BELFAST — The premise behind a Belfast author’s most recent children’s book seems antithetical to her nature. Penny West has always been a voracious reader. She is also an accomplished writer, having penned a handful of books over the past few decades.

Her latest work, “Once Upon a Time Nobody Could Read,” is offered as a celebration of circumstance and the many ways humans have used to interact, understand and entertain — the idea for which, according to West, leapt at her from off the page.

“I’ve always been interested in words,” West said. “One day I had this ah ha moment where I realized there was a time when nobody in the world could read. It’s one of those funny moments where you think, of course!”

“Once” commemorates humanity’s persistent pursuit of communication. It is less a teaching tool and more of a tribute to the many creative ways humans interact.

“I didn’t want it to be a book about teaching people to read, or about people who can’t read,” West said. “It’s a book about communication, the inventiveness of people and their desire to communicate.”

Self-published and an easy read, “Once” runs the historical timeline with stops to highlight the many ways people attempt to make sense of their world. From our ancient ancestors reading the skies, to cave markings, to the invention of languages throughout the world, West is fascinated at the evolution of communication.

“There is no right way to talk, no right way to write,” West said. “Language is in flux, it’s always changing. The meaning of words can change. The best part is that it includes everybody everywhere. People all over the world have come up with their own squiggles and assigned meaning to them. We’re now using ones and zeros on computers to communicate. It’s exciting. Who knows where it will go?”

Born in Washington, D.C., West summered in Maine as a child and moved to Montville in 1979. Migrating to Belfast a few years later, she opened The Green Store in 1993 with her then-husband. West’s love of reading served as the connecting thread amongst her destinations.

Somewhere along the line, she began to write. West wrote three biographies and three romance novels prior to penning “Once.” She has also since published “London Letters Home,” a collection of 200-year-old letters from her great-grandfather outlining his activities in the 18th century tea trade.

“Once” is illustrated by Maret Hensley, also of Belfast. West pitched the collaboration to a designer who agreed to walk West and Hensley through the publishing process.

“It was inspiring,” West said. “It was great to see someone from the outside thought the book had value. I was reenergized.”

She poured that energy into the editing and publishing process for “Once” and emerged with pride.

“I’m tickled by the way it came out,” West said. “I really think it is a beautiful book.”

“Once Upon a Time Nobody Could Read” is available in The Green Store.