Lakeland author makes a child’s dream come true

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 scary 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 and werewolves to vampires, witches, and globes of green goo.

But for Quinn and her family, the book represents something more.

While Quinn is now in remission, she has spent much of her life battling leukemia. The book was her wish, made possible by Make-A-Wish Southern Florida.

“It’s already Quinn’s favorite book,” said Quinn’s father, 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 ones.

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 a business.

“It wasn’t the kind of thing a person could really take on themselves,” Koehler said.

So he had an idea.

“Instead of just one person doing this book for Quinn, I would have a group of artist friends and we would all work on it together and it would become like a collection of stories for her,” Koehler said.

He took the call out on social media and received around 50 submissions from his friends. And “Quinn’s Monsters” was born.

Fred Koehler with Quinn and “Quinn’s Monsters”

“Quinn’s book is a great example of what can happen when communities of people come together for one purpose,” said Norman Wedderburn, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, in a statement. . “From our wish-granting volunteers who helped deliver this special experience, to Fred Koehler who helped write, illustrate and solicit editorial contributions from literary friends, to Sheri Jessell, our wish sponsor, to The Learning Experience who hosted the book reveal, all helped deliver 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, her friends, her pastors, the medical staff who helped her with her treatment, and every author and illustrator involved with the book.

Last month, Make-A-Wish hosted Quinn’s book unveiling, 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 complete remission.

“What greeted us there was this lively, dynamic little girl running around 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 bunch of kids and we were maybe three-quarters through the story and she was like, ‘Can we play with it? blocks now?'”

Quinn happily bounced around the event, taking trips down the slide and, of course, playing blocks. The book, however, was his favorite part.

And she already has a favorite story and monster: “The Missing Socks” by Becky and John Herzog, featuring the Sock Monster.

“I love it,” Quinn said. “It’s my favorite book.”

To buckle the buckle

McBride and Quinn’s mother, Lisa Harris, said she was grateful to everyone involved in making “Quinn’s Monsters.”

“We would love to thank them for all of their hard work and volunteer time in making this incredible book possible,” McBride said. “It helps us remember the experiences we had over all those years with her being sick.”

Koehler said it was an experience he won’t soon forget either.

As a child, 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 down and we would play cards or checkers.”

Helping Quinn, Koehler said, brought that experience full circle.

“I feel like I was able to do something more than I could do at the time and see a more positive outcome,” he said. “It will be a story I will cling to forever.”

Lola R. McClure