Local artist explores the healing power of pets

North Riverside illustrator Kathleen Spale grew up with a brother who is disabled and remembers waiting for him to come home from the hospital when she was a child. So when a publisher asked her to illustrate Samson’s Tale, a children’s book about a boy with leukemia and his golden retriever Samson, Spale knew she could put those memories to good use.

“I wanted to use one emotion per page to emphasize specific events in the story,” Spale says of her recent venture. “I incorporated colors to set the mood and different seasons in each section of the book. When Daniel is in the hospital and Samson is at home, it’s wintertime and the background colors are very spare. Later as Daniel gets better and Samson helps support him in his recovery, you see more greens and golds.”

To find the right models, Spale looked locally, using a co-worker and her son as inspiration for Daniel and his mother, and a neighbor’s golden retriever as Samson.

Samson anchors each image in the book, providing a bright focal point of both color and emotion. Siblings and friends of a child with a condition like Daniel’s will easily relate to Spale’s expressive pictures of Samson and his concern, love and happiness as he looks at Daniel.

“I like stories that have meaning,” says Spale. “I knew people could be helped by Samson’s Tale, as well as entertained. It’s great that it connects on a deeper level and helps others to see the world from a slightly different perspective. “

Proceeds from the book are being donated to Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit organization that changes the way children with cancer see themselves through the gift of photography and raises money for pediatric cancer research.

Samson’s Tale, written by Carla Mooney and illustrated by Spale, is available from Story Pie Press and locally at the Magic Tree Bookstore in Oak Park.

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