Taking care of her nephew with cognitive disabilities has opened Pam Boodle’s eyes to “what matters most” in life.
Nicholas, who loves trees and the outdoors, has helped her see the beauty in the world and to look at people with new appreciation, she said.
“He still gives big bear hugs to people,” she said. “And he stays true to who he is and has just been just an example to me in so many ways.”
Nick served as the inspiration for Boodle’s recent children’s book, “The Boy in a Tree.” Though the Schofield-based author has written books for family and friends before, this is her first published book, she said.
“It’s about kind of his love for nature and love to climb trees,” she said. “He still climbs trees. He started when he was a little guy.”
The book was illustrated by Eau Claire artist Matt Philleo, who works out of Artisan Forge Studios on Mondovi Road. The duo connected through Philleo’s sister, who is a friend of Boodle’s.
The story hit close to home for Philleo, who has a son with special needs. After reading the story, he knew he had to take on the project.
“When I read part way through the manuscript, it actually moved me to tears because just the thought and the concept about this boy who sees the world in a different way and he’s content with what he has,” he said. “He just wants to live life, and he’s just doing his thing, just being himself. It just spoke to me, the simplicity.”
Philleo started the illustrations with some basic sketches and ideas based on real photos.
“What’s neat about this book is that it follows (Nick’s) life and at each juncture it shows him climbing up the tree and up, up, up he goes,” Philleo said. “And it corresponds with the seasons.”
After the rough sketches, he made the images that would actually end up in the book. They have somewhat of a cartoon-ish look, which is fitting for a children’s book, Philleo said.
“After the sketches were finished, I colorized it on (Adobe) Photoshop,” he said.
Philleo also did the layout of the book, figuring out how the text and images would work together on the pages.
“I’m very happy with the results,” he said.
Boodle said she couldn’t be happier with the final product and complimented Philleo’s artistic ability.
“Even as he drew Nick it was just so perfect,” she said, noting he even got the hair just right. “I was just so impressed at how he just captured who Nick really was.
“I just appreciate how Matt just pours his heart and soul into all his art,” she added. “He has such a passion, and I really appreciate his heart.”
Philleo said this was the first children’s book he’s illustrated, but he previously worked on the artwork for a young adult book, “The Key to Nede.”
The duo recently held a book signing event at Philleo’s studio in Eau Claire. Boodle said the response was great and she’s hoping to have a similar event near her home in Schofield sometime in the near future.
“My hope and prayer is that it would just draw awareness and that it would instill a greater appreciation for people with special needs,” Boodle said. “They have so much to offer.”
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