“Charlotte is a girl with wavy brown hair, silver-blue eyes, dimples on either side of her chin, a bold sense of adventure, and a deep love for dogs.”
This is the second line from Good Dogs, Great Listeners – The Story of Charlotte, Lily and the Litter. Our Charlotte was all of these things, and she was also a little stinker sometimes. There is a tendency to idolize the dead and make them look picture perfect. In the months following Charlotte’s death, Joel and I saw this happening around us, and often, it was complete strangers. “She was an angel. She was kind. She was bold. She loved animals.” All true, but she was so, so much more. And on this day, December 14, 2022, exactly ten years since her death, instead of focusing on the violence we choose to share the “so, so much more”.
Our motivation for writing the book was to provide a true reflection of Charlotte. We wanted everyone to know the whole story. How she flooded our bathroom more than once. How she was invited to meet with the school principal for not following bus rules. How she would lure our dog Lily into her forever messy bedroom so she wouldn’t have to share her. And how she was impossible to discipline because she was often unfazed and saw the punishment as an opportunity to use her imagination. She was perfection and a marvelous treasure in the most imperfect human way.
The idea of a children’s book happened quickly, and by the fall of 2013, the wheels were in motion. We partnered with Renata Bowers, author of the Frieda B. series, and illustrator Michael Chesworth who illustrated Frieda B. and the most recent edition of Pippy Longstocking, one of my favorite books from my own childhood. Charlotte, Frieda, and Pippy were of the same ilk and would likely be great friends. It was a creative dream team from the beginning.
This collaboration worked to find the most authentic way to share Charlotte through story and illustration. What most don’t realize is that there are hidden pieces of Charlotte everywhere. We talked endlessly about her and shared stories so Renata and Michael could know her the way we did. Countless hours were spent working on her language and attitude to get it right. We sent hundreds of pictures of Charlotte, the outfits she would wear, and her bedroom so Michael could illustrate a true representation. Even her own artwork found a home in the book and can be seen hanging on the illustrated walls. And the most personal touch of all, her handprint and autograph fills the front and back cover. A stamp of approval. This is Charlotte.
The book was launched during the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards event on February 22, 2015, Charlotte’s 9th birthday. The response was overwhelming and heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because Charlotte was the enchanting star guest, but only in spirit. She would have reveled in the attention.In the years following, the Charlotte Helen Bacon Foundation had many opportunities to share Charlotte’s story. To date, the CHB Foundation has donated close to 3,000 books to schools and libraries, gave guest author readings, and has organized StoryWalks(R) that encourage families to get outside and exercise, while promoting reading as a family.We are forever grateful to those who have embraced Charlotte’s story. This was the most sacred gift we could give Charlotte and you accepted with grace, love, and a commitment to help share Charlotte with the world. Good Dogs, Great Listeners – The Story Charlotte, Lily and the Litter will remain the most faithful and pure contribution the CHB Foundation and the Bacon family has made. Another Act of Love made possible by so many.
– JoAnn Bacon
This article is the fourth in a series of “look backs,” originally published on Thursday, December 14, 2022.
To Support the Charlotte Helen Bacon Foundation, please visit our website: https://charlottehelenbaconfoundation.org/donate/
To Buy Good Dogs, Great Listeners, please visit: https://www.gooddogsgreatlisteners.com/