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Hiawatha children's author uses book proceeds to pay it forward

'Savvy and Maddy' story to benefit grieving Illinois family

Kendra Preston, seen July 2 at her home in Hiawatha, recently published her first children’s book,. “Savvy and Maddy’s First Adventure.” The character “Savvy” is named after her 6-year-old daughter, Savannah, and “Maddy” is named after her 5-year-old son, Maddox. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Kendra Preston, seen July 2 at her home in Hiawatha, recently published her first children’s book,. “Savvy and Maddy’s First Adventure.” The character “Savvy” is named after her 6-year-old daughter, Savannah, and “Maddy” is named after her 5-year-old son, Maddox. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
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HIAWATHA — A local author hopes the impact of her children’s book will go beyond the lessons it teaches young readers.

In addition to offering a moral on inclusion, the children’s book will benefit an Illinois family still grappling with the loss of a loved one — a woman who had a great impact on the Hiawatha-based author, Kendra Preston.

“(She was) a really big, just champion of literacy and she was a reading specialist,” Preston said. “So I kind of wanted to do that in honor of her.”

Preston, 35, published her first children’s book, “Savvy and Maddy’s First Adventure,” in May.

All proceeds of the book will go toward the family of Julie McVey, a friend of Preston’s who died suddenly last year, leaving behind a young daughter.

“Savvy and Maddy’s First Adventure” is a story of two friends, a giraffe and a monkey named Savvy and Maddy — characters inspired by Preston’s children, 6-year-old Savannah and 5-year-old Maddox.

In the book, the characters are faced with a lesson on inclusion and how to stop bullying.

Preston said her friend McVey always included everyone. No matter who you were, “she always had time for you, and she always had a kind word for you.”

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“She always wanted everybody to feel special and to feel loved,” Preston added. “So (the book) is definitely inspired by her.”

Preston attended undergraduate at Monmouth College in Illinois and graduate school at Western Illinois University with McVey, who went on to be an elementary school teacher in Illinois. She died a year ago this month at age 37 due to undetected myocardial fibrosis.

McVey left behind a husband, Michael McVey, and a now 2-year-old daughter, Lucy.

Preston hopes donating the proceeds of the book to the McVey family will help ease their burden and aid their transition to their “new normal” following Julie McVey’s death.

“I remember coming home from the funeral and understanding that my life’s never going to be the same without her, but I still get to come home to my husband, to my kids, and have a relative normal,” Preston said. “Whereas her husband and her daughter, they’re walking into an existence that you never, ever would have dreamed, and you have to try to muddle your way through that. I think that is a long, agonizing process to try to do that, so with this, I just really hope to bless them financially for whatever they need at this time.”

The book also is dedicated to Michelle Pinkston, a fellow Kennedy High School graduate who hoped to become a children’s book author and illustrator. She died in a car accident in 2006, the day before her graduation from Iowa State University.

“I feel like she was very ahead of her time,” Preston said. “There are certain kids that just get it a lot earlier, who understand that being kind to everyone just benefits everyone in the end, and she was just one of those people.”

Preston decided to write the book after struggling to find children’s books with morals for her own kids. She had done creative writing in high school, but only recently picked up book writing as a passion project.

She has three more children’s books following the adventures of Savvy and Maddy set to be published in the next year, and she plans to continue using the proceeds to pay it forward.

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“With each book that I do, I am basically looking for an organization that aligns with the book theme to donate the proceeds to,” Preston said.

Her second book, scheduled to be published by November, will benefit the Eastern Iowa Arts Academy. Proceeds from the third book, which will be published early next year, will go to Courage League Sports in Iowa City.

Preston will be reading “Savvy and Maddy’s First Adventure” from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. Aug. 16 at the Hiawatha Public Library. The event is free to attend.

“Savvy and Maddy’s First Adventure” can be purchased at savvyandmaddy.com. It also can be found on Amazon and at other retailers.

For more information on Preston’s books, go to savvyandmaddy.com.

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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