Photographer Kim Roderiques of Chatham teamed up with a writer and an illustrator to create a children’s book with a message: You’re never too young to give back.
The beautifully illustrated book “Max and Charlie Help a Hero” tells the story of a young Chatham boy, who with his newly-adopted dog, raises money to buy a wounded veteran on Nantucket a service dog. A portion of the proceeds of the book, which is for ages 6 to 12, will go toward two charities for veterans and one for animals.
“There are so many books about service dogs—I wanted to educate children about military families in a little bit of a lighthearted way,” Roderiques said during a recent interview.
The story, by Roderiques and Karen Ginter of Chatham, is based on real events.
Roderiques, who is the author of the 2015 photo book “Dogs on Cape Cod,” was raised in the Washington, D.C. area. Her father John Roderiques, who served in the U.S. Navy, played the trumpet in a special military band. He performed at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration and funeral.
“Everything was about going to concerts on the capitol steps,” she says. “I love the military. I cry when I see somebody in uniform.”
Last August Roderiques traveled to Nantucket to meet Luis Carlos Montalvan, author of the 2011 bestselling memoir “Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him.” Through a program called Nantucket Holidays for Heroes, Montalvan, an Iraq veteran who struggled with PTSD, spoke at the fundraiser honoring wounded combat veterans, their service dogs and families. Sadly, Montalvan committed suicide last December.
“I felt this incredible bond with him,” Roderiques says, adding that she also met Mantalvan’s service dog, Tuesday. “I felt privileged to spend that time with him.”
At the same time, Roderiques and Ginter were formulating their idea for a book telling the story about a boy and a dog who wanted to obtain a service dog for a hero. They learned that a 10-year-old Nantucket boy, Luke Stringer, had raised $30,000 towards a service dog for a veteran, Aaron Hale, who had lost his vision in Afghanistan.
“It was art imitating life,” Roderiques says. “Karen and I envisioned this story, and we met Luke.”
The book features Roderiques’s stunning photographs of Chatham and Nantucket overlaid with color illustrations of the characters by artist Giorgia Florena Shaban, a Chatham summer resident. The book is dedicated to men and women of the military.
Here’s the story: Charlie, an 8-year-old Chatham boy, goes to the Fourth of July parade with his 4-year-old Labrador retriever, Max. Max was a shelter dog who Charlie adopted because “older dogs have a lot of love.” Chatham fans will love the scenes at the Chatham Fish Pier, on Ridgevale Beach and at the Cow Yard Landing. The pair later attends a 5K road race on Main Street raising money for veterans. This is the first time that Charlie learns about veterans.
Charlie’s family then takes a trip to Nantucket on the Freedom Ferry from Harwich. At the Westmoor Club Charlie meets soldiers and their service dogs receiving medals for their brave wartime exploits. During a walk on the beach, Charlie wonders what he can do, and he settles on selling lemonade to help a hero. He sets up his stand outside the bookstore where Montalvan signed his book last summer. Eventually, when Charlie counts his money, it’s not enough to buy a service dog. When he begins selling dog biscuits, though, customers line up around the block. The 38-page story is followed by a cast of characters identifying the real people behind the story. “I wanted a story based on real people, nobody fake,” Roderiques says.
Portions of the proceeds will go toward the MSPCA of Cape Cod, Nantucket Holidays for Heroes and the Nicholas G. Xiarhos Memorial Fund, founded after the 2009 death of Xiarhos in Afghanistan. He was the son of Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Stephen Xiarhos, and the fund is used in part for scholarship money for future members of the armed forces.
In the coming months, Roderiques and Ginter will encourage children to submit their own “make a difference” photos and stories. The most inspirational submissions will receive a copy of the book and a “Help a Hero” T-shirt.
Roderiques and her co-authors will sign copies of “Max and Charlie Help a Hero” on Saturday, May 27 from 2 to 5 p.m. and Sunday, May 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Yellow Umbrella Books. For more information call the store at 508-945-0144.
On Friday, May 26 at 12:30 p.m., Where the Sidewalk Ends Books will kick off its Literary Luncheon series at the Wequassett Inn with J. Courtney Sullivan, best-selling author of “Saints for All Occasions” (Knopf, 2017), a novel about Irish Catholic sisters. Tickets are available through BooksOnTheCape.com and through the bookstore. For more information call the store at 508-945-0499.