Dover author paints picture of ‘Blue’s River’

Two years ago, Kathleen Doyle, of Dover, retired after 32 years of teaching social studies and was able to devote much more time to writing. She kept her old fifth-grade journal on hand as an inspiration for her new book “Blue’s River.” (Submitted photos)

DOVER — Growing up, Dover resident Kathleen Doyle has always had a great appreciation for the environment.

“My first political action was as a fifth-grader, when I wrote a letter to the editor of my hometown newspaper in Boston asking people to stop littering the brook where I liked to play,” Ms. Doyle said.

“I had a wonderful fifth-grade teacher who had us keep journals where we could write about anything we wanted. She would read them and write back to us every day.”

Two years ago, Ms. Doyle retired after 32 years of teaching social studies and was able to devote much more time to writing. She kept her old journal on hand as an inspiration for her new book “Blue’s River”.

“I read through it to remind myself how a fifth-grader sees the world,” Ms. Doyle said.

“Blue’s River” is the story of 10-year-old Andie Grove and her new friend, Old Blue, a 400-year-old great blue heron, and their quest to save the St. Jones River. Together, they travel through history to see who and why the town of Dover developed along the St. Jones and how a growing population took advantage of a generous river.

Ms. Doyle said the book, illustrated by Marsha Holler, took a little over two years to complete.

“Initially, it was going to be about a great blue heron, but when I came across my fifth-grade journals, I decided to make the book about the friendship between a 10-year-old girl and a great blue heron,” Ms. Doyle said.

“One of my entries was about an argument that my best friend and I had over who loved animals more. That friend became a veterinarian and is the inspiration for Andie’s best friend, Lily.”

Ms. Doyle said although she was quite familiar with Dover’s history, she knew very little about great blue herons and watersheds.

“As soon as I had a rough idea of what I wanted my story to be about, I took advantage of every opportunity I could to learn more about herons and the St. Jones, and I read as many young adult novels as I could.”

“Blue’s River” is the story of 10-year-old Andie Grove and her new friend, Old Blue, a 400-year-old great blue heron, and their quest to save the St. Jones River. Together, they travel through history to see who and why the town of Dover developed along the St. Jones.

Ms. Doyle also took boat rides on the St. Jones with people from the St. Jones Reserve, spent hours at the Delaware Public Archives, and interviewed a variety of people to help her become more knowledgeable of the St. Jones River and herons.

“I interviewed Theo ‘Three Winds’ Braunskill, a member of the Lenape Elders Council who fact-checked my chapter on the Lenape’” Ms. Doyle said.

“Chaz Salkin, the retired director of the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation, took me on a heronry field trip, and connected me to numerous people at the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control who, in turn, educated me about great blue herons, the St. Jones River and the St. Jones Watershed.”

Ms. Doyle said once she finished writing the book, she had several people read her early drafts.

“By my 10th draft, I hired an editor to comb through the manuscript,” Ms. Doyle said.

But the process didn’t end there. She applied for a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts to help pay for an illustrator.

“I was extremely fortunate to be able to work with Marsha Holler, a talented graphic designer who was ready to take on a new challenge. Her illustrations are meticulously detailed and beautiful. She did a wonderful job with the cover.”

Ms. Doyle said it was a surreal feeling when she received the hard copies of her book.

“I was so excited to hold the book in my hands. I made my husband take a picture of my reaction,” Ms. Doyle said.

She said the book has received a lot of positive reviews.

“Many adults have told me they loved it, but the mom of a 7-year-old just reached out to let me know that her son could not put the book down, and he now wants the whole family to read the book,” Ms. Doyle said.

“My target age group was 9 to 12 years old, so I am really pleased that someone as young as 7 and people even older than me are enjoying the book.”

Kathleen Doyle will be doing a book signing at The Delaware Store in downtown Dover from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 30, and at Forney’s Too on Loockerman Street on Dec. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Ms. Doyle said she has always loved writing and teaching and is ecstatic that she’s able to combine the two through her books.

“History is rich with so many great stories that still need to be told,” Ms. Doyle said. “When I was teaching, I would look for resources, and often end up developing the lessons and units myself. That is certainly what led me to write my first book, “Allies for Justice,” which was published in 2007.

“Delaware played a profound role in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and yet there was nothing in the Delaware Social Studies curriculum about it.”

But for now, Ms. Doyle is focused on promoting her book “Blue’s River.”

She will be doing a book signing at The Delaware Store in downtown Dover from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 30, and at Forney’s Too on Loockerman Street on Dec. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m..

The book is also available on Amazon.com, through IngramSpark, and as an e-book.

For more information about the book and a free teacher’s guide, visit KathleenMarieDoyle.com.

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