I am a cat person! Pure and simple. I grew up with cats and have always had a cat in my life. But a few years ago, my daughter signed up to raise a puppy as a service dog. From that day on, my love has expanded to include dogs!
Because of that, when I saw Boomer at Your Service by Vanessa Keel, I was anxious to read it. Vanessa graciously sent me a book for free in exchange for my honest review of the book. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa.
Boomer at Your Service by Vanessa Keel
This beautiful picture book shares the story of a yellow dog named Boomer. He is on a mission to be a service dog but has to overcome several obstacles on his journey to find the right opportunity. This fun story leads Boomer to show kindness towards those who are lonely and need his service. The artwork is simple but expressive and perfect for a favorite children’s storybook.
This is a book that children will love to look at and listen to over and over again.
(Savoring Each Moment – SEM) Is Boomer at Your Service a true story?
(Vanessa Keel – VK) Boomer At Your Service is not based on a true story, however, my research into service dogs did influence the plot. Only about 50% of dogs who go through service dog training will complete their certification and go on to serve a person. Some of the dogs who fail become amazing pets and can become very successful therapy dogs. I wanted to write a story that shows children that our failures can become our greatest strengths. As they are growing, they may misstep or be misunderstood, but there is a place for everyone in this world and perseverance and kindness will pay off… just like it does for Boomer.
(SEM) Why did you choose to write about a service dog?
(VK) I’ve loved dogs all my life and feel a deep connection with them. I just think they are incredible and become more than just pets. They become family. So when it came time to choose, picking a dog for my main character came easily. I chose to write about service and therapy dogs because it provides a platform to be able to not only talk about those with special needs but to also provide representation for children with special needs in the book. I hope any child who has a disability or may be in a wheelchair will see Cecilia and feel happy about seeing someone just like them in a book. But I also think the message of the book is universal and all children will be able to take something away from reading this story.
(SEM) When you wrote Boomer at Your Service, how did you choose an illustrator?
(VK) Actually, when you are traditionally published (Clear Fork Publishing/Spork), your publisher chooses an illustrator for the book. As a writer, I think relinquishing this control is one of the hardest things you have to do in picture books. I, of course, had my own vision for Boomer and the other characters, but you have to let all of that go and trust your publisher and art director will do your words justice.
I absolutely LOVE illustrator, Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom. Her art blows my mind and she surpassed all my expectations. I was allowed to provide direction which was exciting. For example, I knew I wanted Boomer to be a Golden Retriever and it was important to get his emotions on each page correct. I think Adriana is a whiz at capturing emotion in animals and I just think she did a phenomenal job.
(SEM) Have you raised or trained a service dog?
(VK) I have not personally raised a service dog, but I’ve learned so much about what it takes to train one. Upon writing this story I found this wonderful organization called Merlin’s KIDS headquartered in my home state of NJ. Their mission is to rescue shelter dogs and train to them be service dogs for special-needs kids-essentially saving two lives at a time. I started volunteering my time with the organization and I’ve become quite close with the founder, Janice Wolfe. She is a wealth of information and I’ve learned so much from her. For example, it costs $30K on average to raise, train, board and feed each dog. It’s a tremendous expense for families. That why I decided to use the book as a platform to help raise awareness for the organization and to help raise funds. It’s such a worthy cause.
I’ve also worked closely with The Bright & Beautiful (Therapy Dogs) and The Seeing Eye (Guide Dogs). Working with their volunteers at my events has definitely inspired me to one day raise a therapy dog of my own to take to schools, libraries, and hospitals. I’ve seen the difference the dogs make firsthand and I definitely want to become a part of that world. So as soon as my family is ready, we will choose a dog with the right temperament with this goal in mind.
(SEM) Do you have another book in the works? Are you able to give us a sneak peek?
(VK) I’m always writing but my day job as a Mom to a 2.5-year-old (and one on the way) definitely keeps me very busy. I have a few manuscripts I’m writing and refining so I can start to submit for publication in the near future. I have many ideas and big dreams and hope my books teach children valuable life lessons and most of all, I want my books to make them happy. More to come for me…YES!
(SEM) A huge thank you to Vanessa Keel for
One of the great things about this book is the resources at the end of the book. There are questions, suggestions, and information about service dogs. If you check out Vanessa Keel’s website you will also find teaching resources, coloring pages, and more information here. Head over to Amazon and order your copy of Boomer at Your Service today!
You might also enjoy these posts.