By B. Scott Mohr
What’s the end result when combining the talents of an illustrator and a physician who’s known to be a gifted storyteller? Well, a promising children’s book, of course.
Penned by Dr. Bill Buffie of Indiana Internal Medicine Consultants with illustrations by his son-in-law, Joel Dale, the creative manager of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, “The Blue Ape” is an American folk tale that has been told to children for decades.
“I don’t remember when I first heard the story, but I have been telling it to our children and grandchildren for more than 30 years,” Buffie said. “But each time I tell it with different embellishments of scary sounds.”
He and wife Jo Ellen have an old cassette recording of their son, Sean, telling the story to his sisters, Hannah, Sarah and Claire, who was Miss New York in 2010. It was Sean who coaxed his father to write the book. The tale begins when Billy, a teenager who got lost while driving on a stormy night, happens upon an old farmhouse and asks the owner if he can spend the night.
The strange, bearded farmer is willing to let Billy stay in the barn out back with one stipulation: “Never touch the blue ape.” But snapping crocodiles, hissing king cobras and curiosity get the best of Billy. Upon encountering the blue ape, Billy touches it and is in for the fright of his life before the story ends with a cute twist.
“The message is don’t judge others by their appearance – like don’t judge a book by its cover,” said Buffie, noting that writing the book was fun and gratifying in so many unexpected ways. “It has been a real hoot reading the story in schools, and I enjoyed working with the IBJ Book Publishing division. The illustrations by Joel are fabulous; they bring the story to life.”
While proving to be a real hit with 3- to 10-yearolds, the book, which has been accepted for the Indiana Historical Society’s Holiday Author Fair in Indiana Historical Society’s Holiday Author Fair in December, can be enjoyed by all ages. Sales are doing well through www.blueapebook.com, but Buffie doesn’t know the count. “I’ve sold many out of the trunk of my car.
Every day I get a text or an email from someone who likes the book.” Vickie Carpenter, assistant superintendent of Perry Township Schools, said “The Blue Ape” is an engaging, heart-pounding story, one that all students would certainly enjoy.” “ ‘The Blue Ape’ is a fun and exciting book for all ages,” said Mita Sanghvi, a master teacher at MacArthur and Rosa Parks kindergarten academies.
“The plot had me guessing what would happen to Billy until the end. I would definitely recommend this book to teachers and families.” “I am confident kids of all ages will love the suspense in this story,” said Jill Voris, a fourth-grade teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary.
“I appreciate the ‘Blue Ape’ glossary and learning corner with guided questions to get kids thinking more deeply. I can think of many reading skills and strategies that would apply too. I can’t wait to use it in my classroom.”
“Oh my gosh, that book was awesome,” said Kelli Towles, Indiana Pacers director of community relations. “I literally laughed out loud when I got to the end. So great, we will definitely be reading this as part of one of our Rookie Read stories this year.” Buffie, who would love to get Pacers star Victor Oladipo to do the rap at the end of the book, a rap version of the book has done multiple reading at various schools with more to come. He and Dale will be at the Greenwood Park Mall Barnes & Noble at 11:30 a.m. Saturday for a reading and a signing.
The book retails at $17.99 with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Perry Township Education Foundation. The book will soon be sold to benefit the Grace Project, which helps drug addicted mothers and their babies.
Buffie said he looks forward to partnering with PTAs for fundraisers, making books available to them for less than wholesale.
Buffie attended Northwestern University on a baseball scholarship and graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine. His wife was on the Perry Township School Board for eight years and is president of the Baxter YMCA’s board of directors. They are strong supporters of public education and advocate – through their work and volunteerism – for diversity and inclusion.
The creative juices continue to flow for Buffie as he is already tossing around the idea for a sequel.
SUBMITTED PHOTO The Indiana Department of Education has named Kelli Sommers, a teacher at Rosa Parks Elementary, as a state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Sommers and the other five state finalists – all of whom have advanced to the national competition – will be honored during a luncheon Oct. 4. “Proficiency in mathematics and science is vital to a well-rounded education,” said Dr. Jennifer McCormick, Indiana superintendent of public instruction. “I am extremely proud of our Indiana finalists and want to recognize them for their dedication to excellence in these subjects.” The Presidential Awards are the nation’s highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science. Sommers is in the running for a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.