“Betty Bubblegum was a sassy-sweet, fearless animal lover who spent her weekends riding horses, wearing brave fashion accessories, and adventuring with her friend, a good-natured service dog named Emily,” so starts the recently published children’s book by 13-year-old Brianna Heim.
The book is titled ‘Brave Betty & Her Besties’.
Brianna, who actually does have a good-natured service dog named Emily, is the daughter of Wendy and Master Sgt. Scott Heim, 388th Maintenance Squadron, and is known to some around Hill Air Force Base as a real-life Wonder Woman, which suits her since she’s a big Wonder Woman fan.
Wendy said Brianna was invited to write a book by Dallas Graham, founder of The Red Fred Project. The Red Fred Project travels around the country and finds children living with extraordinary circumstances (rare diseases, critical illnesses, life-limiting situations) and asks them the question: If you could write a book for the entire world to read, what would it be about?
And Brianna answered.
“I wanted to show people that I can stand up to my bullies and that they won’t break me down to dust,” she said. “I hope people and kids learn that ‘you can do anything as long as you are brave enough’ and ‘it’s okay for people to do things in different ways.’”
In her story, Brianna’s main character Betty, a bird, has wings that do not work like other birds’ wings and she must find creative ways to make life work the way she needs it to.
Another inspiration for Brianna’s story is her friends, who are always there for her. “I have so many amazing friends who help me when I need it and stand up for me,” she said. “Same with my service dog, Emily. She helps me when I need it.”
Friends helping each other is portrayed in the story through the use of the Red Fred Project’s “Jolly Troop” who are featured in all the stories Red Fred Project has published with their children storytellers. Betty and her friends from the “Jolly Troop” are characterized as birds made entirely from colorful punctuation marks, a design Graham developed.
“The birds’ bodies are made from commas, their legs are exclamation points, the eyes are periods and their beaks are the “>” symbol,” said Brianna. “Each child creates their character from a font and that becomes their bird’s last name. Bubblegum is the font that I chose.”
Brianna said she wanted her main character Betty Bubblegum to resemble Wonder Woman, or in other words, resemble her own brave self. Betty also sports a mask and cuffs, just like a superhero.
The Red Fred Project provides a team for each child storyteller to help bring the story to life, such as an illustrator, photographer, writer and editor. Brianna said the project took about a year to do.
“It was a really fun process. I needed a little help from mom and dad on the title, but other than that I did it mostly on my own with the help of my team,” she said.
Brianna’s book can be found and read online at redfredproject.com in the Utah collection. Currently, the book is sold out. The Red Fred Project requires an order of 200 copies before re-printing.
To get the book, people can email [email protected] with their name, phone number, and the quantity of copies requested and a member from the Red Fred Project Foundation will reach out to them about the re-printing.
Proceeds after printing costs of each Red Fred Project book sold go to author or to a related cause chosen by the child.