The Toll House cookie is now the subject of a children’s book currently in preorder status and due for publication in June.
“We’re getting excited because [publication] is getting close,” Whitman native and author Kathy Teahan said Monday. “It’s just such a huge part of the history of Whitman and Ruth Wakefield is such an amazing woman for fulfilling her dreams.”
Based on the true story of how Wakefield created the now-famous cookie at the Toll House Restaurant, “The Cookie Loved ’Round the World” relates “how … a cookie took hold of the people of Whitman, the state of Massachusetts, and the rest of the country,” according to the presale page of East Bridgewater-based SDP Publishing Solutions (sdppublishingsolutions.com/bookstore).
A portion of the sales will be donated to groups dedicated to fighting world hunger, but Teahan has not yet decided which ones.
“We are blessed to have so much food, for the most part, in this country, but there are still a lot of people struggling both here and all over the world,” she said, adding her book touches on the issue in places. “I’m hoping to educate kids and have some of the money from the profits go toward helping that issue.”
Teahan said she wrote the book to inspire young people to follow their dreams.
“The story about Ruth Wakefield and her cookie expresses how hard work and perseverance can make good things happen,” she said.
Teahan said the way the cookie, included in packages from home to overseas troops during WW II, was inspiring in the way it became an international hit.
A retired teacher and state legislator, Teahan worked as a salad girl at the Toll House Restaurant after the Wakefields sold the restaurant — one of her summer jobs to pay for college. Two of her aunts had also worked there and Teahan uses one of them as the book’s narrator.
She has always been interested in writing, having her eighth-grade classes write picture books for third-graders during her teaching days at the Gordon Mitchell Middle School in East Bridgewater. Teahan also taught English at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School.
Teahan began work on the book by “jotting down things that I knew” and doing online research. John Campbell and the Whitman Historical Society and former Toll House waitresses were also key resources.
The book is illustrated by former Express graphic designer Larisa Hart of Duxbury. It is Hart’s first outing as a book illustrator but says it won’t be her last.
Brimming with ideas for her own book eventually, Hart says she’d take on more projects like this one “in a heartbeat” and related how the opportunity came about.
“Kathy came into the office one day,” Hart recalled. “I’m not sure how she met [Express Newspapers owner-publisher] Deb [Anderson], but she knew Deb and she was saying she needed an illustrator for the book.”
The plan was that Teahan’s son, Bob, would illustrate. When his work schedule interfered, she needed a new illustrator and mentioned it to Anderson while the two were discussing plans for their 50th high school reunion. Teahan and Anderson graduated W-H together in 1965.
“I mentioned that my son wasn’t going to finish the illustrating process because he didn’t have time,” Tehan said.
Anderson knew that Hart was also an artist and suggested her to Teahan, a suggestion Hart says changed her life. After Hart sent some samples of her work to be reviewed by Teahan and the book editor, she started a new artistic adventure in which she had to translate the story to full-color drawings.
“I really loved her work,” Teahan said of sample sketches Hart provided for her to review. “She’s such a good person and her pictures are wonderful.”
Hart said the author and editors provided direction, which she let “steep” to help her figure out how to incorporate the directives into a picture.
“Each illustration goes through almost seven phases starting from a thumbnail sketch and different sketches to line art and to colored art,” she said of the 16 illustrations she did. “It was pretty intensive.”
While illustrating the book, she was also starting a very technically exacting new job.
“It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it,” Hart said. “I got better and was more confident as I went along on each of the pictures, so it’s been amazing.”
It has also translated into a new skill for its illustrator.
The Wacom tablet on which she is working, allows Hart to paint in images with a pressure-sensitive stylus for a watercolor effect.
“I’m able to make a realistic-looking watercolor painting using layers and layers of color in the illustration,” she said. “I’ve [also] worked with editors before, but not as critiquing my art — they’re lovely to work with and Kathy has been so gracious, so supportive.”
Teahan is self-publishing through SDP Publishing Solutions because she had doubts about the potential popularity of the book, but added the initial feedback she’s been getting is encouraging.
“I feel like it was meant to be,” Teahan said. “Our history for such a long time didn’t include the women who made such a huge impact and did so many outstanding things.”
Teahan, who now lives in Harwichport, is also planning a memoir of her term as a state legislator and other children’s books as future projects.