Raleigh Magazine Editor-in-Chief Melissa Howsam debuts an uplifting children’s book inspired by her beloved fur baby.
Anyone who has encountered Melissa Howsam’s Maltese mix, Millie, knows the petite pup radiates main-character energy. And that’s exactly what led the Raleigh Magazine EIC to pen I May Be Small But I’m Still Important, her debut children’s book that emphasizes the power of self-love and self-confidence no matter your size.
The concept for the heartwarming “tail” came to Howsam soon after she adopted Millie in 2016. The pair would take walks around their Village District condo, often linking up with two of Howsam’s best friends and their dogs, a Frenchie named Blanche and a medium-size, mixed-breed rescue named Henry (both of whom are featured in the book’s illustrations alongside Millie).
“We would walk and they would just naturally walk ahead of us because she was smaller,” Howsam remembers. “And one day both of us were lagging behind and I was like, ‘Hey, guys (in her voice)—I may be small but I’m still important!’ And a lightbulb just went on. I was like, ‘That would totally make a great children’s book.’”
Although she was joking at the time, Howsam couldn’t shake the idea—especially given her mother had always encouraged her to write a children’s book. After leaving Village District in 2018 post life-saving surgery to embark on a new chapter in Raleigh, she used the fresh start as motivation to finally jot down the words that had been swirling in the back of her mind for nearly two years.
As Howsam began to navigate the complex world of self-publishing, there was one thing she was still missing: an illustrator. Fast-forward to 2021, and a serendipitous discovery revealed local artist Mayanthi Jayawardena—whom Howsam had previously interviewed for a story about murals and art initiatives around town—also had owned a Maltese and had experience as an illustrator. “I said, ‘Hold up. You’re an illustrator?’” Howsam recalls. “‘I have a children’s book. I need an illustrator.’” And Jayawardena proved to be just the person for the job, bringing Howsam’s vision to life through vibrant, playful illustrations that perfectly capture Millie’s big-hearted spirit.
After finally hitting publish in early October (on Millie’s birthday), Howsam has been overwhelmed by the “pawsitive” response to her book from both kids and kids at heart. Her friends share that their little ones are charmed by Millie from the moment they lay eyes on the book’s cover, which depicts the pint-size pooch perched on her real-life window seat “throne,” as Howsam calls it. “She was always meant to be a star,” the author says with a laugh. (Up next, Howsam is already hard at work on a second children’s book about a human sibling duo—with a cameo by Millie, of course.)
However, it is the book’s timeless and inspirational message—that size does not equal significance—that truly captivates even the youngest of readers till the very last page. “I feel like the hardest thing for all of us at any age to really tap into and remember is our own worth,” says Howsam. “The older I get, it’s something I realize you can start learning and embracing really from birth, in the way that people interact with you and the way they teach you to interact with yourself.”
By sharing this lesson through the eyes of her own pet, Howsam hopes to build up kids everywhere—including her best friend’s sweet baby boy, Parker, to whom she dedicated the story. “It’s not about size or stature or value, how loud you are, how tall you are, or, ultimately, for adults, how much money you make or what you do,” she says. “It’s something that comes from within.” amazon.com