Ross School - Senior Project 2013


Student: Hayley Smith

Mentor: Jennifer Lloyd

Domains: English 80%, Art 20%

Faculty Grader: Susan Walker


Documentation of Product


Title: Leo: A Story on Adoption



Leo is a fictional childrenÕs book focusing on adoption. Intended to be a conversation

starter for parents and their young adopted child, Leo is a playful, yet educational

story about a lion who was adopted by a family of elephants. The story follows Leo

the lion cub, through his finding out he is adopted to his understanding of what

adoption is.


Cover Photo:





Exhibition & Presentation Summary

PowerPoint Presentation

Video Presentation

Presentation Notes:


Hello! My name is Hayley Smith and this is my senior project, Leo: A Story on Adoption. I just want to start out by thanking all of you for coming here today. I understand how busy everyone is, so I so appreciate your support.



Now, IÕm sure it isnÕt very hard to decipher what the overall subject matter is for a book with the title Leo: A Story on Adoption.


Anyways, Leo is a fictional childrenÕs book, written and illustrated by yours truly, that focuses on a young lion named Leo (I know, how original) who was adopted by a family of elephants.////////The story is about his parents describing what adoption is to him and ultimately just pushing the fact that adoption is a totally normal and awesome thing.


Leo is meant to be a conversation starter for parents who are telling their child they were adopted and sort of just being that base starting point.////////I mean, IÕve never adopted a child so IÕve never had to actually tell a child they were adopted, but I was adopted and also after doing research, I found that a lot of parents donÕt really know where to begin this conversation and I felt that maybe writing a book could be a helpful place to begin.



Oh, and here is a picture of the cover. JJJJJJJJJJ



Well, I was adopted, along with two of my cousinÕs children, as well as many of my friends. So itÕs obviously always been a huge part of my personal life and the lives of those around me.


////////Fifty years ago, if you were adopted, you probably would never utter a word about it to anyone. It was always something that was swept under the rug and sometimes even frowned upon. Well, if you fast forward to the year 2013, adoption is becoming ÒThe New Normal.Ó There used to be this idea of a Òcookie cutter familyÓ. A mom, a dad, and a few kids who, GOD FORBID, werenÕt adopted./////////Nowadays thatÕs becoming increasingly less and less popular. Literally anything can constitute as a family now. I am personally an adopted child of a single mother and because of the time weÕre living in, nobody even thinks twice about our little family.


Because adoption is becoming increasingly globalized and more popular and is also a huge part of my life, I felt like it would be a perfect topic to write about.



So, why did I decide to go the childrenÕs book route?


Well, first of all, there are already a trillion and one non-fiction, informational books about adoption. I wanted something a little more unique. And yes,///////I am aware that there are already a few childrenÕs books on this subject floating around, however there are far more non-fiction books than adorable fictional books about tiny lions adopted by elephants.


Second of all, I really wanted to challenge myself by illustrating my book. This is my seventh year at Ross, and out of the countless senior project presentations IÕve seen, many, if not most of the presenters said that they were happy they challenged themselves.////////When thinking about how I could possibly make this project challenging, I decided that illustrating my work would be perfect seeing as IÕve never been a strong artist and it would be fun yet also challenging at the same time. I figured if I wrote a non-fiction, adult targeted book, it wouldnÕt really call for illustrations. Whereas a childrenÕs book obviously would.


And third of all, I really, really, really like kids. I donÕt want to sound creepy at all, but I truly believe that there is a pure innocence that children have where they can grasp hold of ideas and not question them as much as adults do.



If it wasnÕt made clear already, my main goal was to write and illustrate a childrenÕs book that starts up a conversation between parents and adopted children about adoption.



My two main sources of research were The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating ChildrenÕs Books and The Family of Adoption.


The Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating ChildrenÕs Books is exactly what itÕs called. This was so helpful for everything from how to illustrate a story to how to speak in such ways that a child will be intrigued yet also grasp the ideas.


The Family of Adoption was the thing that helped me most in understanding how to go about this topic. It showed me that there are right and wrong ways to discuss adoption and key facts that you need to push and everything I needed to know about different types of families and adoption.



The picture you see on the screen is the prime example of how NOT to tell a child theyÕre adopted. This is a topic that needs to be handled delicately.


Actually, in doing my research, I found two opposing sides debating how to let a child know they were adopted. One side was saying that you should tell the child when they are as young as possible, because they wonÕt fully understand it, but theyÕll still know about it. Another side says to wait until theyÕre much older, because then theyÕll be able to understand it.


My idea is kind of a mesh of the two. I think that you should tell a child when theyÕre not too young or too old. Maturity varies from child to child, of course, so you have to take that into consideration.///////I definitely donÕt think you should wait until theyÕre older because I think you could imagine the multitude of different things that could go wrong with that.


Anyways, no matter how old your child is when you are telling them this information, thereÕs always one thing that you have to keep in mind.////That is the fact that adoption is COMPLETELY NORMAL and they are JUST as much a part of the family as anyone else and most importantly, that they are LOVED.


In Leo, I reiterate all this a few times, just to kind of push those facts.



I started the process of creating the book by first creating rough notes of what I wanted the plot of the book to be, what I wanted the characters to be like, what I wanted to convey, etc.



