BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If you were to ask any kid in the first, second, or third grade about skin cancer, they probably wouldn't know much about the subject. An adorable cartoon Dalmatian named Dottie is about to change that.
Episcopal High School senior, Arden Koschel, has written a book with an immediate way into a small child's imagination. In her book, Arden created a character named Dottie, a Dalmatian dog, which of course has spots.
Throughout the book, Dottie, with the assistance of various charts, explains that there are "normal" spots and there are unusual ones.
"There are multiple diagrams of the dog in the book showing you places where you should check your moles," Arden says. "And if you see a funny mole, tell your parents. The story also tells you what a dermatologist is." While realizing that young children may not even know there is such a doctor as a dermatologist, Arden says that the book "really emphasizes to check your moles all the time."
She said that kids would probably think it was perfectly normal if they just copied what Dottie was doing in the book and check those same areas on their own bodies. Dottie serves as a good role model to kids for skin cancer awareness.
Arden's mother, Dr. Julie Tota, a dentist and oral surgeon, said the start of this book happened when Arden looked for volunteer work as part of her school's required community service hours.
Tota says that Arden came to her during her sophomore year and said that she wanted to do community service, but outside of school. Tota suggested that she volunteer with the Lauren Savoy Olinde Foundation, because she knew the foundation's founder, Sarah Lomax Gray.
"She went to the Hat Walk, went to the office, decided she wanted to help the foundation," Tota says.
The idea for the book came after an English project Arden was given in school. She made a children's book about Shakespeare's Hamlet, entitled The ABC's of Hamlet.
Tota says Arden went to a website that lets users find pictures from the site's database and put a their own text on top. "So when it was printed and ready to turn in, we thought, 'Oh, this is really good,'" the proud mother said.
Arden tries to play down the effort. "That was a school project. It is, basically, a power-point turned into a book."
Arden's biggest challenge was making skin cancer a concept children could understand. She remembered one of the national skin cancer organizations used a giraffe to teach children about studying spots on their bodies.
Arden felt sure that selecting a spotted dog would be even more accessible and popular with the children. She already adored Dalmatians."I actually want one so bad, I've been trying to ask my mom for one and she won't get me one," the young author teased. Arden says they already have two other dogs.
Tota says Arden started the book in March of 2016 and was initially going to use the foundation's images and fonts, but later decided to contact several illustrators from LSU. After meeting a particular illustrator, they thought she was perfect. "She had the vision of the book just like ours," Tota says.
Arden's next hurdle was publishing the book. Her family decided they would raise $1,000 and fund about 500 books, but instead, they ended up raising $11,000. They have printed enough books to give one to every child in first through third grades at Arden's school, as well as children in 14 other schools. When asked if there are any more books she plans to write, Arden says, "I could possibly write another book. It would still be a children's book."
Arden is interested in medicine, something that would make her family proud as her mom is a dental surgeon, and her dad, Dr. Lee Koschel, is a general dentist. They also hope to watch as their daughter signs autographs for her book that will hopefully soon save lives.
You can catch her at several public appearances. The autograph sessions are as follows:
- Monday, October 17, 5 to 9 p.m. at the Settlement of Willow Grove Bistro Byronz location
- Tuesday, November 1, 5 to 9 p.m. at the Byronz Government St. location
- Saturday, October 29, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Louisiana Book Festival alongside the Capitol Park Museum
Arden will also host an event called "Dottie's Story Time Supper" at La Divina's on Perkins Rd. on November 7. There will be two seatings, one at 5 p.m. and one at 7 p.m.
Through the Sun Safety Education Project, Arden and the Lauren Savoy Olinde Foundation will bring the childrens' book into first through third grade classrooms. The classroom visits will include a reading of the book, a "mole hunting" activity, and sunscreen applying education.
The hardcover book is for sale on the LSO Foundation website. A list of retailers selling the book will be added to the website as they become available.