The books of children's author Lisa Dunn-Dern portray an interracial family like her own. Her second book has just been released, and as Mike O'Sullivan reports, the author is expanding her reach through a television project in Ethiopia.
Her second publication is called Dr. Duncan Dog on Duty. Lisa Dunn-Dern says the animal character is inspired in part by her own dog.
"Our dog is named Contessa, but I picked the name Duncan because I knew the dog was going to be a doctor in the story, so I wanted something that sounded catchy, with Dr. Duncan Dog on Duty," she said.
In the story, the family rescues a dog, a large Labrador Retriever, from an animal shelter. The dog becomes a volunteer at a children's hospital, helping cheer up the young patients.
The writer is African-American. Her husband is Caucasian, and their 14-year-old daughter, Chelsea, is mixed race. The author says the book mirrors her own interracial family.
"It is my family, and one of the reasons is when my daughter was very little, I went into bookstores hoping to find books that reflected her family," said Dunn-Dern. "I mean, she has a shelf full of books that reflect a lot of other people's stories, and I thought, well, let me find one that reflects hers. And I didn't find that many. So I thought, well, I really need to write one. I think I need to be proactive in this and write a children's book"
She says the characters in the new book all have a purpose.
"Our dog has a purpose, he visits the sick children at Children's hospital once a week. And in the story, we have a bird. She cleans her own birdcage in the story. And the father goes off to his office," she said. "And the mother writes children's books. And the little girl's purpose is to go to school every day, try her best, have a good time, and just be thankful for what she has."
Dunn-Dern worked in Hollywood as a writer on a hit show called Roc on Fox television, and she has produced children's theater. Through her writing, the author became involved in a children's literacy project that helps Ethiopian children. The effort started with book donations, and led to a television production introduced by Dunn-Dern. The show, which features cartoon segments, is shown on Ethiopian television.
"Hello Mimi and Moshi, Boys and Girls. Welcome to another episode of Bobby's World," the show starts.
The program teaches English-language skills.
"And we talk about everything from the alphabet to learning your numbers, to the solar system,"
The author says her writing and television project help children learn language skills and impart positive values, and they do it in an entertaining way. She is busy working on her third book.