'Annie Patches' Series Aims To Teach Kids Fun Lessons While Giving

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Local authors

From left: Amy McHugh, Isabelle Coughlin, Marty Koblish and cat Annie Patches, Emily Coughlin, Shane Coughlin. DEBRA LAWLESS PHOTO

From the profits of her two children’s books about her calico cat, Annie Patches, Chatham author Marty Koblish raised $500 for the Jimmy Fund and presented the check toward cancer care and research to the family of Emily Coughlin of Chatham.

Emily, now 11, will enter the sixth grade this fall. Six years ago she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of childhood cancer. At the age of 4, she began 18 months of treatment which left her with severely damaged kidneys and 65 percent hearing loss. In the years since Emily’s diagnosis, her family has raised over $500,000 for the Jimmy Fund, her mother Amy McHugh says. The family and its friends will participate in the Jimmy Fund Walk along the Boston Marathon route for the seventh time this year on Sept. 25. The group is called Team EmmaBelle (which incorporates the name of Emily’s older sister Isabelle, now 13 and entering the eighth grade).

“You dedicated it in good energy, to a good cause,” McHugh told Koblish after she received the check.

“I wanted to do something for Emily,” Koblish said earlier. “I want to pay back for all the success I’ve had” with the books.

Koblish has just published her third book about Annie Patches, “The Adventures of Annie Patches the Snowbird Cat.” “Adventures” is billed as a child’s first chapter book geared to ages 4 to 8. This is the third and final installment in the trilogy that began in 2014 with “Max and Annie Patches: A True Story About a Betta Fish and a Calico Cat,” which was dedicated to Emily, and continued last year with “Annie Patches: My New Forever Home,” dedicated to Isabelle.

As in her previous books, Koblish took almost all of the charming photographs of the pretty Annie Patches, her 8-year-old, 12-pound calico cat. Before retiring, Koblish worked in New Jersey as a nurse and as a high school principal. After she retired, she established a photography business that she brought with her when she and her husband Cam moved to their home in Chatham full-time in 2005. They now divide their time between Chatham and Naples, Fla.

Fittingly, “Adventures” tells the story of a “snowbird cat.” In the first chapter, Annie is living in Florida. There, the sunny days roll by with companions Bella and Baron, golden retrievers, alongside the swimming pool on the lanai. Sometimes Annie might stir herself and catch a lizard. In the second chapter Annie and her family are en route to Cape Cod. This is a story of crates, cars, suitcases and hotel rooms. Sometimes the family splits up with Daddy and the dogs in one room and Mommy and Annie in the other. Finally, in chapter three, the group arrives in Chatham, and familiar sights such as Oyster Pond appear outside the front door where Annie sits in the sun watching rabbits. The fourth chapter, “Fans and Booksignings,” includes photos parents have sent to Koblish of their children with the Annie Patches toy or with the real cat. An 8-inch Annie Patches plush stuffed animal from Aurora Toy Company is sold separately from the books.

Each of Koblish’s books has a moral. The moral of “Adventures” lies in showing children “you have to have good manners and you have to be flexible and enjoy variety,” she says. “Children are sometimes not very flexible.”

As for Annie, she learns that she has to exchange her life on the Florida lanai for life in Chatham. “She had to learn she had to leave certain things behind,” Koblish says. “I’m hoping it would show children you can’t have everything you want all the time but there are different things that will bring you fun and joy.”

The book features over 100 photographs, most taken by Koblish, of Annie and her canine companions. One of the other morals of the book is that while we are different, we can still get along and be friends.

Although Koblish has completed the Annie Patches series, she is developing a teachers’ guide to the books. Some school systems have a mandate to teach diversity, and Koblish’s books teach diversity “without making it personal with kids,” she says.

A master gardener in Florida, she is also working on a plant identification guide to southwest Florida for children. Profits from “Adventures” will be given to the no-kill Humane Society of Naples, to which the book is dedicated.

Koblish will sign copies of “The Adventures of Annie Patches” on Friday, Sept. 2 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Yellow Umbrella Books. All three of her Annie Patches books as well as the plush cat toy will be available. Annie will accompany Koblish to the event. For more information call the bookstore at 508-945-0144. The book is also available locally at A Great Yarn.

To donate to Team EmmaBelle and the Sept. 25 Jimmy Fund Walk, visit www.jimmyfundwalk.org/2016/teamemmabelle.