Charlie's Tales: The Sprites and the Heart Flower Interview

Charlie's Tales: The Sprites and the Heart Flower Interview


A significant portion of Australian children as young as four are experiencing negative body image issues with research showing that over a third of four-year-old girls are dissatisfied with their bodies* . Research also shows** that body image perceptions form in very early childhood and unhealthy body image or body dissatisfaction can lead to young girls developing low self-esteem, or be at increased risk for disordered eating in the future.

Educational tools such as books can be key in creating a strong foundation for a positive body image in
children. Charlie's Tales: The Sprites and the Heart Flower is a new children's book from Pretty Foundation , a leading Australian not-for-profit focused on the prevention of negative body image issues in two to six year old girls.

Charlie's Tales: The Sprites and the Heart Flower is a story that encourages the next generation to appreciate their body, embrace their strengths, and all the wonderful things that make them unique. The book tells a heartwarming story of a young girl named Charlie, who goes on a magical adventure to see the Heart Flower bloom with her friends, 'the sprites'. Along the way, Charlie and the sprites employ the special talents and abilities of their bodies to complete the journey; teaching children to celebrate different body types with varying abilities.

Pretty Foundation Founder and CEO, Merissa Forsyth , explains that the Charlie's Tales books aim to educate young girls that their bodies are unique and should not be compared to others.

"Young girls are at a key developmental stage in their preschool years and the foundations for how they
perceive their bodies are already being laid by their parents, their friends and what they see in the media. This new book encourages young girls to embrace the individual talents and abilities of their bodies. We aim to inspire young girls to step into their potential and enter the next phase of their childhood with a more positive relationship with body image," says Forsyth.

"It is important to promote and celebrate body diversity in the preschool years as children as young as three
can start to develop strong stereotypes about weight and body size. Weight stigma is also related to
appearance teasing and victimisation in children. Celebrating body diversity and a ppreciating that all bodies
are different is likely to promote greater body acceptance of one's own body and that of their peers."


To develop the book, Merissa and Pretty Foundation worked with Dr.Stephanie Damiano, a consulting body
image expert . Dr. Damiano explained the importance of educational tools like Charlie's Tales.

"Books like Charlie's Tales: The Sprites and the Heart Flower help to emphasise body diversity and body
appreciation. It is important that parents of young girls employ multiple strategies to aid healthy body image
development by encouraging positive thoughts and feelings about the body, and promoting self-esteem
through positive, educational literature."

Studies show that as girls get older, they tend to compare their appearance to that of others which can lead
to body dissatisfaction in early adolescence. Therefore, it's important we lay a positive foundation early on by encouraging girls to value and feel confident in who they are so they don't feel the need to be like others later on in life."

Charlie's Tales: The Sprites and the Heart Flower also contains a foreword by Lauren Jackson AO OLY, former Australian professional basketball player and Head of Women at Basketball Australia, who is herself a mother concerned with the body image development in young children. She highlights her own journey being held back from playing the sport she loved, overcoming her body image issues and her hopes for her children.

"I was teased at school in my younger years for being tall and gawky and it wasn't until I grew older I saw these differences as a strength and this confidence helped hone my drive to compete in the WNBL, the WNBA and the Olympics. I hope to lay good body image foundations with my own children with tools such as Charlie's Tales to better aid their development. I hope to see them, and their peers, embrace their bodies, celebrate their differences and have the confidence to get involved in a sport and play with self belief and passion," said Jackson.

"This book is a catalyst for change in our society and a powerful tool for parents, educators and coaches to
bring up body confident young women."

The fourth book in the series, Charlie's Tales: The Sprites and the Heart Flower is available for purchase for $10.00 on Pretty Foundation's website ( and at selected Chemist Warehouse stores from 21 August through to 30 September 2020.


Charlie's Tales: The Sprites and the Heart Flower is illustrated by Laura Stitzel and produced in collaboration with
Viskatoons. The book was developed in collaboration with Athletics Australia, Basketball Australia and
Gymnastics Australia and through the generosity of Major Partner, Liptember Foundation.


Interview with Merissa Forsyth 



Can you share with us why you started the Pretty Foundation?

Merissa Forsyth: I started Pretty Foundation when I became aware that a startling 38% of 4 year old girls in Australia are dissatisfied with their bodies. I noticed that there were many body image programs for women and adolescents and even girls in primary school however there wasn't really anything in the early education space to help combat this issue. So I decided it was time to start a charity that focused on early education and prevention of negative body image issues and that is how the Pretty Foundation was born!

What are you Pretty Foundation goals?
Merissa Forsyth:  Our ultimate goal for Pretty Foundation is really the charity's vision. This is to create a world where our girls are comfortable in their bodies and confident in themselves so they can go on to be conquering in all their endeavours. 
Why is it so important that girls and women have a positive body image?
Merissa Forsyth:  When girls and women stop worrying about their appearance and realise that their true value is in who they are and not how they look, they are free to thrive and really step into their potential. If we teach girls this at a young age, we are setting them up to conquer the world and live their best life! 

What are the tell-tale signs of negative body image?

Merissa Forsyth:  Negative body image can manifest in many ways and impact on various areas of a girl's life. A girl who feels dissatisfied with her body may have low self-esteem and will likely worry about what others think of her and the way she looks. She might even openly make negative comments about her body and express her dissatisfaction.  

What can these lead to?
Merissa Forsyth:  The effects of negative body image vary from person to person. This might cause some to shy away or withdraw themselves from social settings while others might drop out of group activities like sport or even change their eating habits. A young girl who feels dissatisfied with her body may be at risk of disordered eating in the future. 

Can you share your favourite tips for mums on how to promote positive body image?
Merissa Forsyth:  There are so many but my favourite tip for parents is to remember they are a role model. Girls tend to copy the attitudes that their mums have towards their own bodies so I often ask mums to reflect on their own attitudes and beliefs around body image and how it may shape their daughter's body image development. I also encourage parents to place greater value on personal qualities over appearance. You can do this by emphasising aspects of your daughter that are not related to appearance (e.g. personality traits, humour, kindness) so she knows that her true value is in who she is and not what she looks like. 
What resources does Pretty Foundation offer?
Merissa Forsyth:  Pretty Foundation runs programs to help build body confidence in our next generation. Our Charlie's Tales book series harnesses the power of storytelling to build resilience in girls by instilling positive body image messages through each of Charlie's adventures. I am proud to share that 319,306 children have been able to experience Charlie's Tales so far with 55% of parents noting a positive impact in their child's body image within just one month of reading the books to them! We have parent and educator resources for each book available on our website which are free to download. We also have various resources for parents to assist them in raising their daughters into body confident girls.
What message do you have for young girls and mums?
Merissa Forsyth:  Our differences are our strengths so we should embrace our amazing bodies and all the wonderful things which make us unique!

Can you share your socials?