Charlotte’s Shadow Shines a Light

Children’s Book Tells a Heart-Warming
Story About a Child and Her Devoted Dog

Story by Matthew St. Amand

It’s an ageless story: a child and their dog. This has been the central element for countless adventures. Charlotte’s Shadow is no exception. 

The story centers on a child named Charlotte and her dog. Upon waking at the beginning of the story, Charlotte wakes the dog, saying: “Remember, wherever I go, you go. That’s why your name is Shadow.” 

Charlotte is a differently abled child who uses a mobility aid to get around. As the story demonstrates, this does not slow her down. In fact, Charlotte’s mom has a busy day of tasks—read: adventures—lined up for her and Shadow. Charlotte visits her grandmother, mails a letter, and visits the library with Shadow by her side. Shadow is instrumental in Charlotte completing her errands. 

The story wastes no time getting underway, narrated by Shadow the dog: “Every morning I spring into action. I hurry to flick the light on in Charlotte’s bedroom! Charlotte puts my vest on and says, “With this vest, I grant you all the powers of the Universe!

“Charlotte puts on her favourite sweater, tights and bracelets. As Charlotte puts on each item, she transforms into a real-life superhero!”

Above co-authors Anne-Marie DePape (left), Christine Quaglia (centre) and Illustrator Kenzie Edge.

It is a simple story, but delightful in the variety of locations Charlotte and Shadow visit and the tasks they complete together. Like the creation of the book, itself, it is a team effort between Charlotte and Shadow. 

The colourful illustrations bring the story to full life. For this reason, it’s very interesting to consider that the two authors, Anne-Marie DePape and Christine Quaglia, and illustrator, Kenzie Edge, all live in different cities.

“I live in Tillsonburg,” Anne-Marie says, “Christine lives in Tecumseh, and Kenzie lives in Komoka. Given our different locations and with the pandemic, the three of us collaborated virtually for the most part of our book.” 

This is the authors’ and illustrator’s first book. “I have been painting and drawing since a young age but have never illustrated for any sort of book before,” Kenzie explains. “This was a brand new and exciting experience.” 

The authors have known each other for more than two decades, first meeting as students in the psychology program at the University of Windsor.

“We initially bonded over our mutual nerves about a midterm!” says Anne-Marie. “We met Kenzie through my aunt through marriage. It was perfect timing in that we were looking for an illustrator right when Kenzie was graduating from digital illustration at Fanshawe College.”

The book is a very personal work because it grew from personal experience in the lives of Christine and Anne-Marie. “I was born with a neuromuscular disorder that has required me to use a mobility aid since the age of nine,” Christine explains. “As a child, I was a reader, and I remember trying to put myself in the stories I read. I wasn’t really able to because there wasn’t a character with a mobility limitation that I can recall in those stories. Although that is slowly changing, I think that was in the back of my mind when I wrote the book with Anne-Marie.”

“As a developmental psychologist,” Anne-Marie says. “I’ve worked with children with disabilities and their families. I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book where children could see themselves represented in the characters. I firmly believe: ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’” 

Collaboration can be a very valuable tool, but it’s often “easier said than done.” Not only did Christine and Anne-Marie manage it, but they also collaborated virtually, long distance.

“We really played nicely off each other in terms of writing the book,” Christine explains. “We often chat about how our strengths and weaknesses are really complementary in the sense that we can kind of relay off of each other.”

“I wanted our book to feature a unique perspective,” says Anne-Marie.“That’s why the book is told from the standpoint of Shadow with children learning that he’s more than just a pet—he’s a service dog. I wanted this point of view to teach children important skills related to perspective taking while they are on an adventure with Charlotte.”

“Anne-Marie came up with such a great concept for the book,” Christine says, “in terms of the perspective from which it would be told, and the great surprise at the end. Everything just flowed from there!” 

Once the story was written, Kenzie began illustrating. 

“It was a challenge deciding what elements of the script would be displayed in the drawing,” she says. “It was a creative challenge to fit so much into a picture while still keeping Charlotte’s secret! But with lots of teamwork it was a fun process.”

The result is a book where the illustrations are as integral to the story as the written word. 

Response to the book has been uniformly positive.

“Charlotte’s Shadow was released on Amazon on July twenty third,” says Anne-Marie. “Within twenty-four hours, we reached number three on Amazon for ‘Hot New Releases’ in Children’s Social Situations Books. Within seventy-two hours, we reached number one in the same category. Our children’s book has surpassed our expectations.”

“We’ve been completely amazed and overwhelmed by the support its received!” Christine says. “People really love the relationship between Charlotte and Shadow and the fun that the two have together.” 

A review from a reader named Elizabeth reads, in part: “I love that Charlotte’s adventurous day is being told through the eyes of her dog, Shadow. The characters are presented in a way that makes us care about them and the illustrations are warm and delightful. The story takes you on a journey, enlightening the reader that Charlotte is not the only “Superhero” in this book.” 

The book is available on in digital or paperback format. 

To follow the readers response to Charlotte’s Shadow, visit its Instagram page

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