BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Quarantine, social distancing and masks can’t keep four girls from strengthening their friendship during the time of COVID-19.
In The Four Ever Friends, retired Waterville Primary principal Darlene DeCrane shares the adventures of four elementary friends who rise above the challenges presented by the coronavirus to find an opportunity to bond.
In town last week to visit family – including the book’s illustrator, her grandson Collin Snyder – Darlene shared how her granddaughter in Tennessee sparked the idea. Isolated and in need of socialization, Addison Grace found a way to stay connected to her three friends.
The book follows fictional characters Gracie, Lexie, Morgan and Sophie as they learn how to safely socialize outside with guidance from parents. The next book in a three-part series – The Four Ever Friends’ Tiny House Vacation – will be released in a few weeks.
The book is self-published, thanks to a lot of research from her husband, Gregg. Amazon offered the best option for getting the book out immediately.
“I didn’t want to wait six months for a publisher to even look at it. I felt like we needed to get this out right now – while we’re dealing with COVID,” Darlene said.
The book is written for a third-grade reading level, and that’s no surprise, as Darlene was an elementary teacher and principal. Growing up in Euclid, Ohio, Darlene always knew she’d be a teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from Bowling Green State University.
She taught for 18 years before becoming principal of Waterville Primary School from 1996 to 2002.
“I started at the old building,” she said of the now-demolished school on River Road. “We were supposed to move in November, but the Saturday before Christmas we moved everything. It was a great old building.”
While in school, she would often hear or read stories from her students and think about putting them into a book. It wasn’t until she was isolated at home this spring, however, that she decided to take action. When she finished the draft of the book, Darlene sent it to her daughter – who volunteered Collin to do the illustrations.
An owl on a bike, a cowboy boot with a hat, a treasure map and a craft area with googly eyes are among the nine illustrations in the 85-page book.
“I’ve never drawn a pom pom stick or googly eyes before,” said Collin, an Anthony Wayne High School senior.
In addition to playing on the Generals varsity soccer team and working part time at Kroger, Collin has taken art classes, including a BGSU art class offered at the high school. He’s also taken classes in art foundations, digital communications, 3-D and drawing.
“I’ve liked drawing my whole life,” he said. “I always liked to doodle in class – either a person or a creature. When I have time at work, I draw.”
He’s finishing the illustrations for the Tiny House book in time for its mid-October release.
“When he committed, it was for one book – he didn’t realize it would be three,” Darlene laughed.
A chapter of the second book is included at the end of The Four Ever Friends.
The book is available at www.amazon.com. Just type Darlene DeCrane in the search window. Proceeds from the book will be donated to educational and literacy initiatives.