New book by local author explains colors to young children

New book by local author explains colors to young children
Ellen Pill

Wooster resident Karen Potter, left, wrote the children's book, "Gray Squirrel Paints," which was illustrated by her daughter-in-law Cedekia Callender, right.


It started when Wayne County resident Karen Potter was with her 3-year-old granddaughter, Salie. Potter wanted to teach Salie the names of colors and also wanted to explain to her how colors mix together. She tried unsuccessfully to find a book that would easily explain all about colors.

When she didn't find anything that seemed quite right, what did she decide to do? Write her own book, of course.

The book, "Gray Squirrel Paints," is intended for 2- to 8-year-olds to help them learn colors and color blending as they follow Gray Squirrel's adventures in nature. It follows Gray Squirrel as he paints primary colors and discovers new colors.

"Autumn leaves, green grass, blue sky and fun little animals add even more color to his life," Potter said.

Potter does not have a background in art or in writing books. "I learned about colors and color blending in elementary school," she said. "Now, as a grandmother, I get to share with my own grandchildren about colors, nature and the beauty all around us."

Although she had never written or published a book before, she said, "I do enjoy learning and adding new skill sets to my life."

Potter began brainstorming ways to approach the book when en route to a weekend trip to visit her mother. While her husband drove, she started thinking about using an animal as a main character to lead the reader through the story.

As she reminisced about being a 3-year-old herself, Potter remembered learning a song about a squirrel. "(We learned) hand motions about a gray squirrel swishing his bushy tail," she said. "That gave me the idea to use Gray Squirrel as the character and have his tail be the paint brush."

Potter wrote the first draft of "Gray Squirrel Paints" on her phone during the two-hour ride. She shared the story with her mom, who provided tweaking services. Potter said this is something her mother has done for her for years over the course of her career as an administrator and grant writer.

As she was coming up with the story, Potter texted her artistic daughter-in-law Cedekia Callender. She shared her idea and asked if Callender might be interested in illustrating the story.

"Within a short time, Cedekia texted me a drawing of the character, Gray Squirrel," Potter said. "I was amazed at her creative talent and told her that if she was willing to illustrate the book, I would figure out a way to get it published."

Callender attended an art school from grades 6-12. She had never illustrated a book before and had never imagined herself illustrating a children's story. "The other types of art I do are digital art and painting on canvasses," she said.

Callender used the real squirrels running outside her window as inspiration for Gray Squirrel. "To make it a cute character that would resonate with children," she said.

Over the course of three months, Potter and Callender worked together as a team to create the final version of the book. When they thought they had it completed, Potter shared it with her two granddaughters. They enjoyed the book right up until the last page when Salie didn't seem pleased with the ending.

"I asked her what was wrong," Potter said. "She said, 'It should end with Gray Squirrel looking out of the tree hole.'"

Based on that comment, a page was added to the end of the story.

Additionally, they added another final page showing Gray Squirrel heading off to a new adventure. Potter said they chose to do that in case she wants to add more books to the Gray Squirrel story.

"Gray Squirrel Paints" may be purchased online at

"Cedekia and I dedicated this book to our children and grandchildren," Potter said. "We hope you enjoy sharing it with the children in your life."

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