CAMANO ISLAND — Michelle LeFevre always wanted to write a children’s book. While she had motivation, she lacked inspiration. Then, one night as she laid awake in bed, the answer came to her: Kona, her Bernese mountain dog.
A typical day for Kona is spent watching over a pond on LeFevre and her husband’s Camano Island property. He lounges in the shade of an apple tree as ducks, geese, deer and other wildlife stop by to say hello.
“He would just sit and they would come up, and that’s where the magic happens,” said LeFevre, a retired preschool and kindergarten teacher.
So that became the premise behind “On Kona’s Pond,” a 28-page picture book released April 18. LeFevre calls the story she wrote “nonfiction, in a whimsical way.”
The book is told from Kona’s imagined perspective as he meets the animals of the pond, such as Ozzie and Harriet. That’s what LeFevre calls the two Canadian geese who visit annually. Her dog has become acquainted with them along with the other critters living in his backyard.
“The heron is the only one he hasn’t made friends with,” LeFevre said, “and the eagle, of course.”
After brainstorming the concept, LeFevre, 68, asked her sister Susan Cousineau McGough, 74, to be the book’s illustrator.
McGough, a retired elementary teacher from California, studied painting in college and took watercolor classes a few years ago. She settled on that medium for the book so that the art would have more muted backgrounds, helping the black-and whit Kona to stand out. All of McGough’s paintings are based on photos from her sister.
McGough calls the books “a work of love” and said, “this was such a sweet, dear story; it was just easy to do.”
Without McGough’s contribution, LeFevre said, she wouldn’t have made the book, “because she’s so talented.”
LeFevre retired in 2018 and her sister retired in 2008. The additonal free time gave them the opportunity to make the book a reality.
LeFevre wanted “On Kona’s Pond” to be an educational tool. So she had her sister depict different weather conditions and seasons in the artwork. The book also features a glossary with descriptions and photographs that she took of all the animals featured.
It’s the kind of book LeFevre would have used during her nearly four decade teaching career. It’s a dream long in the making that only took shape after the book’s setting and main character entered LeFevre’s life a few years ago.
LeFevre lived in Arizona before she and her husband visited Camano Island one Thanksgiving to spend the holiday with her brother and sister-in-law. During the trip, they came across a house for rent and “it was all kismet after that.” The couple made the move in February 2019.
“We just fell in love with it,” LeFevre said. “We knew this is where we wanted to be.”
Once settled, LeFevre wanted to adopt a Bernese mountain dog, something she couldn’t do in the warm southwestern climate. So the couple got an 8-week-old puppy from a breeder and named him after Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Every day, Kona, 3, starts his morning by looking at the pond through his window and then wakes up his owners so they’ll let him out to play. He enjoys munching on apples and watching nature from a distance.
McGough said Kona “is mellow. He is a sweetheart. And if you’re a dog lover, you’re going to love him. He’s definitely the star of the show.
“He is just this gentle dog,” she continued. “He doesn’t chase. He allows nature just to be, and I suppose that would be the lesson we want people to gather (from the book), just to be able to look and enjoy nature.”
It soon became apparent to LeFevre that Kona should be the focus of her book. Once finished, she self-published through Mill City Press with a first print run of 1,000 copies. LeFevre isn’t sure if they’ll print a second batch, due to costs. Her main priority right now is recouping her initial investment. She’s also visiting nearby schools and libraries for book readings, saying “I would rather do that than anything.”
In the near future, LeFevre wants to do a book tour with readings at all the places where she formerly taught. She thinks this road trip could become inspiration for a potential sequel. Who knows what friends Kona will make on this next adventure?
“There are a lot of animals he hasn’t met,” LeFevre said.