“Owen the Wanderer and the New Kid in Class” co-authors Amanda Owen and Ashley Wedding fulfilled their dream of putting their book in the hands of local children on Friday through a partnership with Independence Bank.
Owen is the executive director of Puzzle Pieces, a local non-profit organization that works with people with disabilities. She, along with Wedding’s public relations manager, Puzzle Pieces, originally released the book in March 2021 on World Down Syndrome Day.
The book centers on a young boy named Owen and his curiosity about McKenzie, a new student with Down syndrome. It is intended to help children learn more about disabilities and open a line of communication to ask questions and interact with others around them who have a disability.
With funding provided by Independence Bank, Puzzle Pieces was able to hand-deliver a copy of the book to every elementary school in Daviess County for placement in school libraries.
“When we first wrote the book, the vision when we wrote the book was to have little hands and little eyes to read it and the impact that would have on those people in school,” Owen said. “It was difficult for us to get everyone to buy into it. It’s just another book for most people, but for us, that’s it – impact is everything, so partnering with Independence Bank has made that dream a reality.
The book not only celebrates people with disabilities, but it also celebrates Owensboro, Owen said, because the book’s characters and settings are all inspired by local people and places, including McKenzie, one of the main characters, who is inspired by one of Puzzle Pieces’ first customers, as well as Owen, inspired by Wedding’s son.
“We really tried to embrace our own community,” Owen said.
The book also includes guided questions at the end which are intended to help parents and even teachers discuss key points of the book with children, according to Owen, which will make it easier for teachers to work through the book and its themes and lessons in teaching.
Susanne Story, a representative from Independence Bank, also worked with Owen and Wedding to deliver books to schools on Friday.
“It’s been such a positive day,” Story said. “All the schools have been so welcoming and so many people already knew about the book, so being able to help them get a copy and share this message with their classes absolutely makes me smile today.”
Story said the bank decided to help provide copies of the book to children locally because it incorporated many of the bank’s values, including education and a focus on community.
Wedding said getting to this point and getting the book out into the community inspired her and Owen to continue with the show and help kids learn more about other disabilities and inclusion in general.
“It means it’s time for us to write the second book,” Wedding said. “It’s a bit scary and exciting at the same time, but it pushes us to keep writing and to keep raising awareness about different aspects of disabilities.”
The second book, which will focus more on cerebral palsy and people with reduced mobility, is being finished, according to Owen, and will likely be finished and published by sometime this summer.
“We’ve already printed the cover, we’ve already got a draft, we’ve already got the characters from the book and the setting and everything, again, is highlighted and centered around Owensboro,” she said. “It just gave us the kick-off to finalize the details and make sure it has the impact we want to have.”
Book deliveries to local schools will continue through Monday, eventually reaching 25 Daviess County elementary schools.