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Education Faculty Member Writes Children’s Book

Meredith Assistant Professor of Education Tisha Duncan’s latest project got its start when she was a second grader.

Duncan is the author of a new children’s book called “My Dirty Cat Mutt.” The story is based on a second grade assignment in which class members wrote personal stories and created their own books.

Duncan will present the book at an event at Quail Ridge Books on October 3 at 10 a.m. The event will include a reading, book signing and an activity for children.

“My Dirty Cat Mutt” follows the adventures of a cat named Mutt, who is based on Duncan’s own childhood pet. It answers the question of what the cat does to get his paws dirty while his owner is away at school. Thanks to encouragement from her determined grandmother, Duncan rewrote the story and created the book, which was published this summer.

“My grandmother had kept the original book all these years, and she continued to encourage me, as all good grandmothers do, to publish a book,” Duncan explains.

Duncan added educational elements to create the finished product, designed for children ages 2-7. The book is considered a dual reader, which means the top line of the story can be read to early readers, and the bottom line includes more advanced text for older children. It also includes questions and “models good reading practices.”

Once she decided to write the book, the project took nearly a year to complete.

Duncan worked with artist Phillip Holeman. This was Holeman’s first project as an illustrator. Duncan asked him to make sure Mutt was a yellow cat with white feet, but otherwise let him be creative with the illustrations. She was surprised to see that he drew Mutt’s friends as a brown dog and a black cat with white paws.

“As a child, the other pets my family had [in addition to Mutt] were a brown dog and a black and white cat,” Duncan said. “I had not told him that, so that was another sign that this project was meant to be.”

She now plans to turn this first book into a series that follows the continuing adventures of Mutt and his friends.

“Meredith trains leaders and encourages women to follow their dreams,” Duncan said. “That’s what I’m asking of my students, so I’ve got to follow my own advice.”

Duncan and Holeman have been touring local schools sharing the book and talking to students about the project. They discuss writing and illustration. Duncan shows the original version of her story.

“I show them its progression from age 7 until today – and all the steps a long the way.” Duncan said.

A 1999 alumna of Meredith, Duncan now teaches in the education program. Her courses include Children and Adolescent Literature and Introduction to Language Arts. One of the assignments she is giving her students echoes the beginnings of “My Dirty Cat Mutt”: writing their own books.

Date Submitted: 2009-09-28

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