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First-time author pens children's book to help deal with grief

'I didn’t just want to write a book. I wanted to write a book that could be relatable,' says Barrie resident Katrina Doucet; Book launch scheduled for Aug. 6 at Rivendell Books

It may officially be July, but a local author is feeling festive as she approaches the launch of her first book. 

Barrie resident Katrina Doucet is set to host a book launch on Aug. 6 at Rivendell Books — located in the Wellington Street Plaza  for her children’s book titled Gabe’s Christmas Wish, which she describes as a story about a young boy’s grief following the death of his parents. 

“He makes a wish and that wish leads him on a journey of going through all of the stages of grief, but more in a magical, kid way. He learns to be strong,” she told BarrieToday. “It’s not easy for kids, but I wanted to make it so that kids could learn different ways to deal with (grief) in a special way.”

In the story, Gabe comforts himself by holding the last cherished gift his parents gave him: a snow globe. Looking out the window, the boy sees a reindeer just like the one in his snow globe, which begins to glow. Gabe closes his eyes, making a wish to see his parents again. When he opens them, he finds himself magically transported inside the snow globe, along with the reindeer.

Together, the pair fly to the North Pole, where Gabe is shown around the vibrant village by friendly elves. All of that Christmas spirit, however, makes the young boy feel even more sad about the loss of his parents. Comet the reindeer then brings him to a sparkling and magical pond, where Gabe looks at his watery reflection and releases a cascade of emotions: sadness, longing, and anger. 

Doucet says she initially came up with the concept for the story while living in Sudbury, but the final iteration of Gabe’s journey only came together within the last year. 

“I wrote it the way I wanted it, but changed the whole story. It was originally just supposed to be about a boy who saw a reindeer in a window and more of an abstract story,” she said, adding she then decided she wanted it to be geared more toward children. “It was too long… but it was always about a boy named Gabe and Comet. Those were the two things that never disappeared, and then I condensed it to 1,000 words.”

Doucet says she hopes the story will help children find a positive way to deal with their own grief.

“I just know everyone goes through it. I wasn’t sure if it (grief) was talked about a lot, especially in kids' books, so I wanted to find a way to do something that had a purpose. I didn’t just want to write a book. I wanted to write a book that could be relatable," she said. 

Seeing her words come to life in the the beautiful and “dreamlike” art of Canadian illustrator Natasha Pelley-Smith makes her feel especially proud, Doucet added. 

“I think I created something that kids can take with them as another tool to get through their individual lives. I look at books as a resource and a tool and something to remember  a special gift,” she said, adding the pictures perfectly captured how she saw the story in her own imagination. “I wanted it to be something like The Polar Express… and she did that perfectly.”