Once I had a solid idea of what the book was going to be about, I started storyboarding on paper. I started by writing my story, trashing it, writing it again, trashing it again, until I finally settled on my final story.//////Once I was sure I liked the written portion, I started to storyboard what I wanted the art to look like.



Before I started the art portion, I put my written portion into a template on Bookemon allowed me to see what the book would look like when it was printed, and allowed me to develop it exactly how I wanted.



I first started my project by wanting to do water color pictures. Many of my favorite books when I was little were water colored, and I just loved how soft and gentle water color could be. After finished the first two pages in water color, I wanted to rip all of my hair out and decided it just looked so bad that I had to use a different medium./////When I thought about it, I realized the one form of art that all children partake in is coloring with crayons. I always knew I wanted my art to look like a child did it. One, because I am a horrible artist and two, because I didnÕt want complicated pictures to distract or take away from the story. At this time, it only made sense to do it all in crayon.



I AM NOT AN ARTIST: I donÕt have a single artistic bone in my body. ItÕs funny because when I was little, I thought I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I was so sure that I was the best artist in my Kindergarten class. Well, it turns out that my skills got stunted at the age of 5 and I never improved and even at 18 years of age, I still draw like a small child.


WRITING FOR CHILDREN? NEVER AGAIN: Before starting this project, I truly believed that writing for children would be a lot easier than writing for adults or Òyoung adults.Ó I wouldnÕt have to use big words and the concepts would be simple. In reality, I actually had a difficult time writing for children. As much as I try and fight it, I am no longer a child. Yes, IÕll always be a kid at heart, but IÕm so used to writing for my teachers, who are clearly not kids./////They encourage us to use big words and do extensive research and put citations and make things complicated so you have to think about them. Well, youÕre supposed to do the exact opposite for children. You have to use words that they can understand and everything needs to be stated simply so their little minds can understand it. And again, IÕm not a child. I donÕt think they ways they do. And because I donÕt think they ways they do, I surprisingly had a really difficult time trying to channel my inner tiny human.


TIME MANAGEMENT: I started off my project really strong. I read through both of my summer reading books on my 24 hour flight to Thailand in June. At the time, I thought this was a great idea. But now that I think about it, it was probably a really bad idea./////For the rest of the summer, I was so convinced that I because I read both of my summer reading books in June, I would have had plenty of time to do my project. Also, I underestimated the processing time for, the website I used to print my book, and it ended up not coming until two days after I expected to have it. Thinking back, I definitely should have ordered it way far in advance. Oops.


CRAYONS TEND TO BREAK: Above EVERYTHING, I think the most frustrating part of my entire project was all of the broken crayons. IÕm serious./////I donÕt know if itÕs because I have adult-sized hands or if I just have an abnormally firm grip, but I cannot tell you how annoying it was to drive to K-Mart at 9pm to buy a new 64 count box of Crayola Crayons because my lion color snapped in half.



I took three things away from doing this project.


The first thing, which I already kind of knew, was that I am not an artist. This project just reiterated it to me every time that I picked up another crayon.


The second thing is that I never, ever, ever want to write for children again. I love writing and I love children but writing for children isnÕt easy and not quite my cup of tea.


The third, and probably most important, thing I learned from this project is that children, whether adopted or not, need to be told theyÕre loved.



My future plans include going to Connecticut College where I was accepted early decision. Although IÕm pretty sure I wonÕt be pursuing a career in writing, it will always be one of my favorite hobbies. 



Thank you to:
Jenn Lloyd, my mentor. Without you, this project wouldnÕt have been possible.


Dale Scott for all of the motivational emails about deadlines.


Susan Walker for being my faculty grader.


Courtney Wingate for always being there when I need a hug or a pep talk.


Karin Schroeder for letting me vent to her about basically everything in my life.


My mom for being the best and most supportive mom in the universe (and this isnÕt debatable if anyone wants to fight me).


My friends Renee, Andrew, Graylen, Annie, Walker, and Jojo for always being there when I need them.


And finally, thank you to Courtney Ross and The Ross School for giving me the most amazing opportunities in the 7 years IÕve gone here, including the ability to write, illustrate, and publish my own book at the age of 18. LetÕs be real here, who even does that? I know I wouldnÕt have if it wasnÕt for Ross!


Reflection of Presentation:

The entire week leading up to my presentation, I had never been more nervous in my entire life. The worst of it was the morning of, when I couldnÕt stop shaking. I have horrendous stage fright, so having to stand up in front of all of these people was so scary to me. The first few minutes of my presentation, I felt like I wasnÕt breathing (even though I had put breath marks into my speech to remind me when to pause.) Being someone who enjoys humor, one of my main goals in my presentation was to make my audience laugh while still staying informative. Once I saw the audience starting to laugh and smile at what I was saying, I instantly calmed down and started speaking as though I was having a conversation with them instead of just speaking at them. Before I knew it, my presentation was over and I was (almost) finished with my senior project! Because this project was something I had been worrying about since first coming to Ross in the 6th grade, I had never felt more relieved about anything in my life. I ended up having an amazing time making my project as well as presenting it.






Works Consulted