Stratford native writes first children’s book, Just Ben Goes to the Forest

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Stratford-born Sue Palmer recently released her first children’s book, Just Ben Goes to the Forest, which she wrote alongside friend and illustrator Lynn Chandler to distract Chandler from her cancer treatment. aggressive breast.

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To help a friend through chemotherapy after being diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, Stratford native Sue Palmer wrote her first children’s book, Just Ben.

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While hiking with friend and graphic designer Lynn Chandler and her dog, Ben the Golden Squiggle, Palmer, who grew up in Stratford, suggested the couple write and illustrate a children’s book about Ben together to help Chandler forget about cancer treatments. .

“It was a passion project that I started during COVID with a girlfriend who was struggling with breast cancer treatments,” Palmer said. “So we decided that we were going to get her through the treatments in the most positive way. We were hiking in the forest with Ben and I said, ‘We’re going to write a book about Ben,’ because it’s is sort of our bond.

“He’s awesome. He’s such a smart and amazing dog; very curious and very loyal. … So I asked her, ‘What are we going to call him,’ and she said, ‘Just Ben.’ ”

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Conceived as a series, the first book, Just Ben Goes to the Forest, follows Ben through a walk in the forest that turns sour after he sticks his nose in a log and runs into some nasty bugs.

“Before he knows it, they surround him and the fly starts biting his nose and he finds himself in a pool of mud. And it’s a foreshadowing of the second book, Just Ben Goes to the Groomer,” Palmer said. “…In the second book, because he’s going to the groomer, we decided to deal with Lynn’s cancer. So it’s Ben who goes to the groomer, but also his person for a completely different reason: to shave his head during chemo.

While Palmer writes the stories for the Just Ben series, as a graphic designer, Chandler draws and paints the illustrations for the books in a style that Palmer describes as muted watercolor.

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“For her, it was therapeutic,” Palmer said. “She had never done this before.”

Palmer, who works as a teacher-librarian with a science degree from Wilfrid Laurier University, also wanted to enhance the educational impact of the book series by including history-related science facts in each of the Just Ben books. .

“We have all these captions at the bottom of every page that talk about the scientific connection to the story,” Palmer said. “In the first book they are about the science of nature, and in the second book it will be about the science of sound – what are the sounds in the room at the hairdresser’s?”

The books also include a glossary at the back to help young readers ages 6-9 research and learn new words they may not already know, plus a list of study questions that readers can work on with their parents or teachers.

Palmer and Chandler have also ensured that the book is printed in an easy-to-read font, especially for children with dyslexia, and they plan to translate the book for French and Farsi readers, as well as other languages ​​that newcomer Canadian families might want. their children to learn.

Just Ben Goes to the Forest is now available from Fanfare Books in Stratford, Kidding Around in Harriston and Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge.

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