Casey Lou and the Monster in the Attic
I love my children.  I mean, I really love them and I believe in their talents.  You probably feel the exactly same way I do—that your children are special.  Well, that belief is why this book was born and nurtured in the heart of my family.  I simply couldn’t think of better people to bring Casey Lou’s story to life.
Our family has been through a lot together.  I have been a single parent since a month before Josh was born.  Jessica was 2 ½ at the time.  There has been a boatload of challenges for them and for me.  Sometimes the challenges were between them and me.  Nevertheless, when I decided to write a story about my quirky little grand-dog, Casey Lou, my children were the ones I needed to help get it done.
Casey Lou is Jessica’s dog. She is a miniature rat terrier who weighs in at about ten pounds. I’ve always said that Jessica was the only one in our family who was willing to take a chance on adopting a new life during a time when our family was struggling.  (If you want to learn more about those struggles you can grab a copy of When Jesus Shows Up or The Seven Promises of Hope.) At the time Jessica was thinking of getting a dog, adding a bouncing puppy to the family wasn’t on the top of my list.  But Jessica, who was living on her own, decided that she would take the plunge and get a dog.  Casey Lou was the one she picked and from the moment Casey Lou came into the family, the adventure began.
Right from the get-go, Casey Lou was of a mixture of loving puppy and energetic trouble.  Casey half hops, half runs around the house and yard.  It took me some time to decide that she wasn’t part bunny.  She loves to snuggle and will burrow under the covers to sleep at your side whenever she can.   She’s one of those dogs that is full of personality.  I guess that means from the time I met her, I was smitten.
Meanwhile, as Jessica and Casey Lou were getting to know each other, something strange was going on over at my house. One evening I went into the garage to do some laundry and heard a noise from somewhere above me.  It sounded something like “MMMMURRRRP!”  Over the next few months I heard that noise at intermittent intervals.  I told my son about it and he laughed saying, “Oh, so you have a monster in the attic?”  He stopped laughing when he came out to do his laundry one night and heard the spooky sound for himself.  We hired critter getters and every type of animal removal expert we could think of to locate and remove the source of that noise.  I even borrowed a humane trap from work, where they had had some issues with cats in the heating vents, and put peanut butter in it.  Nothing worked.  So we just decided to let it be.  Eventually, after a few years, we stopped hearing the noise.
But the entrance of Casey Lou on the scene and the noise made by the “monster in the attic” somehow came together for us.  I told Jessica I wanted to write a book to help children learn to think through their fears so they could be brave.  Casey Lou seemed the right character to go up against our monster. Thus the book, Casey Lou and the Monster in the Attic, was born.
One night, Jessica, who is a leader and process expert in the interactive marking world, sat me down and began asking me a series of questions to help create the story behind the book.  By the time we finished that night, we knew our target market (kindergarten through 5th grade), the setting (grandma’s backyard, which Casey Lou loves in real life) the other characters in the story (Mattie the Boxer, Teddy the Italian Greyhound and Buddy the Bulldog based on real dogs we knew) and the entire story line.  From there it was simple to write the story.
Then came the hard part.  Josh, my son, did wonderful artwork in high school but hadn’t drawn for several years.  When we went to visit him in Fort Lauderdale that year, I asked if he was interested in illustrating the book.  He answered that he needed to think about it.  That was in August, 2008.  On Christmas that year he showed up with 6 pictures of Casey Lou in different poses in a portfolio and we had the beginning of a real book in the making.  It took him several years to finish the pictures and we ended up getting a local artist, Blake Gardener, to draw the back yard and attic in order to finish the project.  Then we needed someone talented to design the book and bring all the pictures together.  Allison Artnak, who had worked with me as Creative Director at The Weather Channel, volunteered.  She said she had always wanted to design a children’s book.
The designing took another eight months to complete. Combining the pictures of the dogs with the backgrounds, creating the “look” of the book, and adding other backgrounds when needed was a painstaking process.  Allison added the idea of breaking the book into chapters, saying it tested as perfect for fourth graders, who were used to chapter books.  I am thrilled with the result! Casey Lou and the Monster in the Attic was a family affair from start to finish—we adopted Allison and Blake to make it complete.  It is a story based on a real dog, a real noise, and the very real fears that every child faces.  Casey Lou learns to think through her fears in order to be brave.  If you’ve ever needed help with your own “monsters,” Casey Lou can help.