The Story Behind Shady Pines Story Town

The Shady Pines Story Town project has been an evolution. It’s now a brightly colored, kind and caring world of cartoon characters helping children become their best selves. But it began in a dark time. Through the laughter, the tears, and a loving, unwavering connection to animals struggling with their own issues, the lessons for this project were formed.
It started when I was living on an historic property that became a horse farm located in a quaint, Southern town. The setting was idyllic, but the circumstances were not. I was in a troubled marriage headed for divorce. From the outside, everything looked perfect. 

But I was struggling with the stress. My horses and cats had their own issues. Somewhere along the way I figured out we had to heal one another.

So, apparently, I started to imitate them and make up dialogue to give context to our situation and forge “happy endings.”

One day, a woman helping me around the barn was sweeping the aisle when I heard a crash. I swung around. She’d dropped the broom and was bent over laughing. I asked her, “Are you all right? What’s going on?”

Her reply, “Do you not hear yourself? You’re talking in the voices of these animals. I’ve been here long enough to know that’s what they sound like! It’s hilarious. Are you writing this down?” No, I wasn’t, because I didn’t fully realize I was doing that.

Well, I began writing stuff down. Those stories are about animals and humans overcoming adversity while living on a horse farm outside the small Southern town of Shady Pines.

Eventually, I came up with another story line about a dog and cat who grew up in different parts of the country by wind up lost in that town. They are adopted by a childless couple, who now have an instant family and must tackle the challenges of parenting. These stories are filled with instilling basic values that set kids up for a better life.

That’s how the Boomer and Halley book series was born.

The Australian Shepherd dog, Boomerang, featured in the title was based on my actual family dog. From the moment this herding canine came into our household he never stopped moving. The first time the multi-colored pup with the pink nose finally stopped, I held his limp body up to my mother and cried, “Mom. My puppy died.” She looked at me and said, “No honey, he’s just sleeping. You haven’t seen him do that before!” Boomer and our two cats teased and terrorized one another as much as possible. 

That became the inspiration for the other title character, Halley’s Comet, a silver streak of a cat. I wanted her to be athletic, kind, smart as a whip, and able to sass Boomerang while caring deeply for him at the same time. In that way, she is a good role model for young girls. Likewise, Boomerang is the tough pooch, but he’s funny, loving, able to give Halley what’s what, while being loyal and protective of his family. It’s interesting that both boys and girls relate positively to these characters.

Edna and Harold Sanders are based on my real-life maternal grandparents by the same name. Physically the real Harold and Edna do not look anything like these cartoon characters. But they are my homage to the grandparents who instilled life lessons in me.

Zulah Talmadge, editor of the Shady Pines Gazette newspaper, is named for my paternal grandmother, Zulah McKittrick. I never had a chance to meet her. She died when my father was a teenager. This is my way of honoring her. 

Other family members will no doubt work their way into future storylines. Many of their favorite sayings and funny expressions already have! With each Boomer and Halley story, additional characters started to emerge.

There’s Mayor Fibbs at City Hall, Zula and Scoop the Cub Reporter at The Shady Pines Gazette, Pete over at the Pets Galore Pet Shop, Fred owns the Corner Grocer, Joe own the Cup ‘O Joe coffee shop, Rita is the Director of the Community Center, Maggie runs Maggie’s Diner and Kim is our new mail carrier at the post office.

As the number of characters and locations grew, the small Southern town expanded our demographic reach. And, since each of these characters act as role models who tell stories, we now have Shady Pines Story Town. The wide range of human and animal “neighbors,” along with visiting characters, gives this project endless growth potential. We are not limited in our ability to address any societal issue because we can always introduce a character as a protagonist.

This is what makes Shady Pines an exciting venture at a time when positive messaging for young children is vital. Caregivers of young children now know there is a place where kindness and caring is a way of life.
This project has set course on a mission to bring sanity back to our national conversations. Won’t you join our efforts and become part of the Shady Pines Story Town community? Find out HOW!

Boomer and Halley Books

Each Boomer and Halley book has 4 life lessons embedded in the story line and highlighted on the page with a PAW mark. Using the perforated bookmark with prompting questions you can find out if your young reader (4-8 years old) understands concepts like: Sportsmanship, Honesty, Manners, Respecting Property, Tolerance, Kindness, and so on.