by Jackie Tucker
There’s a new author in town and she’s rarin’ to tell all her young readers about the glories of Louisiana.
Children’s author Dee Scallan is compressed energy packaged in a petite, green-eyed body. No wonder her students have found her a fascinating story teller and educator. Dee has been in the education profession for more than 26 years, and during that period she has told hundreds of stories to inform and entertain her young pupils. Only in 2004, however, did she begin to publish her stories. The star of her books is Moby Pincher, “the largest but most kind-hearted crawfish in all of the South,” and he is brought to life in colorful drawings by a 9 year old, Daniel Myers.
This odyssey from teacher to author began in Mississippi when, new to the profession, Dee sought a variety of ways to help her students learn. “I came to understand,” she recalls, “that by using many different paths–visual, tactile, auditory–I was able to help them comprehend and retain what they learned.” When she realized that her students did not know very much about their state, she began making up stories about the flora and fauna of Mississippi and Louisiana. When parents started asking where they could purchase the stories, Dee began writing them down. Unfortunately, having no illustrator and facing the obstacles of the publishing business, she wound up putting her stories on the shelf for many years.
Dee met young Daniel when he was only 3 years old and a student at her Montessori preschool in West Monroe. Even at that early age, Daniel was showing a precocious talent as an artist. Her budding career as published author took off, however, when she realized that Daniel, now age 8, could illustrate her stories possibly even better than a professional because “his perception is from a child’s point of view. I just hand him my manuscript and he comes up with the drawings all by himself.” She explains, “It’s strictly his imagination that brings out the right picture for the story.” Daniel, who is wholly self-taught, works very fast, drawing each illustration quickly, then using water colors to add color. A quiet youngster, Daniel loves fantasy, especially dragons; is now a fourth grader at Claiborne Elementary School; and is a devoted soccer player.
Moby Pincher’s Wonderful Christmas Present was the first of Dee’s stories to be published. When it appeared in October of 2004, the 250 copies initially printed sold out within two weeks. By Christmas another 1000 had been sold. But that was just the beginning of Moby’s adventures. Since then he has appeared in Moby Pincher’s Special Easter Party and Moby Pincher’s Hurricane Adventure (a prophetic event considering the Katrina disaster). In January, Moby Pincher Visits New Orleans is scheduled for release. The latter is about Moby’s visit to his cousin, who lives in a mud hole in Jackson Square. Planning for the future, Dee says, “I would eventually like to take Moby on a Mardi Gras excursion or possibly even out of state–to Texas or Arkansas, perhaps–for some adventures.”
Since her continuing goal is for the books to be teaching tools as well as entertainment, Dee is adding educational material in the back of the latest books. The Hurricane Adventure, for example, includes hurricane facts, vocabulary, important hurricanes of the past, as well as information about Louisiana’s wetlands and the creatures that live there. There’s even a drawing lesson for children who would like to try their hand at creating Moby.
In addition to the success she is experiencing with the books, Dee is taking her teaching and performance skills to various school systems and other venues to help teachers use the books for their own classrooms. She and Daniel have appeared on numerous television shows and at many book signings to publicize their creations, and Dee maintains a hefty schedule of workshops for teachers and parents. One of the latest additions to her presentations is an animaltronics theater. “It has flashing lights and flying flags,” she explains. “When it opens, Moby and Louie Lighin’ bug talk to the children and teach them a song. The children love it.”
One of her most exciting experiences occurred in November at the Starlit Children’s Literacy Festival, an event to which authors from all over the nation are invited. Proceeds from the festival benefit the Bethlehem Center for Children. “I’m still in shock at being invited,” she admits. She met a number of famous authors, including the daughter of Jackie Robinson and author of Stealing Home. “It was a memorable experience and we really packed them in,” she says enthusiastically. “People, young and old, are very interested in our state.”
Dee’s books emphasizing the positive attributes of our state couldn’t come at a better time considering the disastrous events of the fall. We hope to see more of Moby and his bayou friends in the coming months as they continue to introduce our state to readers everywhere.