Kids's book based on local history

Renee Pearce of Highland Mills to appear at book signing at Jay’s Deli tomorrow

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  • RuffinoþÄôs abstract illustration of Jackson the dog and Auggie the cat models Salvador DaliþÄôs tall elephants in þÄúLes Elephantes.þÄù

  • Teachers and Monroe-Woodbury High School graduates Renee Pearce and Kaylin Ruffino have written and illustrated ìJackson and Auggie: Adventure in the Hudson Valley.î

  • Highland Mills resident Renee Pearce with ìthe realî Jackson.

HIGHLAND MILLS — A Highland Mills woman has written a children’s book focusing the history of the Hudson Valley featuring a “mischievous” Boxer puppy and a “curious” Siamese cat as the main characters.

Renee Pearce, who is a Monroe-Woodbury Middle School teacher, and a 1998 graduate of Monroe-Woodbury High School, is the author of “Jackson and Auggie: Adventure in the Hudson Valley,” with her sister Kaylin Ruffino of Pine Bush, a 2001 M-W graduate and a Minisink Valley Middle School art teacher as illustrator.

Both women will appear at Jay’s Deli in Highland Mills tomorrow, March 10, from 3 to 5 p.m. for a book signing.

Set in various towns in the Hudson Valley region, the book tells the story of Jackson - the dog - and Auggie - the cat - who wander too far from home one day. The characters are based Pearce’s Boxer named Jackson and Ruffino’s Siamese cat named Auggie.

Their adventures include visits to Washington’s headquarters in Newburgh; the Black Dirt farm region of Pine Island; Museum Village, the Airplane Park and Gooseponds in Monroe; the Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville; the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley; the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; and Bear Mountain, among other locations.

The canine/feline pair eventually begins to miss their homes and comes back, excited about all the things they saw they were off on their trip.

The book’s publisher, Strategic Book Group, said it “features wonderful illustrations rendered in various artistic styles. Children will find intriguing information about the different artists, art movements and styles used, listed in the back of the book.”

Pearce, who teaches EXPAND classes for gifted/talented students in the sixth, seventh and eighth-grades, said she and her sister wanted to increase children’s awareness of the many historical sites within the Hudson Valley area.

“There’s just so much cool stuff here that no one knows about,” said Pearce. “There’s so many things right here in our backyard. As kids, our parents always took us all over the place in our area. My mother was always saying, ‘You’re so lucky to live in this part of the United States.’”

The book is designed to appeal to a second through fourth-grade reading level, she said, with the illustrations highlighting different artists, art movement and styles of interest up to a sixth-grade level.

The sisters created the book to be both an entertaining and teaching tool, Pearce said. Their Web site offers lesson plans and activities for teachers and parents which can be modified for specific grade and age levels.

For example, the chapter focusing on Monroe offers a “compare and contrast” lesson in science, while the a discussion on the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley offers math lesson opportunities using sale versus retail pricing strategies.

Art topics of discussion include surrealism, pop art, post-impressionism, and pointillism. Project ideas are included as well.

But more than that, Pearce said, is the book offers young readers a reaffirmation opportunity about the importance of history as they continue their studies in the classroom.

“It enriches your daily life,” she said, “to know what went before you.”

- Nancy Kriz

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