Sheltie’s stories helps kids and parents communicate
Alumni Officer, University of Waterloo
It’s not easy being a kid. There are lots of things to know and learn, and some of them are scary.
It’s not easy being a parent, either. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words to explain a situation, share our values, or comfort our kids.
An award-winning book by UW alumnus James Beverly (MA ’68) helps both parents and children to talk about important subjects with the assistance of an unusual guide – a Shetland sheepdog named Seamus.
In The Adventures of Seamus the Sheltie, the lovable sheepdog both learns and teaches valuable lessons about trust, compassion, and even proper behaviour on car trips. But wisely, the book doesn’t preach. Seamus isn’t perfect; he gets into some frightening situations and occasionally does things he’s not “ ’post to.”
Small children will relate to Seamus’ simple way of speaking. James based the dog’s language on canine physiology (dogs can’t say the “th” sound, for instance, because their tongues get in the way) and a vocabulary based on the 65 human words that Seamus understands.
Kids can also identify with Seamus’ feelings – his exhilaration at feeling the wind through a car window, his curiosity when confronted by a strange neighbour, or his fear of going to (shudder) the vet. A discussion guide at the back of the book makes it easier for parents to introduce their own discussions based on the stories.
James grew up in Detroit, Michigan and came to UW to study under noted child psychologist Richard Walters. This led to a career in the fields of mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities. In his work with children in distress, he noticed that many families felt uncomfortable when it came to talking about their values. And there were no resources available to help them.
Remembering the animal tales told to him as a child by his grandfather, James decided to use stories to help parents introduce important subjects in an enjoyable way. He had plenty of material, thanks to the exploits of his sheltie, Seamus.
Yes, Seamus is a real dog, and the photographs from his various adventures add an attractive dimension of reality to the stories. There’s fantasy and humour here, too, as in the adventure of the Halloween Frog Pie, when Seamus outwits a band of aggressive amphibians.
The Adventures of Seamus the Sheltie was recently awarded the prestigious Parent to Parent Adding Wisdom Award in the “Children’s Book” and the “Gifts for Children” categories. These awards recognize exemplary products that entertain and teach, while inspiring imagination and creativity. Entries are judged by panels of experts and are tested by real families. Previous winners include Disney and PBS.
“I am absolutely thrilled and honored to receive these awards,” says James.. “It is very humbling to be among such prestigious company. And to be recognized in two separate categories is a special honor.”
It seems that Seamus is enjoying the spotlight, too. Children recognize him on the street, and his veterinarian refers to him as “Famous Seamus.” Glory hasn’t turned his head, however; James says he’s the same gentle dog who once adopted an orphaned squirrel.
But you’ll have to read the book to hear the end of that story.