Carol Rowell had already promised her husband no more birds when she first met Buddy, a Goffin’s cockatoo who had pulled most of his feathers.
“He shouted at me, ‘Wings up, Buddy; you come here,’” Rowell said. “So I came over and said, ‘I’m buying you, I’ll handle my husband.’”
This nearly bald bird would later become Rowell’s muse for her book “I’m Your Buddy,” a children’s book that Rowell said is 99 percent anecdotal. The story explores themes of friendship and acceptance. It is almost entirely based on true events following Rowell introducing Buddy as a new addition to her family as he tries to win over the acceptance of Chico, Rowell’s African grey parrot.
The self-published book was awarded second place in children’s literature from the Arizona Author’s Association. Coincidentally, a book titled “Buddy the Soldier Bear” won first place.
From Heart to Paper
Within the first three months of bringing Buddy into her home he started teaching Rowell some important lessons with his energy and capacity for love.
“I wrote it down just from the heart,” she said. “I had some adults and teachers read it; people of all ages loved it, so I said ‘OK, I’m going to do it.’
Rowell had never written a children’s book before, so she turned to her yoga instructor Naomi Rose — who is a children’s book author herself — to help guide and edit her manuscript. “[Rowell] invited me to her house to meet her birds,” Rose said.
“If you’re going to know Carol, you have to get to know her birds. When she was talking to me, she told me she had a book in mind and I just so happened to be in that service.”
Rose said that when she read the manuscript, she felt it had a lot of life to it, but needed work.
“Most people who don’t have the training have great ideas but don’t have the basics down,” Rose said. “Some things are better for children’s books. A mistake people often make is point of view.”
It was Rose’s idea to make the book in Buddy’s point of view and keep it in first-person, which she said really brought the story to life. She said she is especially happy about the success of the book because of how hard it is to get into the publishing world, which is why they chose to self-publish.
For Rose, working on the book has impacted her relationship with Rowell and by the end of it, she was more than just the editor. Working with Rowell also changed her relationship with birds.
“For me personally, I didn’t have much experience with these kinds of birds,” Rose said. “I really liked listening to the things [the birds] say; they have an intelligence that goes way beyond what I knew. It’s pretty magical with the things they come up to say.”
Finding the right illustrator was very important for Rowell because she wanted the emotion of her birds to be captured in the story. Fine artist and owner of Big Vision Art + Design Pamela Becker was able to do just that, according to Rowell.
“She got the feeling exactly right,” Rowell said.
Like Rose, Becker was also impacted by the birds in the both the story and real life.
“These birds really changed my perspective on things, especially Chico,” Becker said. “As an artist I never thought much about them and their consciousness.”
Becker recalled the first time she visited Rowell’s house and was introduced to Buddy and Chico and how much personality they both had.
“When I met this birds I just was not expecting all of that. Their little egos are just as strong as any human,” she said. “[Chico] is more aware than most people I come across. He’s just remarkable. I call him the oracle; he communicates pretty clearly in his way.”
Becker was nervous the first time she held Chico, thinking she’d drop him. But in his own way, Chico reassured her that everything was going to be alright.
“The moment I was holding Chico in my hand, I was so nervous. He weighs less than a pound; he’s all feathers. He looked into my eyes and said, ‘Don’t worry baby,’” she said. Becker, who has illustrated children’s books before this one, said “I’m Your Buddy” has stuck out for her.
“It’s such a great tool for kids,” she said. “I have done other children’s books but this is my favorite because it is so delightful.”
Learn more abour Rowell and her birds at wingsuppublishing.com.