A Mesa man is celebrating his first children’s picture book featuring a friendly woodchuck and a message that children of all ages need to hear.
Tony J. Perri’s “Ollie and The Wishing Stone” chronicles the adventures of Ollie, a furry brown woodchuck with a large set of teeth, through the Moonstar Forest.
Ollie is on a mission to find the legendary Thousand Year Old Tree, which is said to have a wishing stone hidden inside. Whoever finds the stone, explained Perri, will be granted one wish.
During his journey, Ollie stumbles upon Lila the Porcupine. She tells him that she lost her family and Ollie agrees to help her.
When Lila gets trapped under a tree, Ollie uses his two big front teeth to chuck the tree in half — something no other woodchuck has done before.
His heroic act not only saves Lila, but leads him to find the Wishing Stone, said Perri.
Stepping outside of his own desires, Ollie chooses to use his wish to help Lila find her family.
The award-winning author said that the message he hopes to instill in his readers is that friendship conquers all and self-confidence is so important.
“The value of friendship — that’s what this book is basically about. It’s about accepting others for who they are and accepting yourself for who you are and being ok with it,” he said.
Perri added that he also hopes the book inspires kids to want to help others and raises awareness for the value of reading.
“We want to get kids to open a book, not an iPad,” he said in a statement. “Which these days is an arduous feat!”
The book is geared toward children ages 3-6, and is filled with colorful illustrations from David K. Ridgeway.
The artwork was done through a hand-drawn digital process, and includes vibrant hues of greens, blues and purples and adorable, yet quirky-looking woodland creatures.
“It was super challenging at first, I hadn’t done anything like that before,” said Ridgeway. “The story is so good, which is one of the main reasons I took on the project. I wanted to make sure that we got these right.”
“I absolutely love the idea that the things that make you different are sometimes what make you great,” he continued.
After eight years of hard work, Perri said he is thrilled with the outcome of “Ollie and The Wishing Stone.”
He wants to continue the series, he said, and is already working on a second book.
“It’s hard to put into words — it’s so fulfilling and amazing to see this actually come to fruition. There was a point where I was like, ‘This is never going to get done,’” he expressed. “We both saw what this could be and were so passionate, so there was no giving up.”
“It’s beyond my expectations of what I thought it would be,” he added. “The story is great, but the illustrations are what really get this book to where it is.”
“Ollie and The Wishing Stone” was named top children’s mammal book for Amazon Kindle and was 33 on the bestseller list for Amazon Kindle children’s mammal books.
Perri and Ridgeway are planning a reading at the Arizonans for Children Foster Center in the near future.