Beth L. Jokinen OAKWOOD - Caroline Arend hopes her children's book will become a favorite, but mostly she hopes readers learn a little more about her son, Zachary.
Zachary Arend was one of five Bluffton University baseball players to die in a bus crash two years ago. Arend wrote the book when Zachary was a child but is just publishing it now.
"It is a way of healing for all of us," she said, "to have this and to know that people who never knew Zachary now can know a little bit about him through the book."
Arend, an elementary school teacher in Oakwood, will autograph books from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Readmore's Hallmark, Elm Street in Lima.
"Grandpa Doesn't Like Snakes" is the story of a boy and his grandfather discovering nature together. The story mirrors Zachary and his grandfather.
"He thought it was so funny that Grandpa didn't like snakes. He couldn't understand why," Arend recalled.
Arend's self-publishing company dons Zachary's initials, ZHA Publishing. A dedication page including his picture reads, "Dedicated to our most precious Zachary, who will live in all of our hearts and minds forever."
A photo of a young Zachary appears in the back of the book, along with a description of his love of the outdoors and baseball. It also talks of the March 2, 2007, accident. The team was headed to a tournament in Florida when the bus crashed in Atlanta. Arend died a week later.
Arend wrote the book in a college class in 1992. A 4-year-old Zachary thought "it was really cool" that it was about him and his grandpa. Arend didn't decide to pursue publishing until Zachary began college. He urged Arend to do so, joking that it could help pay for his college.
The book was set to be published in the spring of 2007, but the bus accident quickly halted the project.
"I remember thinking I will never pick up that book again," she said. "I could not even imagine having the energy to deal with that project."
A year later, an aunt urged Arend to move forward, saying Zachary would be proud. The illustrator is Sandy Dobbelaere, a teacher who knew Zachary and was able to capture his smile.
Seeing the final product proved tough on the family. Arend recalls opening boxes of them with husband, Dana.
Nervous at first about doing book signings and sharing her stories about Zachary and the grief she continues to feel, Arend has found it to be helpful. She's even learning a few new things about her son, including that he and a friend once caught a snake and planned to cook it.
"I feel like when something bad happens, I have to find a way to make good out of it," she said.