To convey a message in a children’s book that isn’t preachy or overbearing is truly an art. If the genre is also a fun read and the illustrations are great, better yet! Sadie Sees Trouble by Linda Jarkey, illustrated by her sister, Julie Jarkey-Kozlowski, is a magical book — especially for parents and educators of children who use technology.
“I’ve been writing for most of my life,” says Linda, who retired as a principal with the Utica Community Schools in 2004 and a professor at Saginaw Valley State University in 2011. She says the idea for the story came to mind as she was working with a friend on ideas for self-help articles for teens.
“We had been talking about bullying, self-esteem, diversity — all kinds of topics and the idea just came to me one night.”
“I decided to share it. That’s how it works,” Linda smiles. “That my artist sister would do the illustrations was a natural choice.”
“I have been an art instructor most of my career,” says Julie who retired in 2004, “primarily with Utica schools, but I continued to work in parochial schools and the International Academy in Macomb.”
The project has been evolving since early 2016. Making a connection with Ann Arbor company Front Edge Publishing, put Sadie Sees Trouble on a fast track. It’s a story that captures the imagination and speaks to social media issues of the day. It’s told through the eyes of Sadie, the family dog, and, it’s in verse, making it especially appealing to kids.
Penny, the story’s protagonist, is gifted a tablet. Once she has access to the internet world, her best pal, Sadie becomes an afterthought. Sadie understands that she is no longer “top dog” and takes the neglect to heart.
“It’s a challenge for parents and teachers to try and keep communication going with kids who have so many entertainment options online,” mentions Linda.
“The story provides a platform for discussion of a difficult topic; a balance in life. It’s a significant issue. There are also health ramifications of today’s sedentary lifestyle.
“There has to be a balance between technology and people, pets, and even physical activity.”
Linda, calling on her experience as a long-term educator, chose a shaggy, yellow dog as the speaker to convey the message because she says, “… it’s often more effective reaching a young person through the eyes of a pet rather than an adult or other authority figure.”
Julie perfectly captures Linda’s vision of a yellow shaggy dog. Julie mentions that she was in Florida without art supplies. “It’s really quite common to use materials on hand for art supplies,” says Julie. “So I used mustard to color Sadie.”
Linda and the publisher loved it and they asked her to use try to use home materials to color other parts of the illustrations. So she did. Tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, coffee, tea, and finally food coloring for more intense colors were all used. A catalog of the color process is included in the book. There are also downloadable pages that kids can color.
Julie says, “As an educator, I never really had a choice to do a project like this from beginning to end.
“It was very exciting!”
For a preview reading of Sadie Sees Trouble, join Families & Jammies at the Shelby Township Library (51680 Van Dyke) on Thursday, December 7 at 6:30 p.m. The book will be available for purchase on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble on January 15. Advance copies may be ordered at a discounted price at firstname.lastname@example.org.