Jennifer Lea Reynolds

Freelance writer Jennifer Lea Reynolds published her debut children's book last month. (Adam Drapcho/The Laconia Daily Sun photo)

BELMONT — Jennifer Lea Reynolds was planning to write her first children’s book about a cat who thought he was the moon. Then she suffered a loss.

“My father passed in 2015, it took a different turn at that point,” she said.

Dealing with her grief, she saw a different kind of relationship that the cat could have with the moon. One of closeness, affection – then a sudden absence. The result is “The Cat Who Loved the Moon,” which was published in February.

Reynolds tells the story about “Cromwell,” a calico cat who observes the moon, its changing shape, and the ways that she and the moon are similar. Then, one night, the moon doesn’t appear, and “Cromwell” must cope without her nightly companion. Ultimately, she finds comfort with the realization that she can continue to love the moon even when they aren’t together.

Reynolds, a freelance writer and recreation assistant at the New Hampshire Veterans Home, finished her debut children’s book in 2016, then spent three frustrating years trying – and almost succeeding – to get a traditional publisher to partner with her. In the end, she ended up printing the book with Seacoast Press, out of Portsmouth.

“I’ve always wanted to have a children’s book. I’ve always been writing. I got the idea by watching my cat sitting on a stool looking out the window. The moon was out, I thought, there’s something there,” Reynolds said.

Although the story was inspired by her own experience of grief, a child could apply the lesson any unwelcome event, such as a friend moving away, a divorce or separation, or if a family member is deployed overseas.

“What you love and what you lost never really goes away – true bonds never really go away,” Reynolds said.

“The Cat Who Loved the Moon” is a tribute to both Reynolds’ father, who was a 20-year Army veteran and magazine editor, and to her late calico cat, “Daisy.” Teaching children about both emotional resilience as well as to observe the changes in their natural environment, the book is gaining positive reviews, which has been rewarding for Reynolds.

“It’s been a bit of a bumpy road, so it’s nice to see an idea like this come to fruition, and it’s really resonating with people,” she said.

Bumps aside, Reynolds is heading back down the road again for another children’s book. Her sophomore effort will be about an outgoing crab who has a hard time making friends. It has a time-tested, familiar moral: don’t judge a book by its cover.

“The Cat Who Loved the Moon” is at the Belmont and Laconia libraries, and will be available for sale at the Gilford Country Store and Gibson’s Booksellers in Concord, as well as on Amazon.

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