ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Heather Lynn Harris wrote “Clover and the Shooting Star” to help young members of her family cope with the tragedy of losing a loved one. She describes it as “a book of wonder and hope” that promotes a therapeutic way of understanding loss.
Harris, a professor of marketing communications at St. Bonaventure University, explained that her niece Nicole passed away “too soon and too fast" and that Nicole's own nieces and nephews struggled with the fact she was gone from their lives.
“I wanted the book to have a therapeutic nature that was hopeful and happy and let them know that while Nicole isn’t physically here with us, she is not gone forever and we will always have her,” said Harris.
Harris said her original intention was to write and illustrate one book to share with her family.
“I wanted the book itself to be spontaneous and feel very fresh. So I collaged in the writing with the paintings,” Harris explained. First she created the illustrations, then typed and printed the text, then laid the printed sentences over the paintings.
In her story, Clover the Rabbit witnesses a shooting star, then goes around asking the nighttime woodland creatures he knows if they saw it. Learning one by one that they did not, Clover is sad until an owl reassures him that others Clover had not asked had seen that shooting star. And that star would be remembered, just as loved ones are.
Harris said her family enjoyed the book and wanted copies. Their requests prompted Harris to take it to her publisher, the Buffalo Heritage Unlimited, to see if they thought it should be published. “They loved it,” Harris recalled.
“I wrote it for little children but adults appreciate it just as much because the message is universal,” said Harris.
The book, which Harris said was made and printed “100 percent in Western New York,” will be released on Sunday during a 2-4 p.m. book launch at The Casino at Chestnut Ridge Park, 6121 Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park. The event will feature an auction of stuffed animal characters from the book. Proceeds will benefit a no-kill animal shelter, in honor of Nicole and her love for dogs.
Studying illustration storytelling, Harris, who is completing an MFA in illustration (picture book illustration is her specialty) at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, learned the components that create an engaging composition. “The idea of being able to communicate visually is very powerful,” she said. “I wanted to try to communicate in a way that can bring people together.”
Harris noted that not only did she achieve a compelling, page-turning experience, but she also embedded subtle lessons that make her book much more than a story. “There are things that are very natural for little kids to learn,” said Harris, the mother of three. “They’ll open up the book and count how many babies the possum has. That repetition is beneficial for kids.”
She added that she asked an expert in early childhood development to check out the book. The expert told her the book contains a nice, universal message and that its woodland characters exhibit some valuable lessons.
For instance, the raccoon misses the shooting star because he had his head in a hole in a log. “We don’t want to hide away from the world because we’ll miss things,” Harris said.
“The best stories are the ones that are very true to your own experiences,” she added. “It came from such a raw place, straight from the heart. I wanted people to feel hopeful at the end and they do, they feel very hopeful.”
Please visit www.cloverandtheshootingstar.com for more information.
Harris has another book in the works, “Five Hungry Mice and a Box Full of Rice,” which she described as the retelling of an old children’s song. She plans to release that book either before Christmas this year or Easter next year.
Click here to listen to a podcast with book creator Heather Lynn Harris and reporter Mackenzie Watson.