“I just thought ‘What an interesting place for a children’s story,’” she said.
Howell, who lives in rural Columbia City, envisioned the area as a playground for animals. With that setting in mind, she penned a tale about a farm dog, Rose, and her friend, Rabbit, who borrow the farmer’s truck to go to the country fair.
“Rose and Rabbit Go to the Fair” is Howell’s first book but not her last. She has already written “Rose and Rabbit Go to the Garden” and is working on a third book in the series and she may not stop there.
“This dog and her rabbit could just go anywhere,” Howell said.
Before writing her first children’s book, Howell focused her creative talents on designing and piecing together quilts. For years, she owned the Howell House fabric shop in Churubusco and still sells some fabric out of her home.
“Rose and Rabbit Go to the Fair” is dedicated to Wanda and Earl Howell’s eight grandchildren. Earl Howell retired after teaching for 30 years in Northwest Allen County Schools at Arcola Elementary School and Maple Creek Middle School.
As she was writing the children’s book she visualized the characters in her mind. Howell pictured a simple farm dog – nothing fancy – and a rabbit that looked just like any other rabbit hopping around a front yard.
But finding an illustrator who could bring these characters to life was a challenge for Howell. She approached a couple of people about the project but neither was able to follow through with the artwork.
“It was a little frustrating because I thought some children would enjoy reading this so when we finally got together with Dillon it was exciting,” she said.
Dillon Olney, a 2010 Carroll High School graduate, was the perfect match for Howell and he helped her finally bring her self-published story to print.
Trinda Goings, a NACS physical education teacher and a family friend of the Howells, noticed Olney’s artwork at one of Carroll High School’s fine arts nights and told Wanda Howell about the artist.
After the two met, Olney began working on the illustrations the summer after his freshman year and he completed approximately a dozen pictures about a year later.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “One of the best parts was getting to work with my mom.”
Christine Olney, a NACS substitute teacher, added some details such as flowers and leaves to his illustrations. As a child, Olney enjoyed watching his mom paint and one of his favorite memories is watching her create an ocean scene on his bedroom wall when he and his siblings had chickenpox.
Dillon Olney had illustrated another book which was never published so he got some satisfaction when “Rose and Rabbit Go to the Fair” was completed.
“I had the paperback first and that was cool and then I got the hardback in my hand and thought ‘This is really cool’,” he said.
The 20-year-old attends Indiana University in Bloomington where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture.
While Olney enjoys illustrating and working on art for others, he would like to eventually become an art professor.
The paperback book is for sale on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. Hardcover and paperback versions of “Rose and Rabbit Go to the Fair” may be purchased from Wanda Howell by calling 693-3873.