- Sponsorship -

Teacher blends love for dogs, learning to publish children’s book


Third-graders at Marshall Elementary School erupted into giggles as they flipped the pages of the children’s book, “Minna and the Canine Club.” The tale of rescue dogs is filled with paws-ative problem-solving and doggone funny moments.

“He’s marking his territory!” said JJ Santos-Rosaries as he looked at an illustration of a husky dog and a fire hydrant.

“Look at her ears!” pointed out Nick Ryan, noticing a silly picture of a pup.

The students work on reading and writing skills every school day with the book’s author: their teacher, Erica Abel.

Marshall Elementary third grade teacher Erica Abel uses the book she wrote, ‘Minna and the Canine Club’ in reading and writing instruction

Abel recently published the book as the first in a series. It stars her spunky-from-the-start rescue dog — a Pomeranian mix named Minna — and a crew of canine friends. The hardcover book is illustrated by Rachel McCoy.

She created the book and established a business, Whimsical Writers, with a team of educators and family members, including her mother, Shelli Abel, a retired teacher from Caledonia Elementary School; her sister Jessica Abel, a teacher at Countryside Elementary in Byron Center; and her aunt Kelly Savage of Grandville.

The team met weekly for about three years to create the book and website, also called Minna and the Canine Club, which offers club membership, games and resources for parents and teachers. A second book, “Minna Saves a Life,” will be released in July.

“My family loves rescuing dogs so we thought, what a great way to engage students to learn to read and to love to read. We just wanted to show Minna’s personality and create lovable characters,” Abel said.

She hosted a book launch in her classroom, complete with games and treats. She also held a book signing in December at Barnes & Noble at Rivertown Crossings Mall in Grandville. The book is available through Minna and the Canine Club, and at independent bookstores Reader’s World in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven and Epilogue Books in Rockford. It  will soon be available at Barnes & Noble.

Minna, Erica Abel’s beloved dog, is a constant source of inspiration

Canine Club Fans

Abel uses her book regularly with her favorite group of readers and writers.

“I especially love using the book for writing and showing my students. ‘You can be a writer,’” she said. “That’s my goal for them to see, ‘you have that power too – anyone can do it.’”

She tells them how she created the book from start to finish, with hard work, trial and error, research and lots of imagination. Real experiences as a dog owner helped her write about dog life. “It’s important for students to see that writing comes from actual experiences, and then you can use your imagination to create the rest.”

Identifying character traits is a third-grade reading standard, and Abel said she found herself watching neighborhood dogs for inspiration as she imagined their personalities. Minna’s unique personality shines through on the pages, and Blue, a strong, brave husky, is based on Savage’s late dog. Other canine friends were imagined from watching other dogs Minna has interacted with.

Students said they are impressed that their teacher is an author and can write entertaining and funny books. They love how the dogs work together as a team to solve problems.

“She inspires us to write more books,” Nick said.

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

LATEST ARTICLES

Fourth-grade hockey fan gets a magical hour on ice: ‘I made the shot!’

Raised as a Red Wings and Grand Rapids Griffins hockey fan, Jackson Solow lights up while skating on an ice rink wearing his favorite hockey jersey...

‘This time it is continued learning’

One school’s switch from in-person to virtual education last week was nearly seamless, especially when compared with the forced school closure in March...

Foundation grants $28,285 in fall funding requests

Virtual phys ed and art experiences, materials to improve classroom focus and books on social issues aimed at middle-schoolers are among the grants approved this fall...

Latest school closings expand on state-ordered high school mandate

More Kent County districts continue to announce temporary school building closures, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Class of 2021 has ‘test-optional’ choice when applying for college

Most schools in the state of Michigan have become SAT/ACT-optional for the Class of 2021 for admission purposes. There are, however, pros and cons for students...

Schools in nine districts announce closures as COVID cases spike

New temporary school building closures were announced by nine school districts in Kent ISD this week, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

Musical prodigy, international performer, fourth-grader

When Cameron Renshaw was in kindergarten he kept asking his mom, Tina Renshaw, about the cello in her closet...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS