Local author, illustrator publish first children’s book in new series


By Dawn Hatfield


ARCANUM — Lisa Hildebrand and Parker Buhrman, first-time author-illustrator duo, published their debut book, “Josie and the Toad,” on Feb. 14. This first book in their anticipated four-book Fenner Road series has already garnered a lot of attention for its many unique aspects.

“Josie and the Toad” is written with six to eight year-old readers in mind and features a true story about Dawson and his older sister, Maddie, (Hildebrand’s own children) who live in the country surrounded by wildlife. During one otherwise typical summer, a mystery develops: an enormous toad is randomly seen throughout their home, always in the middle of the night. Although it is routinely caught and returned to nature, the toad is found inside on numerous occasions. Written from Dawson’s point of view, the reader learns no one can work out how the toad manages his nightly break-ins until, finally, an accomplice is uncovered that explains it all.

In addition to being a newly published author, Hildebrand is a wife and mother of two who lives in Ludlow Falls. She graduated from Slippery Rock University with a BA in both Special Education and Elementary Education and has spent the last 26 years working in the field of special education.

Buhrman, a new illustrator, and his high school sweetheart, Olivia, were born, raised, and continue to reside in Arcanum. He loves to draw and sketch the images that pop into his brain. Buhrman was born with colorblindness and has discovered he enjoys the challenge of bringing his illustrations to life in full color.

Hildebrand and Buhrman are connected through family marriage. Hildebrand recalled how the duo formed, saying, “I’ve had the [“Josie and the Toad”] manuscript written for a couple of years but didn’t really move forward with anything until I had more time to think about it. So, when the kids were out of the house, I kinda started thinking about things I could do again. I’m a special ed person by heart—first of all, Parker is very creative and he can draw, and I thought, ‘Let’s just give it a shot!’—and I didn’t realize [then] he was colorblind, but I was so excited when I found out because that just added to the theme of overcoming obstacles. I appreciated that he didn’t even hesitate when taking this on.”

Buhrman elaborated, “I was always someone in school who liked art class and drew pictures, but I never took it too seriously. Part of being colorblind, too, is that I’ve always really leaned into black and white illustrations, and one of the first conversations about this book was that, since it is a children’s book, maybe I could try some color. I had basically no experience working with color or working with colored pencils as a medium, but I really tried to push myself with this and tried to figure it out.”

Hildebrand shared a story about a kind gesture that inadvertently became problematic. “Once he agreed to do this, I went to Hobby Lobby, and I got Parker all these endless colored pencils for him to use, but the colored pencils don’t have the color names written on them!” she said.

“All my life, I’ve always relied on colored pencils and markers that say the name of what you’re using. Lisa got me this massive colored-pencil pack, and I was, I guess, too nice in the moment. I definitely didn’t tell her. I got them, opened them all up, and went to use them and told my wife, ‘There are no colors listed on any of these!’” Buhrman laughed.

“The other amusing thing was all of the toads were [originally] a bright green,” said Hildebrand.

Buhrman interjected, “And I learned in the process that toads, apparently, are not a bright green.”

Hildebrand recalled, “He said, ‘I was today years old when I learned that toads are brown.’ It took me forever to throw the issue out there because the toad was in the book—how many times? I thought, ‘How do I break this to him? He’s colorblind!’ Then I thought to myself, ‘I’m a special ed teacher; I have to be able to do this… gently.’”

Needless to say, Buhrman’s wife and Hildebrand have both helped him in his quest to match the colors on his pages to those of the surrounding world.

Personal stories like this one along with the true-life inspiration of the Fenner Road stories help children explore obstacles in real life, encouraging them to focus on their capabilities, ask for help when needed, and to always strive to overcome.

“Part of the special needs platform is that all four books in the series will start off the same way, regardless of whether it is from Dawson’s perspective or Maddie’s. The repetition of text helps with struggling readers and increasing fluency,” explained Hildebrand. Books are also interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL) by Hildebrand when she delivers readings and presentations.

“When I talk to kids, first of all, we talk about taking risks and learning new things, and then I tell the story and quickly show the pictures of the book. Then I play a recording of Dawson reading it because it is from his perspective, and that’s when I sign it. Then we teach signs of affirmation like, ‘I am kind; I am strong; I am smart; I am special; I am important,’ and the kids seem to really enjoy that,” Hildebrand explained. “This platform is so exciting for me.”

Hildebrand expressed a lot of gratitude towards Buhrman and also noted it has been a pleasure to work with Lucid Publishing Company. “It’s been a team effort, and I appreciate that very much.” She concluded, “Parker and I are not in this to get rich and famous; we both have our own livelihoods, so it’s just been a creative outlet for us.”

The public is invited to a “Josie and the Toad” presentation, sale, and celebration at Pleasant Hill Church of God on March 29 at 6 p.m. This is an opportunity to meet the author and purchase signed copies of the book.

Hildebrand will embark on a book tour November 1 to 10 across Ohio and Pennsylvania. Hildebrand, however, is already visiting schools across the Miami Valley. School districts may use Title I funding or gifted education funding to bring her presentation to their students. “Josie and the Toad” will soon be plugged into all 17 Dayton Metro libraries and is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Walmart, to name a few.

The duo’s second book, titled “Hatching Snappers,” is in the works and will be be told from daughter, Maddie’s, point of view. The four-part Fenner Road series will feature baby goats/lambs and chickens in its final two books. Fans of Hildebrand may also look forward to her Bull Creek series, which is a future project.

Visit LucidBooks.com for more information and for a link to purchase “Josie and the Toad.”

Reach Daily Advocate Reporter Dawn Hatfield at [email protected] or 937-569-0066.

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