Leslie Dueck and Lucy Bruni had been great friends for decades. But it wasn’t until they’d both met Laura Gilbert that the two realized they could create something lasting – something that would help children see the light in the darkest of situations.
“I saw Laura’s adult book in a store, but we didn’t actually meet until she joined our church,” said Dueck. “I was like, ‘You’re Laura!’ and she was glowing. I couldn’t believe I was actually meeting her.”
Gilbert, who spent a large portion of her childhood growing up in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, turned her story into a novel, A Little Girl Named Squeaks, in 2011 with the help of a friend, Debbie Maddigan.
However, it wasn’t until Gilbert received a hand-drawn card from Bruni after their first meeting did she come up with the idea of presenting her story to children.
“I’ve always been a visually creative person,” said Bruni while sitting in her living room across from Gilbert and Dueck. “I tend to see life as a storybook … but I have no formal artistic training.”
However, after speaking with Gilbert, and reading A Little Girl Named Squeaks, Bruni was able to draw a childish version of Laura in a park surrounded by pigeons. “I had actually drawn Pigeon Park—a place Laura spent a lot of time—without knowing it,” explained Bruni.
The day after receiving the card, Gilbert called Bruni and asked if she’d illustrate her story as a children’s book, who immediately agreed.
“I could draw the pictures” but didn’t feel confident about creating the right words for this book, continued Bruni. “But I knew the right person, so I asked Leslie, and here we are.”
Dueck, who was already inspired by Gilbert’s story of triumph, was happy to help.
“I own Garden Gate Preschool in Promontory,” explained Dueck. “So for the past 20 years I’ve been singing and writing songs.
“And writing this book was a real pleasure. The words would come out in like five minutes,” said Dueck with a smile.
That said, the book still took almost three years to reach completion as the ladies were doing what they could in their spare time. “We did what we could all the while life was still happening,” continued Dueck.
But their years of hard work paid off: Hide and Squeaks hit bookstores this month, and the small children’s chapter book will be launching on Saturday, June 16, from 1- 4 p.m. at the Royal Hotel. Priced at $20, .50 cents from the purchase of every book will be donated to Sardis Doorway, a non-profit organization that assists single and at-risk mothers with young children.
“We hope one day we’ll hear positive affirmation stories about our book,” said Bruni. “But if we can help even one child, we’ve done what we set out to do.”
And while there are all sorts of help books addressed to adults who need to recover from traumatic childhoods, there aren’t many available for children currently living through troublesome family situations. So the inspiration behind this book was “about showing (children) they can turn to people for help,” said Gilbert.
“This book fills a need (that some) children have for acceptance,” said Steve Small from Small Steps Counselling.
“If they read that other children have dysfunctional homes then they do not feel so unusual and feel less like oddities themselves. There is also hope in the conclusion, and children from broken homes need to believe they can create better outcomes for themselves. This book does all that.”
“There is always somebody out there,” Gilbert said passionately. “And (books like this) give children hope that somebody out there cares about them.”
“And even if they don’t have problems, hopefully this book will help teach children compassion and empathy,” said Dueck. “Because better childhoods make for better adults.”
Copies of Hide and Squeaks will be available for purchase at the book’s upcoming launch, as will copies of A Little Girl Named Squeaks. For more information about Hide and Squeaks, or to order copies, please email HideAndSqueaks@gmail.com.