Encouraged by her family and best friend, Poppy the pig follows her dream of becoming a star in Dream Big, Little Pig! by Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi. Not surprisingly, after learning to believe in herself and much persistence and practice, Poppy finally finds her niche as an ice skater. Illustrated by Tim Bowers, the book is due from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky in March.

The importance of aiming high has long been a theme in the life of Yamaguchi, who in 1996 founded the Always Dream Foundation, a fundraiser and supporter of children’s charities in the San Francisco Bay Area. She explains that she launched that initiative “to inspire children to reach for the stars.”

This is also her mission with Dream Big, Little Pig!. “Through Poppy, I hope to pass along our foundation’s message of hope that you are only limited by how big you can dream,” she says. “Poppy learns that success doesn’t come easily and it takes hard work. She has her doubters who don’t believe in her, but she also has her supporters who encourage her. If you find your dream and pursue it, you will overcome obstacles. Poppy doesn’t necessarily win the gold, but she finds her passion and she perseveres.”

Yamaguchi notes that she had been interested in writing a children’s book for some time, and reading to her two daughters, now ages five and seven, “inspired me all the more to come up with a book of my own. I knew I wanted the story to involve skating and to have a strong, positive message. This isn’t an autobiographical story, though there are little lessons in the book that I have learned along the way in my own life.”

Yamaguchi collaborated with veteran children’s book author Linda Oatman High on the text of Dream Big, Little Pig! “Linda helped me make the whole story gel and bring Poppy to life,” she says. And the author had input from her daughters as well. “Keara, my oldest, helped come up with Poppy’s name, and Poppy’s best friend, Emma, has the same name as my youngest, so they both feel a strong connection to the book. And we all love the illustrations.”

Bowers eagerly signed on as illustrator after reading the manuscript. “I was excited about the connection with Kristi Yamaguchi, who I think is a super person, and was taken by the story’s positive message and its different layers,” he says. “This is not just a pig story, but a story about the importance of receiving encouragement from parents, grandparents, and friends. That is what helped Poppy persist in following her dreams.” A recent first-time grandfather, Bowers especially related to the book’s grandparent characters, noting “I’m now starting to associate with grandparents as children’s biggest fans.”

Rebecca Frazer, who acquired and edited Dream Big, Little Pig!, was immediately impressed by what she calls the story’s “warm and whimsical quality and accessible message, but also the way that Kristi herself really shines through in the book. A lot of celebrity picture books come across my desk, but this one is different. The fact that this story’s message is so near and dear to Kristi’s heart makes the book all the more authentic and dynamic.”

The publisher has a 50,000-copy first printing on order for Dream Big, Little Pig!, which Yamaguchi will promote with a national tour that kicks off March 11. On her itinerary are signings at bookstores, schools, and ice rinks, and an appearance on Today on March 15.

Asked whether she has any additional children’s book projects in mind, Yamaguchi replies, “Right now, I’m focused on the launch of this book, which is very exciting. But I would love Poppy to go on and experience other adventures in the future. So hopefully she will!”

Dream Big, Little Pig! by Kristi Yamaguchi, illus. by Tim Bowers. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $16.99 Mar. ISBN 978-1-4022-5275-4