Kids” is appropriate for an audience of toddlers through 10-year-olds, Hall says the message can be of benefit to anyone.

“It’s a picture book, but the moral is a message that I find transcends age,” he said. “It’s really about accepting yourself with all your unique quirks and strangeness. In the social media world, we often succumb to toxic comparisons.”

Cover art for ‘The Sticker Kids’ inspired by the artwork of Daniel Christopher Cain and Natalie Austin.

The story is set on the Planet of Eva, where an alien species known as the Warples have discovered a way of altering their physical appearances by applying permanent stickers to hide their imperfections. The protagonist is a Warple named Talley, who feels increasingly sad and distraught as a result of incessantly comparing herself to others and in her mind, falling short.

“Tally is feeling bad about herself, so she skips class and runs into another student, Mookie, and he’s always been made fun of because he doesn’t wear any stickers,” Hall said. “He is abstract and amorphous and strange to other Warples.”

But Mookie teaches Tally that when she covers her imperfections with stickers, she’s also hiding her beautiful uniqueness.

“The stickers are somewhat like a metaphor for wanting to change yourself,” Hall said. “It’s about looking outside for validation and how social media can exacerbate that if you’re constantly comparing yourself to the highlight reels of people’s lives.”

“When they apply the stickers, the Warples lose the ability to be themselves, and to be happy with that,” he added. “On the surface, applying stickers is symbolic of changing yourself to look better to other people, but on another level, removing the stickers is like removing emotional traumas, so taking off the stickers is like removing both the emotional traumas and the things that we do to cover up the traumas.”

“Sticker Kids” started as a Christmas present Hall created for a friend who was feeling down and out.

“It was a Christmas gift for a friend at a time when she and I were both feeling not quite like ourselves,” Hall recalled. “We had both gained some pandemic weight and this-and-that, so I just wanted to give her something that said, ‘You’re right where you need to be, and if you can accept that, you’ll be happier each and every day.’”

The friend asked Hall to promise he would one day “do something with his writing” — and so he is. Utilizing the fundraising platform, Kickstarter, Hall’s goal is to raise $5,000 in 60 days to cover the costs of design and illustration, printing, production and publishing.

Unlike some projects funded through Kickstarter whose status is still in the concept phase, “The Sticker Kids” is a fully completed manuscript. And seeing the book come to fruition – in print in a brick-and-mortar store with an ISBN number and a bar code – will be really meaningful for Hall.

“I want to keep my promise,” he said. “A lot of times in the past, the kinds of toxic comparisons I write about in the book have prevented me from putting out lots of art. I’m classically hard on myself.”

Hall said when he lived in Chicago while earning his bachelor’s degree in instrumental performance from Columbia College Chicago, he found lots of fuel for the merciless fire of toxic comparison.

“When I went up to Chicago, it was hard seeing just how good people can actually be,” he said. “But I’ve found half the battle is actually just doing it. That’s more of the battle than being the Hendrix or the Van Gogh or the Hemingway. The important thing is to keep creating art as a practice and that creates community.”

Author Tyler L. Hall

Hall experienced that personally while producing “The Sticker Kids.” He stressed how grateful he was for the contributions of other local community members, especially artists Daniel Christopher Cain and Natalie Austin, who completed concept illustrations for the book.

“One of the really special aspects of this book is how local it truly is,” Hall said, crediting Cain and Austin as well as West Virginia Wesleyan College’s Dr. Jess Scott, who referred him to Silent Books Publishing. He also thanked musician Colin Reger who he teamed up with to produce the original music in the Kickstarter video.

“It’s been a collaborative effort,” he said. “It if weren’t for Natalie, Daniel, Colin, and Jess, I don’t think it would be near the project that it is today. It’s through these people that it’s coming to life.”

Whether you want to simply buy a copy for a child (or adult) in your life or help ensure the book is published, there’s five sponsorship levels ranging from covering the cost of the book (Back it Because You Believe in It) all the way up to the Platinum Tier (the ultimate goodie package that contains a copy of the original manuscript and your name in the ‘special acknowledgments’ section of every copy printed).

To support “The Sticker Kids,” visit Hall’s Kickstarter page here. Hall hopes to deliver hard copies of “The Sticker Kids” by December 2022.

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