DOVER — The draft pages for “Finding Pop Pop,” written by Dover resident Kathleen Marie Doyle, sat in her drawer for 25 years.
However, when the pandemic hit, Ms. Doyle thought it would be the perfect time to finish and release her third children’s book.
After all, it is a story that deals with grief, and there was plenty of that to go around, especially at the height of COVID-19.
“During COVID, so many people were dying from it, and I started thinking about ‘Finding Pop Pop’ just sitting in my drawer, and I talked about it with (my illustrator) Marcia (Holler), and I said, ‘You know, I think it’s time for this book to be born,’” Ms. Doyle said.
So the duo got to work, and now, the independently published work is available in stores and online. It will also be sold at Delaware Shoppes and Forney’s Too Ltd. in downtown Dover soon.
The book is about a young child whose grandfather comes to live with him, and they become best friends. However, Pop Pop eventually falls ill and tells the child, “My spirit will always be with you.”
After Pop Pop dies, the child searches everywhere for his best friend’s spirit and discovers the healing power of happy memories.
“I came up (with the idea) a long time ago, about 25 years ago, because when my kids were 3 and 5 years old, my dad died, and he had been sick for a little while,” Ms. Doyle said. “And then, when they were still 3 and 5 years old, my husband’s mom died very suddenly, and then, just three years after that, my brother died, and then, a month later, my husband’s dad died.
“There were all these deaths, and all the books in those days that I was able to find about grief and talking to kids about death were about pets, which was age-appropriate. So I just kind of developed a story to tell them about their Pop Pop, their Grandmom, their uncle … and about all the wonderful memories that were created by them.”
Book helps find comfort in loss
Ms. Doyle said “Finding Pop Pop” has even been well received by adults dealing with grief.
“It’s really, really, really geared towards people who’ve lost somebody or who are very comfortable talking about death with their children,” she said. “It has really resonated with adults, which I’m finding fascinating. Adults who’ve lost people are like, ‘This book was so comforting.’
“Then, another friend said, ‘I love your book, but I can’t let my 8-year-old see it because Pop Pop’s still alive, and this would really be hard for her.’”
She added that Ms. Holler, who also lives near Dover, was a huge help bringing life to the project through her illustrations.
“Marcia is a fabulous artist, and she was also looking for something to keep her busy during COVID,” Ms. Doyle said. “It definitely kept her busy.”
Ms. Holler is a well-known graphic artist in the state. This is her second collaboration with Ms. Doyle, after illustrating the eco-friendly “Blue’s River” in 2019. However, that art was pen and ink, whereas “Finding Pop Pop” is a full-color picture book.
Ms. Doyle’s other published book is “Allies for Justice: How Louis Redding and Collins Seitz Changed the Complexion of America’s Schools.”
The author began her environmental activism in the fifth grade, when she wrote a letter to her hometown newspaper asking people to stop polluting the local pond and stream.
Her interest in social and environmental justice was nurtured at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and her commitment to education was inspired by the work of Ted Sizer at Brown University.
“Altogether, I’ve written three books, and they’re all really different from each other,” she said. “My ‘Allies for Justice’ was the civil rights book, (involving) social studies 100%. ‘Blue’s River’ was both social studies and environmental, but then ‘Finding Pop Pop’ is really a book about grief, so it doesn’t quite fit into either of those other categories.”
A lifetime of learning
The social studies angles make sense, considering that Ms. Doyle taught the subject for more than 30 years at several area schools.
“I taught at a lot of places, but my longest stint was at Polytech for 11 years, and then, I was at Campus Community High School for 11 years,” said the writer, 61. “I also taught at Central Middle School for a few years and Early College High School my last year of teaching.
“I started out at Holy Cross in Dover, was in Smyrna, … so I’ve been a few places over my 30 years.”
Even though she is not teaching anymore, she is still learning.
“My background’s been social studies education, but since I’ve retired, I’ve gotten certified to be a Master Gardener, and I’m taking all of these ecological gardening classes up at Mount Cuba (in Hockessin),” Ms. Doyle said.
She’ll take a break from gardening for a book signing May 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Delaware Shoppes.
Books will also be available at the Bowers Beach Buccaneer Bash on May 28.
While Ms. Doyle admits that she once dreaded speaking in public, she said she has had to accept it, especially considering her chosen career as a teacher.
Plus, nowadays, she also sings and plays the piano, guitar and ukulele in Celtic Harvest, an Irish band, with her husband.
“It’s a little crazy,” she said. “I was terrified of public speaking as a kid all the way to young adulthood, but for whatever reason, I decided my calling was to be a teacher, and you kind of have to talk in front of people to do that.
“Now, it’s really fun. People who come to book signings are book lovers, obviously, and sometimes, they really want to strike up a conversation about the positives of writing a book or the inspiration or the marketing, so it’s really interesting and a lot of fun.”
For information about Ms. Doyle and her works, visit here.