Looking for a holiday book to read to your little siblings?
Last September, Maureen Howard ’14 published a children’s book about a turkey which saves Thanksgiving. Written for the preschool to third grade age group, “Thanks to Tank” teaches children a lesson about repaying good deeds.
Illustrated in vivid autumn colors by Emily P. Schell, Howard’s story centers around a man named Charlie and his dog, Goofball. While trying to catch a turkey named Tank for their Thanksgiving dinner, the two fall into a deep mud puddle. The pairs find itself in danger of drowning, until Tank the turkey comes to the rescue. Despite the fact that Charlie wants to eat him for dinner, Tank does the right thing by pulling them out of the puddle with his extraordinarily long tongue.
“The idea of paying it forward is really the underlying message,” Maureen Howard said.
As a gesture of thanks, Charlie eventually decides to serve hot dogs at his Thanksgiving feast, having learned a lesson from Tank about passing along good deeds.
Howard’s tale, which she wrote in eighth grade for a class assignment, was first published in a collection of short stories. Publishers liked it so much that they eventually came to her came to her with the idea of distributing Thanks to Tank as a separate book.
“I love babysitting kids,” she said. “I thought it would be cool to read them my own book, so the publishers shortened it and made it into a separate story.”
Carroll Howard ’68, Maureen’s father, was surprised that his daughter’s story generated enough interest to be published.
“Honestly, I am somewhat surprised to hear that a publisher felt that the short story Maureen wrote when she was 13 had a chance to become a children’s book,” he said. “Maureen’s story, coupled with the excellent illustrations, have made the book a joy for us to see.”
An illustrator for the book was chosen through a contest held by the publisher, and the final product was published in September — just in time for Thanksgiving.
Over fall break, Maureen returned home for a small book signing, at which she saw the finished product for the first time. The book was also given its own website, Thankstotank.com, on which people can read information about the book and even purchase it. There is also a section for kids on the site which includes games, a hot dog turkey recipe, turkey trivia, and “pay it forward,” cards, which kids can print out and carry around with them to encourage others to repay good deeds.
While the book must sell well to break even, the majority of the profits will go to Maureen.
“The publisher and the illustrator get a percentage, but we’ll make most of it,” she said. “I don’t really know what I want to do with the money. I do want to do the education program here, so I’ll probably save it for college.”
Numbers for the sales of the book aren’t available yet, but Maureen knows she has at least one supporter.
“We’re hopeful … that there may be a market for the book, since there simply aren’t that many stories out there about Thanksgiving and certainly none with a character as unique as Maureen’s Tank,” Carroll said.
Carroll promotes Maureen’s book wherever possible, including at his job as a substitute teacher for second to fourth graders.
“I have read the book to a number of classes and have been pleased at the very positive feedback from the students,” Carroll said.
Maureen said she plans to continue her writing at the College of William and Mary, and that she hopes to take a creative writing course next semester. She has also considered writing more children’s books in the future.
“I’ve thought about doing a couple of follow-up stories,” she said. “Maybe a series equivalent to Charlie Brown or the Berenstein Bears. There’s not a lot of Thanksgiving stories, so it’s perfect.”
Carroll echoed Maureen’s sentiments.
“Maureen has always loved to read,” he said. “Now with ‘Tank’ an actual reality I am sure that the future would include at least another Tank book if the interest is there.”
Now, when Maureen reads books to her babysitting charges, she can proudly say she wrote one of their favorites. For their part, little fans of Tank the turkey can look forward to reading more of Maureen’s work in the future.