As a child, Kristen Quaglia loved to read but did not see herself reflected in these stories. As an adult, I set out to change that by co-authoring a children’s book from a different perspective.
The story of Charlotte and her dog Shadow takes readers on an adventure through their hometown – to the library, to Nana’s home – with themes of friendship, empathy, loyalty, and love. But there is an unexpected twist at the end.
“The idea is that there is an abrupt end and the kids learn that Shadow is more than just a pet,” said co-author Anne-Marie DePape.
“This abrupt ending reveals that Shadow basically follows Charlotte wherever she goes but has a special job to do.”
The concept of the book, titled Charlotte Shadow, is Quaglia’s personal concept.
“One of the most important (inspiration for the book) is my personal experience with disability,” said Quaglia, a social worker who works with students with disabilities at the University of Windsor. “I was born with a congenital disease of the neuromuscular system.
We are really grateful for the response we received
“I’ve been a reader my whole life. Books have opened up worlds for me… and allowed me to go places my body wouldn’t let me.
“But when I was reading those books as a kid, whenever I put myself in the story, I was never in a wheelchair because I never saw myself reflect on me,” she said. “So it was kind of an intent to make this book representative.”
It is the first book written by Quaglia and DePape, a developmental psychologist whose thesis focused on children with autism.
Kinsey Edge, a recent graphic design graduate from Fanshawe College, London, provided the illustrations for the book.
Quaglia said the positive response to the book has been satisfactory.
“We are really grateful for the response we received,” she said. “We wanted the book to be representative. But it is also a book… that children of any ability can enjoy.
“And while it is specific and representative, there is also a universal appeal to it.”
In the end, readers discover that Shadow is more than just a pet – it’s a service dog.
“We’ve already heard from these followers as well,” DePape said, adding that they were sharing stories of how their service dog changed their lives and the relationship that developed between them.
“It was really rewarding to see,” she said.
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Shades of Charlotte was published by Little Books Press and is available as an e-book or paperback online through Amazon.
Quaglia said it ranked #1 on Amazon for books for children with social problems when it was released.
“We are very pleased and impressed with the response to the book,” she added. “This was really fun for us because that was an important part of why we wanted to write this book in the first place.”
Visit Tails_of_Charlotte_and_Shadow on Instagram for a link to the book and more information.