Christine Quaglia (BA 2004, BSW 2005, MSW 2007) can remember being made to feel there was something wrong with her.
“I have a visible disability and many times as a child I could feel people, especially kids, wanting to ask me about it,” she recalls. “But there was a sort of awkwardness that made it feel shameful to talk about.”
Now a special needs advisor in UWindsor Student Accessibility Services, she hopes that her new children’s book, written with former classmate Anne-Marie DePape (BA 2004) and illustrated by Kenzie Edge, will make it easier to engage in these conversations.
Charlotte’s Shadow follows a dog through a day in his life with his owner and very own “superhero.” Shadow and Charlotte travel through town together to post a letter, water grandmother’s flowers, and return a book to the library. While there, they meet a curious boy who wonders why he can’t bring his dog to the library. The answer helps Shadow appreciate his own superpower as Charlotte’s helper.
“What I like about our approach is that his mom is there with him, but rather than shushing him, she allows him to ask this important question,” Quaglia says.
Her co-author, Dr. DePape, earned an undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Windsor before completing a doctorate at McMaster University with a research focus on auditory processing in children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She is now a member of the faculty in the Department of Community Studies at Mohawk College.
“With my background in developmental psychology, I bring a different experience with disabilities, and you can see both of these perspectives coming together in our book,” she says.
“The motivation really is allowing everyone to see themselves in these characters.”
DePape says that having Shadow narrate the story broadens its appeal.
“It’s an amazing way to let the book unfold,” she says. “Everyone can relate to a furry lovable pet.”
Both authors and the book’s illustrator all live with dogs.
Charlotte’s Shadow is aimed at 4- to 8-year-olds but will be enjoyed by readers of all ages. It is available for purchase on Amazon.
The authors have been heartened by the reactions they have garnered since the book went on sale July 23. They have posted testimonials from kids and their families on their Instagram account, tails_of_charlotte_and_shadow.
“We’re happy that the book is being seen as we intended — an adventure story with universal appeal for all children,” DePape says.