Morris and Buddy: The Story of the First Seeing Eye Dog

Abby, Becky’s black lab, will tell you how a nonfiction book gets published.

When Becky’s son was in fourth grade, he read a book called Mistakes that Worked by Charlotte Foltz Jones. In it, there was a chapter about the first seeing eye dog. Morris Frank was mentioned. That little paragraph launched Becky’s interest in Morris Frank. The more she read, the more she wanted to know. A little research developed into a story. She sent it to Albert Whitman & Company but did not hear from them for a long time (Remember about writers learning how to wait?). She forgot about the manuscript. Nine months later, while on vacation, she received a message from Kathy Tucker, the editor-in-chief, who asked if Becky was interested in publishing the story of Morris Frank. She sure was! She jumped up and down again.

That began a wonderful relationship with Kathy and with the editor, Abby Levine. A year and half later, Becky would have her second book in her hands. And Mia and I really love this book because it’s all about a DOG, a special German shepherd named Buddy.

But there was so much to do in that year. Becky revised. She and Abby talked on the phone. They emailed. Abby sent the story typed out in the font and style of the book. Then they talked and reworked everything. Becky wrote some more. They tried things one way, changed them, tried them another way. They moved paragraphs around and added new sections. Then they looked at photographs and that talented illustrator Doris Etlinger started to perform her magic. As Doris drew the pictures, Abby Levine sent sketches to Becky.

We loved looking at the pictures of Buddy. Mia and I were amazed what Doris could do. She made Buddy look so sweet lying at Morris’ feet. And each illustration at the beginning of the chapter gave a clue to what was coming next. Doris studied the clothes of the people in the 1930’s, and that’s how she came up with the cover. Don’t you love that suit Morris Frank has on? Right away you know this story takes place in another time. It was fun to see how the cover could place the story in its setting.

Then Abby Levine sent Becky the galleys, which are copies of the story laid out on the page. We all saw the art and words blended together for the first time. What an exciting day that was! It really began to look like a book.

They all studied the book layout one final time. Now the cover was in color, but the book was stapled together without a binding or a spine. They corrected a few little errors, and then Morris and Buddy went to press. The work was finally done.

When that box of books arrived, it was like a dream. Becky loved the book and was so happy…more jumping!

Doris Ettlinger's Sketch for the cover.