Make friends with the kid who is a little different. That is one of the messages of a new children's book, The Littlest Dinosaur.
The book by Bryce Raffle and Steven Kothlow, whose family lives in Squamish, follows Ty the Tyrannosaur who wants to make a new friend; however, the other dinosaurs are all afraid of his sharp teeth.
The expressive and cheery illustrations are by Tessa Verplancke, who is also a sound engineer for her day job.
It is a story about the importance of inclusion.
A lonely Ty must go on an adventure to find a dinosaur brave enough to be friends with him. He eventually meets a baby dinosaur, who recently hatched out of an egg and who isn't frightened of Ty.
"They go on a little adventure, and all the other dinosaurs come to the conclusion that Ty is not as scary as he looks," Kothlow said.
It is a theme Kothlow, who is gay, and his partner Raffle, who is Métis, know well.
"When I was younger, I got bullied quite a bit, as did my partner, Bryce," Kothlow said.
In addition to being an author of young adult books, Raffle grew up to be the lead writer for the video game studio Ironclad Games, designs book covers, and works in film and TV, including in productions in Squamish.
"I got a lot more bullied than Bryce did. He had a lot more friends than I did. I was really that odd kid that no one ever really wanted to hang around with. I just sat in the corner and did my work and tried to focus and power through school as best I could," he said.
"I wasn't really given an opportunity to have a childhood, which is why I wanted to write this book and to teach the newer generation that it is OK to be different and just to be themselves."
As an adult, Kothlow has lived with mental illness and also struggled to find acceptance.
"I had to fight a lot harder to be accepted into society, and it is something that I had to learn really quickly in order to educate others and to become accepted."
Kothlow said he also wrote the book, his first, to bring some positivity to a world that has been anything but this last year.
Kothlow, 31, added that while things are better today for LGBTQ+ youth than when he was a child, bullying still happens among both kids and adults.
"We see it in politics... the media... and obviously in schools and every day."
As humans, we like things to be simplified, he added, so we get "panicky and fearful" if things are different or more complicated.
"I think people are just so scared of getting out of their box and out of the norm," he said.
While this is his first children's book, Kothlow plans to write more, likely a sequel about Ty and then perhaps a prequel.
"Writing is a huge lifesaver for me," he said.
The Littlest Dinosaur is available in paperback, hardcover, and ebook.
Get more information on the book's website.
*Please note, the headline of this story has been corrected since it was first posted. Originally it said Indigenous author, but Raffle is Métis.