Alumna publishes children’s book with timely message

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Asia Grant’s 10th-grade English assignment, inspired by Greek mythology, was to create a backstory of how an existing word (echo, narcissist, etc.) came to be. Her chief protagonist was a llama called Poncho.

“I think I was wearing one that day,” the 2017 Penn State and Schreyer Honors College graduate said.

Six years later, Grant has self-published Poncho the Llama, a children’s book with themes that are applicable to audiences of all ages. 

Poncho is born in Peru in a village of white llamas. He is ostracized and made to feel ugly because his multi-colored coat of wool is the only one of its kind. After he is forced to leave his village, he encounters a stranger on the road who tells him that his wool is not only beautiful but also highly coveted, and they embark on a journey that exposes Poncho to other beautiful animals.

The book is available for purchase on, and the early feedback has been positive and has come from some surprising sources.

“I feel like people who are older have actually benefited more from the story of Poncho, because there’s different parts of the story that people relate to,” said Grant, who is currently working in New York as a digital consultant for IBM. “There is the overarching theme of being true to yourself, but I feel like there are also little lessons that stoke the empathy in each of us, which I found just from having other people read it and point it out to me.”

Grant, who graduated from the Smeal College of Business with honors in marketing, decided she wanted to publish the book during her senior year at Penn State as a “creative detox,” but first she needed to find an illustrator. After considering a few possibilities she found online, she connected with Carolyn Balch, an old friend who had been in the same 10th-grade English class and, more than fittingly, lives on a llama farm.

Grant said the pair went through six different renditions of what Poncho should look…

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