When the front bell rings at the lake house of Suzanne and Rod Combs, rescued dogs race to the door. They sniff hands and vie for attention. These animals, along with two parrots and a cat, know they’re special.
At age 10, daughter Caroline had an idea to educate children about saving animals and the Earth. She began writing a book that has developed into a series.
Lick, the main character, and his companion, Lily, are rescued from the Humane Society and adopted by a family similar to Caroline’s. In “Eco Green Dog, The Adventures Begin,” the inquisitive Lick changes color.
“I wanted the dog to be green because we’re always saying go green to save the planet. It’s a fun way to remind the kids,” Caroline, 13, said.
Lick wanders from the yard and discovers a toxic pool of water. “Falling in the pond was a good way to make Lick green,” said Caroline, who turned the mishap into a positive lesson.
After men from the EPA explain ways people harm our ecological system, the family and dogs have a mission. They’ll keep a journal of their adventures and help children protect the environment.
As the story developed, Caroline needed an artist. “Eco Green Dog” appeals to children ages 5 to 10, so the obvious choice was another young person. Allison Chenard, 16, began working with Caroline three years ago.
Like Caroline, Allison has rescued pets and parents Michael and Kathy are “big on recycling.” The girls clicked. Both live in neighborhoods off Brawley School Road in Mooresville. They usually have the same vision as they write and illustrate books “for kids, by kids.”
“Eco Green Dog” represents bits and pieces from both girls’ families. Caroline thinks of her writing as a journal where children can learn values she has been taught.
Allison, a sailor, drew a sailboat in one scene and a dining table similar to one in the Combs’ family room in another. A friend’s pet rock was the model for a dog toy.
“I used to have a pet rock, but it ran away,” said Caroline as the girls laughed.
They have fun, but this project has been a learning experience. Allison found some scenes more challenging than she had anticipated. Now she’s very observant of people, noticing their expressions and movements.
Caroline had to condense words. “It has to be fun, exciting and entertaining the whole time because I don’t want kids to get bored on any part of the story,” she said.
Writing the second book has been easier. The girls were eager to discuss it.
“It feels like yesterday I was drawing illustrations for the first book,” said Allison who is finishing scenes for the next adventure.
Eco Green and Lily head to San Diego for a day at the aquarium and lessons about the environment. The girls admitted they’ve visited the city only on Google. “Google takes me anywhere,” said Allison. Laughter erupted again.
As the target audience, Hannah, 7, Caroline’s sister, listens to the stories and offers suggestions. Hannah, who loves the ocean, is excited about Eco Green’s new venture that will be published in early summer.
Sandra Phillips is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Sandra? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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