Blind writer overcomes cancer to publish children's books
MANCHESTER — A turtle, a pug, and an environmental educator go through lengths to save a nature center and educate their community.
Author Andrew Kranichfeld will present his new book titled "Oliver Saves the Nature Center" at the Northshire Bookstore on May 21.
The book draws on factual aspects of Kranichfeld's life. The titular Oliver is his real-life brother. Oscar the turtle and Lila the pug are also real. The story also involves the Rye Nature Center in Rye, N.Y where Kranichfeld is a volunteer.
In the book, Oscar tells Oliver that humans are damaging the environment through overdevelopment and pollution. Oscar and Lila then gather volunteers in the community to clean up on Earth Day to protect and preserve the nature center before it's too late.
"If they [kids] can actually have fun while reading, I think that's the way to do it," Kranichfeld said. "I infused a lot of humor, especially on Oscar and Lila. Turtles are metaphors of wisdom, but also humorous. Pugs are so goofy-their personality. I thought Lila would be the perfect vehicle for being a goof ball."
The book includes a crossword puzzle, wordsearch, word jumble, I-spy, and a glossary of over 100 words for ages nine to 12. It was published in December 2015 by Ingram Publishing. A hard copy costs $22 and an electronic book is $10.
Kranichfeld's first children's book, "Karen's Garden," was written for his mother, who lived in her garden. It provides secrets on generating a luscious garden and entails illustrations of flowers, fruits and vegetables, suitable for ages three to eight.
The author dedicated the book to his mother who passed away in March 2010 from leukemia. When he graduated from Manhattan College in 2007 with a degree in communications, he took care of his mother. Three weeks after her death, Kranichfeld was diagnosed with brain cancer.
Two misdiagnoses, chemotherapy, brain surgery, medical steroids, two hospitals, and a year later, Kranichfeld became blind. At one hospital, improper treatment lead the brain tumor to grow and put pressure on his optic nerve. He started having vision problems after initial treatments in April 2010. Eventually, a new hospital performed an invasive surgery that relieved the tumor, but left him sightless.
"That's when my life turned around because the next hospital I went to said they would treat me without a doubt and they made me feel really comfortable," he said. "They could tell with eye tests that I had a brain tumor. My peripheral was smudged, optic nerve was crisscrossed and the tumor pushed on the nerve. It was such a simple cancer to cure from the beginning. Now I'm cancer free for almost six years."
Kranichfeld is originally from Rye, N.Y., but often camped in Maine and Vermont with his parents and two older brothers. His parents lived in Brattleboro for 10 years, where the oldest brother, Bram, was born. Bram and second oldest brother, Oliver, live in Burlington, which is a future possibility for Kranichfeld.
The Vermont connection comes into "Oliver Saves the Nature Center," with a close friend of Kranichfeld, who lives in Manchester, and attended college in Massachusetts. He's visited the immediate area often. His friend's mother, Robin Lane, is the owner of Lila and Oscar, as well as her clothing store in Manchester.
"In the first part of the book he's [Oscar] learning about the plants and animals and later teaching how to fix the problems," he said. "Lila asks silly questions. I really wanted it to be educationally centered. I remember when I was young there were magazines, highlights for children (Highlights: Kids Magazines), readers weekly, and they were very educational, but fun, so you wouldn't think about it."
Kranichfeld is a social media correspondent for a small company in Rye, but also speaks at schools and reads "Karen's Garden." Because of his brother's occupation, his mother's gardening and his father's various hobbies, Kranichfeld linked those passions with his skills to generate children's books. Despite being blind, ample technology allows him to email, text, write, and navigate just as he would before the health complications.
In college, Kranichfeld participated in two Habitat for Humanity trips to Africa. In addition to his upbringing, those experiences furthered his interest in the environment and nature.
"You see giraffes galloping through a huge open field and see five of the last white rhinos next to a sunset. It's just some really amazing things," he said. "It's rare you get to see the beauty of untouched nature, it's magical. You're just like wow, this is crazy. Africa is so vast."
Kranichfeld has also written about his father in "Henry's Hobbies," but has yet to publish it. He had a motorcycle, tried bread baking, and even turned the garage and bathroom into a dark room to develop film. "What Do Doggies Dream Of?" is the author's next project for a second and third graders.
The Northshire Bookstore is located at 4869 Main St., Manchester Center. The event begins at 2 p.m.
— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.
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