Quinn McBride has a new favorite book. The 5-year-old, whose favorite holiday is Halloween, is the main character in “Quinn’s Monsters,” a collection of short spooky stories curated and edited by Lakeland children’s author Fred Koehler.
In the book, Quinn meets and befriends a slew of not-so-scary monsters — everything from ghosts to werewolves to vampires to witches to globs of green goo.
But for Quinn and her family, the book represents something more.
While Quinn is in remission now, she spent a good part of her life battling leukemia. The book was her wish, made possible through Make-A-Wish Southern Florida.
“It’s already Quinn’s favorite book,” said Quinn’s dad, Daniel McBride. “It has so many great stories and illustrations.”
How ‘Quinn’s Monsters’ came together
Make-A-Wish grants wishes to children who have or have had life-threatening illnesses, not necessarily terminal.
And when Quinn decided on her wish, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators got the call.
Koehler has been a member of the professional organization for about 15 years, and the project landed on his desk. But he knew it would be an undertaking.
“It wasn’t the kind of thing that one person could really take on themselves,” Koehler said.
So he came up with an idea.
“Instead of just one person making this book for Quinn, I would get a bunch of my artist friends and we would all work on it together and it would become kind of a collection of stories for her,” Koehler said.
He put out the call out on social media and got about 50 submissions from his friends. And “Quinn’s Monsters” was born.
“Quinn’s book is a great example of what can happen when communities of people come together for one singular purpose,” Norman Wedderburn, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, said in a statement. “From our wish-granting volunteers that helped deliver this special experience, to Fred Koehler who helped write, illustrate, and solicited editorial contributions from literary friends, to Sheri Jessell, our wish sponsor, to The Learning Experience that hosted the book reveal, all contributed to the granting of a life-changing experience for a child and family whose lives had been turned upside-down by a life-threatening illness.”
‘It’s my favorite book’
The book was made just for Quinn to give to her family, friends, pastors, medical staff who helped with her treatment and each author and illustrator involved with the book.
Last month, Make-A-Wish hosted the unveiling of Quinn’s book, and Koehler traveled to South Florida for the event.
He heard about Quinn’s illness — that she had been thin and lethargic. But after a bone marrow transplant, she went into full remission.
“What greeted us there was this lively, vibrant little girl who was running around in circles ignoring everyone because there was a slide and blocks to play with,” Koehler said with a laugh. “I was sitting there reading the story to Quinn and a group of kids and we were maybe three-quarters of the way through the story and she was like, ‘Can we play with blocks now?’”
Quinn happily bounced around the event, taking trips down the slide and, of course, playing blocks. The book, though, was her favorite part.
And she already has a favorite story and monster, too: “The Missing Socks” by Becky and John Herzog, featuring the Sock Monster.
“I love it,” Quinn said. “It’s my favorite book.”
Coming full circle
McBride and Quinn’s mom, Lisa Harris, said they are grateful to everyone involved in the making of “Quinn’s Monsters.”
“We would love to thank them for all their hard work and time that they spent volunteering their efforts to make this amazing book,” McBride said. “It helps us to remember the experiences we went through for all those years with her being sick.”
Koehler said this is an experience he won’t soon forget, either.
When he was a kid, Koehler lost a friend to leukemia.
“I was his buddy,” he said. “The whole time he was sick I would just go to his house and sit and we’d play cards or checkers.”
Helping Quinn, Koehler said, brought that experience full circle.
“I feel like I had been in a position to do something more than I could do back then and see a more positive result,” he said. “That’ll be a story that I hang on to forever.”
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