Deena C. Bouknight Contributing Writer
Claire Suminski’s book projects are multifaceted. The Cowee Sam series, for example, provides not only adventurous story telling, but games, recipes, facts, and much more. Suminski’s latest venture – “Animal Stories” – is part learning, part fundraising vehicle, and part avenue for expression.
“I have wanted to write children’s stories since I was a young woman raising my four children and foster son, but didn’t have time then,” said Suminski. “Now they are grown, and this is an answer to prayer … to be able to do this. I love children and I love our community. Kids love animal stories, so all of these new books – there will be eight total – are intended as a way to strengthen our community, express positive examples of family living, build a desire to read and learn, and generate a sense of adventure.”
Proceeds from the sales of each Animal Stories books will be donated to a designated local nonprofit. The first book, published earlier this year, generated a contribution of $731 for KIDS Place in Franklin, a home-like environment that provides counseling and other services for abused and neglected children in Macon County.
“I was a foster parent and worked with KIDS Place and I know firsthand that they really help kids,” said Suminski. “And with COVID-19, concerns have been expressed regarding increased child abuse.”
Involvement as a volunteer dog walker for Appalachian Animal Rescue led Suminski to designate the shelter as the recipient of the first $500 from the sale of “Animal Stories 2.” Plus, two stories in the compilation books were written by Appalachian Animal Rescue staff members. As a further fundraising effort for Appalachian Animal Rescue, these staff members are working with Suminski to host a silent auction and raffle with tickets selling for $1 each for various items, such as a farm-to-table breakfast for four, homemade baskets, cat-themed items, and dog-themed items. Tickets are available at Appalachian Animal Rescue, Appalachian Animal Rescue Thrift Shop, and Books Unlimited until the drawings take place on Dec. 12.
“Our goal is to raise another $500 for Appalachian Animal Rescue on top of the first $500 from the sale of ‘Animal Stories 2,’” said Suminski.
She explained that a focus of Suminski Family Books, the umbrella under which the Cowee Sam and Animal Stories book series exist, as well as other projects, is to “strengthen our community through helping local nonprofits.”
Suminski is not the author of “Animal Stories,” per se, but the “collector.” She opened the door for every age, from young people to senior citizens, to share about their experiences with animals.
“For seniors, especially, it has been good for them to share stories, and to look forward to reading these books,” said Suminski. “The books really appeal to grade school-aged children and seniors.”
One of the stories in “Animal Stories 2” was contributed by a Grandview Manor Care Center resident, Martha Lind, about screech owls. Marilyn Miller, a resident at Franklin House, contributed the illustration for Lind’s story.
“Martha’s story is wonderful,” said Suminski, “and Marilyn is a marvelous artist. Marilyn also contributed and illustrated the second story in the second book called ‘The Short Stubborn Life of Hen-Rietta.’ Seniors, especially during this isolating time of COVID-19, benefit from knowing they still can make contributions and have purpose. These books provide a platform to share.”
The second “Animal Stories” book, in a series of eight, will be available Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the store and in front of Books Unlimited in downtown Franklin as part of holiday festivities. All Suminski Family Books are sold online at www.suminskifamilybooks.com and at retail stores and other locations, such as the Smoky Mountain Visitors Center, throughout Macon County. The other Animal Stories books in the series will be released throughout next year and subsequent years as they are completed.