Lilly Pulitzer's Granddaughter to Release Kids' Book Illustrating Her Upbringing in Palm Beach
"Granny created her own rules not only in fashion but also at home, and now I am one of the lenses that my daughters will see life through," Lilly Leas Ferreira tells PEOPLE
Lilly Pulitzer's granddaughter Lilly Leas Ferreira is hoping to give her two daughters a whimsical glimpse into her childhood as well as celebrate possibilities for adventure and empowerment in her new children's book.
"Each page of my book is a snapshot of a treasured memory like jumping in the ocean, riding a bike, and exploring the streets of Palm Beach around neighbors and shop owners who became extended family," Ferreira, 34, a consultant for the Lilly Pulitzer fashion company, tells PEOPLE about Life and Lilly launching April 4 from Little Coconut Publishing.
On bikes and skateboards, Ferreira would travel through town as part of a pack passing a variety of people who treated her like family. "I grew up feeling welcome and connected to our community," she says. "I still feel that today, and I want my daughters to experience the same kind of love and fulfillment."
The 24-page book with colorful hand-painted Palm Beach illustrations created by the Lilly Pulitzer Print Studio follows "Little Lilly" (as Ferreira was called growing up) in her life as she plays on sandy beaches, rides her bike along twisting paths and gazes at architectural landmarks which made Palm Beach a magical island paradise.
Yet, beyond the physical beauty of an enchanted childhood, Ferreira's close relationship with late grandmother Pulitzer is still motivating. (In 1959, when Pulitzer opened a Palm Beach juice stand, she asked her dressmaker for something to hide the splashes of citrus juice. This effort resulted in the comfortable, sleeveless Lilly Pulitzer shift made of colorful printed cotton. Today, the fashion company operates 59 Lilly Pulitzer stores in the U.S.)
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"My grandmother's power was in her authenticity," Ferreira says. "Granny created her own rules not only in fashion but also at home. Children were invited to every dinner party. Bare feet and bathing suits were encouraged. Unless, of course, it was a costume party then the wilder the look the better. Most important, every person and every animal was showered with love."
The front door of Pulitzer's Palm Beach home was always open. When Ferreira walked into the kitchen, she would often find a rescued animal eating a home-cooked meal, and someone she never met had become part of her extended family.
"My grandmother never tried to be anything other than exactly who she was, and that type of courage is contagious," says Ferreira, also a Palm Beach real estate agent. "By being true to herself, granny connected us all. I feel her presence every day."
As a young parent, Ferreira knows that how she carries herself, how she interacts with others and how she pursues her goals will have a ripple effect on her daughters, 4-year-old Lula and 1-year-old Clementine.
"Every day, I try to lead by example," she says. "As my grandmother and mother (Minnie Pulitzer) have shown me, watching a woman approach life with courage, kindness and a love of adventure can be transformative. I hope my girls find the courage to be exactly who they want to be filled with the compassion to inspire others to do the same."
Ferreira, like other working moms, struggles with the balance of family time and work. While family is always at the forefront of her mind, she wants to set an example of what working hard to achieve your goals is like.
"Sometimes that looks like mom working on weekends, or running outside to take a call, but just like everything about parenting, it's messy and hard and soul-filling and exciting," she says. "My girls inspire me to work hard and dive in because I want them to see that they never have to stop dreaming."
Ferreira dresses Lula and Clementine in bright colors and wild prints that are synonymous with the Lilly brand. But she believes that the true spirit of Lilly is wearing what makes a person feel good and ensures that you have fun along the way, like wearing a bit of sunshine.
"I fill their closets with colors and let them take it from there," she says. "Lula is in her princess phase, and I fully support it. She heads out the door to a soccer practice in a blue Lilly maxi and blue tiara, and I couldn't be happier!"
With her book launch, Ferreira is excited for the girls to see the finished product and enjoy the illustrations that were inspired by original drawings from her mother. Each page hides at least one animal in watercolor motifs. Ferreira is donating 10% of profits from the sale of the book to animal rescue organizations in honor of her grandmother, an avid supporter of animal rescue and adoption.
"Every Tuesday is 'Favorite Book Day' at Lula's school, and she loves picking out her latest favorite story to bring with her," Ferreira says. "I'll cross my fingers that Life and Lilly makes the cut one Tuesday morning!"
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