Brother’s challenges inspire young author

Brother’s challenges inspire young author

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Lucy and Adam Friedland — brother and sister, and best friends     
Lucy and Adam Friedland — brother and sister, and best friends     

Once upon a time in New Jersey, there lived a young girl named Lucy, whose brother Adam was facing some difficulties in his life. Lucy loved her brother so deeply that she wrote a book to celebrate his success in tackling his challenges — and the equine friend that helped him succeed. 

Lucy is 13-year-old Lucy Friedland of Warren, author of Take a Tall Walk with Me. Its central character, “Prince Adam,” learns to walk with the help of a horse named Hank, and meets his best friend, Catherine, who has overcome the same obstacle with her own horse. The story’s happy ending is the wedding of Prince Adam and Princess Catherine. Mounted on their horses as they come down the aisle, they walk together on their own after the ceremony.

Take a Tall Walk with Me celebrates Lucy’s brother but also serves as a tool for Mane Stream, an Oldwick-based nonprofit center that offers horseback therapy and adaptive riding opportunities for children with a range of mental and physical disabilities, by providing a fun and child-friendly introduction to its mission. Two hundred copies of Lucy’s illustrated book will be available at Mane Stream for children who are coming for the first time and don’t know what to expect, as well as their siblings. (It can also be reprinted as necessary.)

Adam Friedland, who has a variety of delays, both physical and emotional, has been going to Mane Stream for therapy since he was about five.

On Saturday, April 26, Lucy will celebrate becoming a bat mitzva at Temple Har Shalom in Warren. During the service, she will read her book, through which she has raised more than $1,000 for Mane Stream.

Sitting with her mother Jill in the living room of their home, Lucy demonstrated for a visitor the creativity, persistence, and ownership that enabled her to turn a pro forma mitzva project into a lesson in writing, book publishing, and fund-raising.

With the idea that she would put together something to benefit Mane Stream “and show how the horseback riding therapy there helped my brother,” she said, she sat down at her desk, with her brother at her side, and started to write. “It just came to me.” 

Lucy calls her brother, just 15 months her junior, “my best friend.” But according to their mother, “It’s not always easy to interact with Adam. Lucy has to initiate their conversations. He’s not very expressive on his own. She directs the entertainment for both of them.” 

What makes it a bit easier for Lucy, said Jill, is that Adam “is never ever upset about anything. He’s the happiest person on earth.”

Sure enough, when Adam walked into the living room to join the conversation, with the help of a therapist, he lit up when he saw his sister, was delighted to pose for some photos with her, and then sat right down on her lap. 

Lucy involved Adam in writing the book — up to a point. “I would ask him, ‘Who should the book be about?’ And he would say, ‘Adam.’ And I would say, ‘Prince Adam?’ And he would say, ‘Yeah.’ When I asked what the horse should be named, he said, ‘Hank,’ the name of the horse he was using while I was writing the story. ‘What should the girl who falls in love with Adam be called?’ ‘Catherine,’” he would say, giving the name of his best friend at school.

When Lucy finished writing, she brought her fairy tale to her mother, who was expecting a brief set of FAQs about the therapeutic horse center. “She’s a real math and science person,” said Jill. “It’s not like she’s been writing stories since she was a little girl — but the story was really good.”

But Lucy wasn’t finished. She felt the book needed to be illustrated, and after failing to find a volunteer artist at Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone, where she is a seventh-grader, Lucy suggested hiring an illustrator. Although wary of the cost, Jill posted the job on and got 107 responses. 

“Lucy went through each response, until she narrowed down the field,” said Jill. 

“A lot of them were doing very dark video game-type stuff,” Lucy said. Eventually, she and her mother chose “Joe.P,” a professional illustrator who is originally from New Zealand and now lives in Malaysia. 

The family decided to do their own private crowd sourcing, asking Lucy’s bat mitzva guests to donate $20 — for $35 they get a signed copy of the book — with any money raised beyond the illustrator’s fee going to Mane Stream.

Lucy’s learning curve continued, as she figured out the steps in producing a book and directed the illustrator to realize the ideas in her mind. She also had to present her idea before Mane Stream’s board of directors. 

Lucy is looking forward to reading the book as part of her d’var Torah at her bat mitzva service, “so I can share it with everyone who made it possible.” 

Probably the only person beaming even more than Princess Lucy will be Prince Adam, who said he is really looking forward to “dancing” at his sister’s party. 

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