BALLANTINE: We all have belly buttons

Book cover of We All Have Belly Buttons

The elections are over. The mudslinging has stopped. The commercials on the airways are back to unbreakable cookware and glue that can bind two boulders together for life.  

Amongst the vitriol and polarization, I have written a little children’s book called “We All Have Belly Buttons.” Maybe this can help bring us all together.  

I don’t pretend to think of this project as some great Augustinian philosophical piece, or even real literature. It is not Homer’s Iliad, though it has been a bit of an “odyssey” for me.  Truly, this is merely an attempt to help children laugh, for I believe that a child’s giggle is a manifestation of pure joy.  

“We All Have Belly Buttons” is targeted for Pre-K children. It has cute illustrations by Jason Velazquez that are engaging, and set in several ordinary vignettes. In separate episodes, one page shows an obvious difference in people, then says “but guess what?”. It is followed by a full page answering that question with the exclamation “WE ALL HAVE BELLY BUTTONS!”.  The smiling characters show each other that they have a belly button in common, despite their differences. It is meant to be read aloud with the repetitive chorus even joyously shouted together, adult and child.  

Although this book is for little ones, the parents, grandparents, and caretakers who read “We All Have Belly Buttons” to their youngsters will hopefully take a minute to think. They may think of how enjoyable it is to spend quality time with a child. They may think it is a nice escape from the divisiveness that seems to permeate society.  

But it is more than that.  The message is quite simple, yet often ignored.  Despite our differences, we all have something in common. We all have belly buttons. It is my goal to have the readers think of civility, kindness, respect, tolerance and love for one another.  

I was fortunate to have parents, teachers and clergy who taught me all of these things. When I was young, my father who coached me in many sports, would drive all over the inner city to pick up players on our team who didn’t have a ride to practice or the games. When I was high school and could drive, I did something similar.  

My wife and I just learned that when our 16-year-old son got his driver’s license he followed in those footsteps, and drove new friends who needed a ride to school. You see, friendship and understanding one another should not depend on where one lives, or the differences in one’s skin tone. All people are made in the image of God. And, this book reminds everyone that we all have belly buttons.   

The inspiration of this book came years ago when I was in the delivery room, as my wife gave birth to our daughter. Yes, babies are born every day, all over the world, but to a nervous dad-to-be, I thought it was a miracle. I had never seen an umbilical cord before and I was awestruck. Mesmerized, I was thinking about this literal life-line connection between mother and child. Then suddenly, snip! The cord was cut and tied into a little knot, which of course, would become my daughter’s belly button.  

Pen was not put to paper for a long time. Years later a draft was written. A draft that sat in a green file folder for a decade. Then, earlier this year, I had to have an emergency appendectomy. My surgeon said “we are going straight through your belly button.” I took that as a sign that I needed to finish my book.  

Social scientists and statisticians have just pronounced that for the first time ever there are 8 billion people living on the planet earth. My hope is that a few of those 8 billion belly button owners who read this book will be a little more kind to one another.   

Patrick Ballantine is a former state Senator and Republican candidate for governor in North Carolina. His book can be purchased at, and