The following is an interview with Karen Panier, the author of Love Spots. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What, if any, experiences do you and/or your book’s illustrator have with the military?
My son attended the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. Following graduation, he entered into active duty for 12 years as a C-130 pilot, during which time he served twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan. He also was a flight instructor; currently he serves in the Air National Guard.
The illustrator, Sabrina Brady, comes from a military family and her father still actively serves in the U.S. Army. I actually found Sabrina through an article in Readers Digest which highlighted her as the international “Doodle for Google” contest winner. There were over 130,000 entries for the theme “My Best Day Ever” in which she illustrated running into her dad’s arms as he arrived home from deployment.
What made you decide to write this book? Was there some incident or experience that inspired you?
When my son was deploying for the first time, it was very difficult to think of the trying times ahead that would affect him, his wife, and their 2-year-old daughter. It kept running through my mind how they would miss the simple everyday things that generally go unnoticed, such as reading a book together or the warmth of a hug. The ordinary moments that are usually taken for granted, would now seem like precious events. That is when I began to see the correlation between the countless number of spots on my son’s camouflage uniform and the infinite happy memories he carried with him.
When I had Sabrina add my four grandchildren to the cover of my book, she did an incredible job of capturing their personalities. Also, in the beginning and end of Love Spots she illustrated images of my son and his two children. Those drawings are very special to me.
What message(s) do you hope that children and families receive as a result of reading your book?
I hope readers discover that in a parent/child relationship, we never forget the small details of why we love each other. It does not matter if we are together or apart, love is always there, held deeply in our hearts.
I designed the layout of the book with families from all branches of the military in mind. My plan was to ensure that men and women of diverse races and an assortment of different aged boys and girls were incorporated into the storyline.
My one great wish is that because of my book, military children and parents will see the camouflage uniform and think about their own memories. After all, isn’t that the real reason camouflage uniforms have all those spots?
Have you received any feedback from military families after they read your book, and if so, what have they said?
Some families have liked this idea of pointing to camo spots while thinking of good memories. They have also mentioned that their children found it comforting and enjoyable to see their parent in camo because of the story.
Do you have plans to write another book? If so, what is the focus of that book and when might we expect to see it?
Currently I do not have plans for another book, but you never know when inspiration may strike again.
Are there any other books that might be relevant for young military children that you would suggest?
Two other good books that military families might enjoy are: Lily Hates Goodbyes by Jerilyn Marler and My Dad’s Deployment Activity Book by Julie LaBelle.