I chose to write stories for children because the uplifting messages enable parents and kids to start a conversation about being unique, being kind, and being unapologetically ourselves. I believe it’s important to begin this conversation at a young age when kids are most impressionable.

To get the most out of the books and to have fulfilling conversations with your readers, check out my discussion on themes and conversation starters for your family.

Kimberly Palmucci

Purr-fectly themes

Being Unique
Being different is like having your own special superpower. It’s what makes you…you! We each have unique and interesting perspectives to offer the world; while it’s important to find commonalities with others, one of the most beautiful things that we have in common is that we are all different. Appreciating and finding the value in these differences and learning to appreciate our own differences is a pivotal step in learning empathy, compassion, and humanity. All children are unique, and it’s our job to nurture these amazing qualities.

Accepting Differences
Accepting differences in others and ourselves is important, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also include the fact that it can be hard. I did not want to write books about “being different” and not have any sort of struggle or hardship for our main characters. Omitting this struggle would fall short. The “Purr‑fectly” books are intended to cultivate empathy and challenge the idea of “normal.”

Conversation starters

  • What qualities make Lucky unique? What about the Wise Cat and Princess?
  • Name a few qualities that make you unique!

Shelter Pets
In a world already overcrowded with homeless animals, adopting a pet is truly the best option. That’s why it is important to start using language about adoption early‑on when talking to our children about pets. Using words such as “adopting” instead of “buying” makes it relatable, for example, and the Purr‑fectly books introduce children to the idea of a realistic animal shelter. Reading stories about adoption normalizes the process and children will begin to develop empathy and respect for animals.

Conversation starters

  • What is an animal shelter?
  • Who can adopt from an animal shelter?

Overcoming Loss
Realizing that each family has its own unique journey, Purr‑fectly Wise is written in a way that does not force a conversation about loss, but instead, acts as a catalyst if parents want to start this conversation. The Wise Man’s story is purposefully open‑ended; his fate is never explicitly shared, but instead, readers gather details from the Wise Cat’s perspective. Parents can choose how they want to fill in that storyline depending on their family’s need. When talking to children about loss, it’s important to be honest and concrete, yet emphasize that there are always ways to move forward.

Conquering Fears
Lucky is scared of the basement, but when a new friend comes into his life, he feels brave and ultimately decides to overcome his fear. Lucky and Princess are connected in this way; she needed him to feel safe in her new home and he needed her to find his bravery. They empower each other, and this reflects a positive impact of friendship. When helping a child overcome fears, encourage them and be patient. Taking small steps can help them feel more confident. Learning to cope with fear is not easy!

Conversation starters

  • It’s okay to be scared. Is there anything that scares you?
  • What fears have you overcome? How did it make you feel?

Making New Friends
If we offer kindness, positivity, and light to the world around us, we will attract others with the same energy and inevitably form friendships. The Purr‑fectly books outline what good friends do for each other and sets an example of how to be a good friend.

Being Kind
There is a very definitive “chain of kindness” running through the Purr‑fectly series and it can be followed from book to book. In Lucky, readers see the Wise Cat offer words of kindness and wisdom to our title character, helping him out of a dark place. In Wise, readers go back in time and gain more insight into the Wise Cat’s mindset when he offered those words of wisdom. He learned kindness at an early age from his rescuer, and in honor of their friendship, he vowed to spread kindness in his own life as well. And in Home, the chain comes full circle when Lucky recalls the kindness he was offered and how it helped him out of a sad place. He then chooses to be kind to Princess, and it is implied that the cycle will continue.

Conversation starters

  • What qualities make a good friend?
  • Why was the Wise Cat kind? How did that impact Lucky?

Wormwood themes

Shelter Pets Are Not Broken
A main inspiration behind the Wormwood books is the reality of shelter pets. They are not broken or “less” because of their circumstance. I have heard many different misconceptions about animals in shelters–that they are aggressive, broken, unwanted, and more. But shelter pets have done nothing wrong. They are perfectly good pets who just happened to be dealt the wrong cards. Especially in Secret of Lake Falls, which takes place in an animal shelter, I crafted each characters’ story based on real‑life shelter animals. We get a first‑hand glimpse into the stories that landed these pets in the shelter and the long‑lasting impacts that our choices, as people, can have on the world around us.

Faith is the biggest ongoing allegory throughout the series, and it becomes very tangible in Mayra and Rosie’s storyline with their mother. One scene in particular, the sunset scene in Cliff’s Edge, is the apex of this metaphor that “although you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there.” This becomes a pivotal part of the book. Faith doesn’t just have one meaning, either. It can mean believing in something strongly with no tangible proof, having confidence in a person or thing, or believing in yourself! No matter what, faith is always there.

Making New Friends/Forgiveness
Carrying over from the Purr‑fectly series, I incorporated the theme of making new friends into the Wormwood books, but not just with those who are “kind” to us. It is important to realize that not all friendships start off on perfect terms. Friendships can spark from the most uncanny of places, and these books portray all the different dynamics of friendship. Everyone is going through their own personal struggle, which is often hidden from view. Perspective is everything, and having patience, communication, understanding, and forgiveness with others can allow friendships to blossom.

Conversation starters

  • Did you expect Stella and Bethany to become friends? Why or why not?
  • Would you have forgiven Oakley? Do you think the animals were right to give him another chance?

Overcoming Hardship
Everyone handles hardship differently, and an overarching theme in the Wormwood series is that there is really no “right” way to handle hardship. Everyone will experience it, and everyone will handle it in the best way for them. Sometimes, life can be so far out of our control…and what do we do with that? What can we control? Our actions and our words, to start. The animals face hardship in different and realistic ways–some stay positive, others break down the problems, and others just break down. Challenges can lead to opportunities, and through hardship, we can learn to become creative problem solvers.

I included positive language when adoption is discussed from the animals’ perspective. When they think about being “adopted,” it evokes joy and hope. It’s a very positive thing, and books are a very engaging way to teach children about shelter pets and animal adoption.

Conversation starters

  • What does it mean to “adopt” a pet?
  • Why are the pets happy at the idea of being adopted?

Staying Positive
The two main characters, Mayra and Rosie, are a beacon of constant positivity throughout the series. They have a tendency to stay hopeful and positive in even the trickiest situations. Being positive does not mean ignoring reality. The sisters feel overwhelmed at times throughout the books, and they get scared and sad, but they always come back to this notion that the world is a good place and their impact on the world is meaningful. Positivity comes from helping others, focusing on solutions, and having strong morals and values.

Misconceptions/Good vs. Bad
A big question in the Wormwood books: “Who is the bad guy?” And it’s interesting, because this can entirely be based on perspective. The books offer different “levels” of good vs. bad. A lot of the time, the “bad guy” is misunderstood and redeemable. But…there are certain behaviors that can’t be redeemed. For example, the peripheral storylines of the animals who were neglected and abused shows that these behaviors had a lasting negative impact on the animals. Without a blatant commentary on why these behaviors aren’t redeemable, the reader can come to their own conclusion. When dealing with conflict, one must put themselves in the other’s shoes to truly weigh a situation. And misconceptions can impact how we perceive a person or situation.

Conversation starters

  • What is a misconception?
  • Have you ever had a real-life experience with misconceptions? When and where? How did it make you feel?