Juliese Padgett of South Paris was 7, and being home-schooled, when her mother gave her an assignment: Write a children’s book with a story and pictures.

Juliese, who had been adopted from China when she was 3, wrote a story about a flower that didn’t look like the other flowers in the garden, so the other flowers didn’t want to play with her – similar to an experience she had, when a child her age pointed out how different she looked than most other children in Maine.

Her mother, a literacy teacher for more than 20 years, thought Juliese’s story was particularly good – good enough to be published. She floated the idea to Juliese, who was hesitant. She hates to draw and didn’t want to have to recreate all the flowers again. But she thought about it and decided she would work toward making it into a real children’s book, but on one condition.

“She said ‘Mom, can I give all the money from the book to other children like me, so they can get a home?’ ” recalled her mother, Jennifer Padgett. “So that was the catalyst for us to try and get it published.”

Some five years after she wrote the original version, Juliese’s book, “The Newest Flower,” went on sale in August at online retailers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It sells for $12.95 paperback, $22.95 hardcover, and $9.99 for the e-book. Some 100 copies had been sold by early December, and Juliese and her family are giving all the proceeds to the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers in Waterville, an adoption agency with which the Padgetts have worked.

“That’s the most important thing for people to know about the book: The funds don’t go to us, they go to help people,” said Juliese, now 12. “My family has always embraced adoption, I’ve always known I was adopted, so I really wanted to help other people like me.”

Juliese not only got her book published, but she got her wish about not having to draw the flowers again. One of the first things her mother did to get the book project rolling was to go on Facebook looking for an illustrator.

Three months after the post, Jennifer Padgett got an email from an artist in the Netherlands, Remko Killaars. He and his wife had adopted their son from the same orphanage, in Jinan, China, where the Padgetts adopted their youngest daughter, Joelle.

The Padgetts used a self-publishing company called Christian Faith Publishing, raising some $4,000 online through a GoFundMe campaign to cover costs. So they were looking for an illustrator to work for free, and Killaars said that wasn’t a problem.

“Knowing I could make a girl’s dream come through, and helping others along the road, is even a more satisfying reward (than money),” Killaars wrote in an email from his home in the southeastern Netherlands town of Swalmen.

“The Newest Flower,” which was illustrated by Remko Killaars, an artist from The Netherlands, went on sale in August.

FINDING A FOREVER FAMILY

Jeff and Jennifer Padgett, both teachers, had two biological sons when they adopted Juliese from China, in 2008. Jennifer Padgett said that, as a little girl, she used to play “orphanage” and tell her parents that someday she was going to go help children in China. Jeff Padgett had grown up with seven siblings, along with foster children, in his home. Three years after adopting Juliese, they adopted Joelle.

Juliese was living with a foster family in Guangzhou, China, when the Padgetts adopted her. They noticed early on that she was advanced academically. She has attended schools in Maine at times, but has been home-schooled, as well.

The Padgetts said they still can’t get over the fact that, at age 7, Juliese wrote a personal narrative about what it’s like to look different. But Juliese said she didn’t really think it was about her when she wrote it. It wasn’t until several years later, working on revisions of the book, that she realized the book was about her own experience.

“I didn’t plan to write about myself; it just happened,” said Juliese.

“The Newest Flower” focuses on Calli, a powder-puff pink flower with only one leaf that pops up in a garden where the two existing flowers, Daisy and Rosy, both have two leaves. Rosy was very uncomfortable with the way Calli looked and did not want to play with her or have anything to do with her. She did not think Calli belonged in their garden.

“I just don’t understand why Rosy does not like me? We are all flowers! Each of us has a set of roots, a stem, a leaf or two, and flower petals. Who cares if one of us is a rose, a daisy or another type of flower!” Calli blurts in frustration. Eventually, Rosy gets to know Calli and realizes they are all flowers, even if they look different, and should try to get along. The book is 29 pages long, with colorful illustrations on each page.

Once the Padgetts found Killaars, in late 2013, work on the book started in earnest. Juliese and Killaars emailed back and forth to discuss what the flowers should look like and the personality of each flower. Killaars said he had a hard time “humanizing” the flowers, because unlike animal characters, they have no limbs and aren’t able to move.

But he was helped by the emails from Juliese, who had no problem telling Killaars what she liked and didn’t like.

“Juliese had a really clear view of what she wanted, so her input was very important. She had a good eye for details and how to convey a story,” Killaars said in his email. Though Killaars has never met Juliese in person, from their emails he offered this: “I can tell you that she is very driven. She is straightforward and very intelligent.”

Writing a children’s book with a story and pictures was an assignment given to Juliese Padgett by her mother. Staff photo by Derek Davis

ON TOUR WITH THE BOOK

In 2015, Juliese worked on rewriting and revising the story, with her mother as editor. A final revision was made in early 2016. Later that year, the Padgetts found Christian Faith Publishing and started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to get the book published. They raised about $4,000 from individuals and organizations, including the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers. The book went on sale in August, and Juliese started making appearances to promote it.

She appeared Nov. 8 at an Office of Child and Family Services-Adoption Celebration, held at the Hall of Flags at the State House in Augusta. She signed books and talked about why her book is important to her, in front of a crowd of about 200 people.

“I was a little nervous, but then I went up there and got in a rhythm,” said Juliese. “I just gave them an overview of the book, and why we want to raise money.”

Juliese also did a book signing at the South Paris Public Library in early December. Members of a Norway family who missed the library event dropped by the Padgetts’ house recently to buy some books and have Juliese sign them. She used colored markers, representing the colors of the rainbow.

“We do fundraising for charities, as a family, and we think it’s important to support other kids who work for causes too,” said Kristen Short, who went to the Padgetts’ house with her three children. “She (Juliese) is trying to help others in need, and we’d like to spread the word.”

The money Juliese and her family make from the books will help support programs at the nonprofit Home for Little Wanderers, which provides home studies and support services for families adopting, including counseling and education.

“It’s a very powerful project for such a young gal. We’re so happy to be a part of it,” said Lindsay Bragdon, director of the adoption program at the agency. “But it’s not just about adoption; it’s about acceptance, and that’s a very important message right now.”