Ladybug Love

Sarasota Artist Publishes Her First Children's Book

A lesson about positive body image—with a dash of garden science—brings the bugs in Vicki Chelf's new book to life.

By Kim Doleatto May 10, 2021

Local artist Vicki Chelf spreads a message of self-love with her first children's book.

Image: Vicki Chelf

When ladybugs eat aphids, they help protect gardens. So when Lucy Ladybug, the main character in Vicki Chelf's new children’s book, changes her diet in hopes of becoming slim like a wasp, the tomatoes in the garden where she lives droop and the space loses its luster.

The story of unrealistic diets to meet unrealistic expectations is all too familiar among humans, and through Lucy Ladybug, Chelf wants to deliver a message of self-love. The Ladybug's Lament unfolds in the fascinating world of bugs, where a walking stick bug and a butterfly, among others, suggest Lucy follow different fad diets. Consequences unfold when she takes their advice.

Chelf, a Sarasota artist, has authored vegetarian and vegan cookbooks—her first was published in 1976—but this is her first children’s book. Originally inspired by a dream she had about a talking grasshopper, the idea for The Ladybug's Lament took hold 10 years ago, and “the first story wrote itself,” she says. Now there are six more queued up for publication.

And The Ladybug's Lament features some real-life friends. Chelf's close friend Natalie Laughlin Tanner’s kids, Sebastian and Natasha, are characters in The Ladybug’s Lament. Years before its publication, Tanner read the story to her children's classmates at Southside Elementary School. Beyond spreading the joy of storytelling, Tanner says, she identified with Lucy's journey.

“I struggled for most of my life with an eating disorder and body image issues before becoming a plus-size supermodel,” she says. “A lot of these are not new ideas, but it's a fun and subtle way to bring it into children's lives.” 

Lucy learns that the garden depends on her staying true to herself and that she is lovely just as she is. 

The audible version, narrated by Tanner, is also available and local Brazilian musician Rafael “Rufus” Silva performs the original music spanning different genres like rap to show tunes, to country.   

Meet the author and check out Chelf's art the first Friday of every month at her studio in downtown Sarasota at 1369 Main St.

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