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“When people feel sad,

or when the world seems too cruel,

they can look here to see

all that’s been beautiful.”

Asheville resident Kathryn Hast breathed life into a family story about growth, change and finding beauty. Her book, “Otis Grows,” is for her own children, Lucille, 4, and Julian, 16 months, and every family that wants to point their children to the good in the world.

Hast is originally from Pennsylvania, but she has lived in Asheville for 10 years.

“When I came to Asheville, I started teaching at the college level,” Hast said. “I never thought I would get into writing children’s books. Having a couple of kids probably had something to do with it.”

“Otis Grows” has itself grown over the years, from a tiny seed to a complete story.

“It was literally dreamt up by my dad,” Hast said. “I used to make fun of him about it.”

It was the silly backdrop – Otis, a red onion, is the child of a yellow chicken and a blue flower – that started the ball rolling on what would become a book. Hast adapted it in the form of a poem for a Father’s Day card years ago.

“I started playing with it,” she said. “Probably two years ago, I decided to take the verse and expand it to something that had a beginning, a middle and an end.”

A year ago, she hired an illustrator and committed to bringing the book to life. It seemed a natural fit for kids.

“We have an onion who is somehow the son of a flower and a chicken,” she said. “That premise came before I tried to attach any theme to it. We’ve all looked at our children in an awestruck manner and said, ‘Where did you come from?’ I think the central message is to adapt. There’s a whole big world beyond the eccentricities of family life.”

The story is relevant to a variety of ages and family situations, Hast said.

“I think that applies to families that are intact and those in different households,” she said.

Hast’s oldest child enjoys the story on its face.

“When I read it with Lucille, she likes the rhythm of the language,” Hast said. “It’s lyrical and playful.”

An older nephew had lots of questions.

“Why are they fighting? Why is it OK that they don’t agree?” Hast said.

The story can grow with children and gives parents a platform for discussing conflict, differences, the ability of individuals to change the world and more.

“I think Dr. Seuss said kids can see a moral coming from a mile away,” Hast said. “I really tried to introduce a lot of themes and what ifs to talk about without a heavy-handed moral to the story.”

To learn more about the book and to access coloring pages and age-appropriate discussion questions, visit www.lujubooks.com.

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