11-year-old author Valerie Eyer sees how her book will be made during a visit to Bound to Stay Bound book bindery in Jacksonville. Eyer wrote a book “Why Did We Have to Say Goodbye” about the loss of her 2-year-old brother Maxwell to child abuse. http://valspalsbooks.com, top photo. Eyer watches Jodi Carriger measure her book as Valerie sees how her book will be made.
Valerie is a bright and engaging 11-year-old with wisdom beyond her years. A student at Illinois School for the Deaf, she serves as the “Assistant Innkeeper” at Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast and is a vibrant part of the Jacksonville community. When she was just four years old, her two-year-old brother, Maxwell, was tragically killed—a victim of child abuse. Valerie entered foster care at that time and was adopted four years later.
To help Valerie understand her history and remember her beloved brother, her adoptive mother sat down to record Valerie’s story. As she progressed, she asked a local friend to try to illustrate it for Valerie. From there, pieces began to fall into place and it became clear that she was actually writing a book.
Initially composed just for Valerie, “Why did We Have to Say Goodbye” references Valerie’s journal letters to Maxwell and relates her words and experiences as she grieves the loss of her “Baby Maxwell” and life as she knew it. Although Valerie was placed with grandparents, this story describes a life-changing experience that many children have to endure without family support. The author says, “We all equate loving with protecting. Although many worked hard to address the situation, we were unable to prevent Maxwell’s death. It is our hope that this book will be a resource for families at risk as well as for children and families who have experienced the trauma of child abuse and loss.”
Written in verse from a child’s perspective, the story shares Valerie’s personal experiences, providing insight into the stunning impact of child abuse on young survivors. It includes a message of hope and attempts to explain death in a way that’s more than simply scientific for children coping with loss.
Starting with her descriptions of her brother and her love for him, to her reaction to sudden removal from everything familiar to her and placement in foster care, to the recognition that her brother was never coming home, to her strong faith that she will be reunited with him in Heaven, this story provides a glimpse at the heartache and grief that results from the trauma of child abuse.
“The artwork is amazing and the questions posed by one little girl give voice to the confusion and pain of many children.” – Kimberly A. Mann, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
A quote from the book says, “I had a baby brother. I remember him today. He’ll always be a part of me as I go on my way. He had brown eyes and a great big smile. I really loved him so. We’d still be a happy family, if he didn’t have to go.”
Though a tragic and life-changing experience, it is Valerie’s hope that by sharing her story, this book will help other children who live life at risk. Its message is a sad one, but she hopes it will give other children in difficult situations the realization that they are not alone and the courage to ask for help.
This book has become a local labor of love, too. Sharon Coker, a local artist, illustrated the book, donating a portion of her services. Valerie’s friends involved in the ISD after school Art Club colored many of the pinwheels used on the end sheets. Steven Varble did the book’s layout; Faith Printing in Franklin, Illinois did the printing; and the bookkrafters division of Bound to Stay Bound is binding the books. Friends have contributed toward the initial cost of printing. Valerie has been a part of every step in the book’s creation, seeing it made from start to finish.
Valerie will introduce her story with a book launch and signing event at Our Town Books November 7th, during the monthly Gallery Hop. Hardcover books may be purchased for $20 each.