Hearing a lesson from a ‘hairy hare’: Regional author writes children’s book with message of kindness
MARQUETTE — Alliteration can be overdone in the literary world, but in the new book, “Harry: The Very Hairy Hare,” it’s justified.
The book, written by retired teacher Dan Wohlleber of Houghton, targets children ages 4-8, and te
The book’s description at Archway Publishing reads: “Sadly, many children today experience bullying in a variety of forms. ‘Harry: The Very Hairy Hare’ is about overcoming bullying through kindness and acts of love. We’re all responsible for our words and actions, so instead of being cruel, smile, share a kind word and do a good deed.”
The book’s drawings, which come mainly in brown, white and green, complement the story, with the hares’ expressive faces conveying many emotions. The art, Wohlleber said, was provided by the publisher.
Wohlleber grew up in Neenah, Wisconsin, and earned his college degree in health and physical education from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. His 30-year teaching career began at a small K-8 school district in northern Wisconsin, so he knows the youthful mind.
“When my kids were younger, they just had a zest for hearing bedtime stories, and animals were kind of a main focus,” Wohlleber said. “You’re doing that every night, and you wind up running out of animal stories. So, you it kind of forces you to be creative.
“I would just say these stories and ad lib as I go, and they’d always want to hear more and more.”
During his prep time as a teacher at North Lake Elementary School in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, Wohlleber occasionally went to primary school classrooms to read to the youngsters.
He relished the activity.
“When I’d be done reading, the kids looked so excited,” Wohlleber said. “They’re looking at you with the big eyes. I tried to read with as much feeling and expression as possible, so when I would that, the teachers would typically say, ‘When you retire, you really need to write a children’s book.'”
It turned out that already was on his bucket list.
“I wanted to spread a positive message for kids, knowing that kids understand that we all have imperfections, and instead of making fun of people, we want to react as positively as we can when others treat us in a negative way,” Wohlleber said.
In the book, a hare named Harry grew up among his hare friends — only he was a lot hairier than his peers, leaving him as an object of ridicule.
“This made Harry very said,” the book reads. “He wondered why the other hares stopped being kind to him.”
Seeing a reflection of himself in still water allowed Harry to understand how his appearance changed other hares’ opinions of him.
One day, Harry came across another hare, Henry, whose leg was caught in a trap.
Without giving away too many plot details, Harry’s next move was one of choice — a positive one — that ended up endearing him to the other hares.
“All the hares had learned a valuable lesson: It really doesn’t matter what we look like. What really matters is how we choose to treat each other,” Wohlleber wrote in the tale’s final paragraph.
Getting that message across to kids is the goal of the book — that they don’t have to react in a negative way.
“It’s everybody’s first inclination to respond from criticism with criticism, and those choices aren’t always the best,” Wohlleber said.
Accepting so-called flaws is another lesson to be learned.
“We all have our shortcomings, and you can work through those things in positive ways,” Wohlleber said.
In fact, these messages could help adults as well.
“So many people have told me that,” he said.
Wohlleber isn’t sure if he will publish another book.
However, he indicated he has another story in the works with the words already written, although there are no illustrations yet. That tale, “Marvin: The Medium-Sized Mouse,” goes along the same lines of having imperfections, being teased and learning how to react.
“I’m just going to give this one a little time, give it a year or so and see what transpires,” he said.
“Harry: The Very Hairy Hare,” which is available in hardcover, softcover and e-book, can be purchased through Archway Publishing at archwaypublishing.com/en/bookstore, and through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org