Bringing joy by way of hippo
Last updated 2/27/2021 at 4:38pm
BOVINA - DeLayne Duffy doesn't know what inspired her to write a children's book about a hippopotamus and a tutu. She just knows she's happy to see it bringing joy to children in a world currently lacking a lot of joy.
Duffy, a teacher for the Bovina Independent School District, wrote the story 15 years ago.
"I was lying in bed and all these thoughts were going through my mind, so I got up and started typing it out," Duffy said. "When I wrote it, I was working at a school in Clovis, and a teacher there was an artist, and I talked to her about illustrating it, but we just never got connected, and I just kept putting it off and putting it off."
Duffy said she even went as far as joining an online group for amateur writers and contacting publishers to find out what it would take to have a book published. But life continued to get in the way, and Duffy still had no artwork for her story, so there the book sat, untouched and unread by others. Duffy said at one point, she even threw the book in the trash out of frustration but "ended up digging it all out, because I started to feel bad."
"I always wanted to be a writer. I had contacted publishers in the past and had asked them what they look for in writers, so I had the knowledge of what to do, but I never really thought it would come down to it," she said.
When Duffy began working for Bovina schools, she befriended preschool teacher Michelle Durham, who also happens to be an artist. Duffy asked her if she would be interested in illustrating her book. After a few more conversations over the span of two years, Durham began bringing the visual element of Duffy's story to life.
"I got with DeLayne, and we started talking about the character Hillary, and I tried to kind of fill out her vision of what she thought Hillary would look like and the other characters. So I put some sketches together and showed them to her. She would tell me what she liked and didn't like, and I'd make adjustments," Durham said.
The story, "Hillary the Hippo and the Pink Tutu," is about a hippo named Hillary, who has lost her happiness. She talks to her friends to see how they find their happiness.
"So, she tries to do what they do to make herself happy, and of course, that never works," Duffy said. "So, it's her journey to find her happiness."
Duffy said the book has seemed to be well received by parents and children, including Duffy's and Durham's own students.
"Mine loved it," Durham said of her students. "When Miss Duffy walked into the room, they were all excited, because she wrote the book. I think it makes them happy to know that someone they know accomplished something they always dreamed of doing."
A substitute teacher who read the book to her classroom told the two creators that her students liked it so much, they asked her to read it again.
"That made us feel so good, because those are the kids we wrote it for, and to know they liked it so much brought us so much joy," Durham said.
"You have these dreams, but you just don't know if they'll come to fruition. But the more and more Shelly and I started working together, the more things came to light. It took both of us working together to make it happen," Duffy said.
Duffy and Durham said the endeavor has been a learning experience and has made their friendship even stronger, and it has become a positive outlet for both of them.
Duffy said their excitement over the project is keeping them motivated to create a second Hillary Hippo story - "Hillary Hippo Goes to Preschool" - which they hope to have published at the end of March.
"The dream that has come together is so unreal, but it is unbelievably sweet as well. The little things make us excited anymore. We sell two or three books, and we get excited," Durham said.
The two women said they hope to make Hillary Hippo a series of books.
"I like the way it makes people feel when they read my stories," Duffy said. "We're living in a very negative world right now, and we need every little positive we can get right now, and it makes me happy to know I can help bring a little positive into the world. We need something to bring happiness to us and our kids. That means a lot to us."