Teaching Kids to Embrace Differences

Local author inspired by polydactyl cat

While spending more time than usual at home with her pets last spring, Katie Maskey found herself thinking that her cat Ferdinand would make a great children’s book character, given his unique, mitten-shaped paws.

Ferdinand is a polydactyl: a cat born with extra toes. Although the birth abnormality doesn’t hinder his abilities, it does set him apart. Eight extra toes between his front and back paws gives Ferdinand a distinct paw print and a little extra balance on the windowsills compared to other cats.

Imagining how her unique cat might inspire children who struggle to accept their own differences, Maskey delved into her first children’s book. The result of her “pandemic project” is Ferdinand with the Extra Toes, which hit local shelves last December.

Katie Maskey, a local author, with Ferdinand, the main character of her children’s book Ferdinand with the Extra Toes, titled after her own polydactyl cat.

Setting yourself apart

The book tells the story of a shy-but-curious cat who learns his differences are what truly make him special. Just as a child might struggle with something that sets himself or herself apart from others, Ferdinand goes on a journey that teaches him to accept and embrace his differences. According to Maskey, through his adventures, everyone around Ferdinand learns to appreciate his unique qualities too.

Maskey, who works as product program manager for Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, grew up in Toledo and now lives in Lambertville, MI. She asked a friend, Ashley Thoreen of Piqua, to illustrate the story. Thoreen has a 10-year-old son with autism, and she brought her experiences in the special education realm as both a mother and parent mentor for her local school district to the project.

“It was a really great partnership,” says Maskey, noting that Thoreen considered imagery that captivated her son while designing some of the illustrations.

Pawtographed copies

Maskey says she has received considerable positive feedback about the picture book and recommends Ferdinand’s story for early elementary grades, as well as a great read-along for younger children.

Ferdinand with the Extra Toes was self-published through Green Clover Books and links to purchase the book through Amazon or Etsy are available at greencloverbooks.com. Books purchased through Etsy are autographed by the author and “pawtographed” with a special stamp made from the real Ferdinand’s paw print.

The book is available locally for purchase at Bowinkles in Sylvania and Ragazza Boutique in Perrysburg. Maskey is working on a second book with a new adventure for Ferdinand, which she hopes to publish later this year.