He’s got moves Fred Astaire, John Travolta and even “moon-walking” Michael Jackson would envy. The lion in the children’s book, “There’s a Lion on the Dance Floor,” is a twirling, leaping, bouncing extrovert – or so he seems. And he’s the perfect guy to help Kristin Paulus talk to kids about important topics, such as friendship and overcoming differences.
Kristin, a social worker in Akron Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, self published the paperback book in 2010. It is sold through Amazon.com and school visits, where Kristin leads students through the creative writing process.
The journey to publishing “There’s a Lion on the Dance Floor” has been a family affair. In fact, the author, her husband, Chris, and their three children are all pictured as characters in the story. Kristin’s inspiration for writing it came from challenges related to the diagnosis of a rare genetic disorder in her youngest child.
“I always loved to write, and, then, the idea for this book just came together after Ryan was born,” said Kristin. “Children are my life and my world – at home and at work – so writing a children’s book seemed like a natural way to share and educate.”
Kristin was the experienced mom of two when Ryan, now 5, was born. There were some concerns about his growth in utero and by four months of age, his failure to thrive began to lead the family to various pediatric specialists and genetic testing.
A genetic test confirmed Ryan had Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, which is caused by a missing piece on the 4th chromosome. Symptoms include feeding difficulties and slow growth, cardiac defects, intellectual disability, seizures, distinctive facial features and communication delays.
Ryan underwent surgeries to repair a hole in his heart and remove large tonsils and adenoids. He began therapy and the family connected with support groups and researchers hoping to learn more about the syndrome, which affects less than 600 worldwide.
Meanwhile Kristin began to field lots of questions from children and adults alike, the most obvious one being, “Why is Ryan so small for his age?”
That’s where her flamboyant lion comes in.
When Kristin reads her book to children, their eyes focus on the dancing lion and the audience around him. The faces of the adults and children watching the lion show fear and puzzlement. But only one boy is brave enough to approach and speak to him.
The story is a springboard to discuss perceptions, fear, differences, physical appearance, and not judging a book by its cover.
“If you just take time to get to know someone, you will surely discover you have at least one thing in common,” said Kristin. “That’s my key message.”
But why a dancing lion?
“It seems our family is always dancing,” said Kristin. “We have a dance zone in our basement. The kids dance in the dark with glow sticks. Lauren loves Justin Bieber. Even Ryan loves to flip on CDs and act like a DJ.”
But her main man with the mane may soon have to share the spotlight. Kristin has two more children’s books in the works and they will be populated with a hairless bear, a puzzled raccoon and a pair of entrepreneurial dogs.
To learn more about Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, visit http://4p-supportgroup.org.