By: Leanne Cobb
“I have a character that has been in my family for seven decades. He is a friendly reminder that you always have someone on your side. There has never been a picture drawn of the character and his stories have never been written down.”
These words began a conversation that would lead author Cheryl Benner on a journey that she describes as, “Taking your most difficult college writing course in a six-eight month period.” Bringing the tales of Gabbaluchie the Wolf and his kindness and friendship to life had always been on Benner’s mind, but she wasn’t sure how to get started. After a chance encounter at a holiday market in Cincinnati with the man who would become her editor and mentor, Benner began writing Wolves Aren’t Welcome.
Based on one of the many stories of Gabbaluchie that have been passed down through Benner’s family for decades, Wolves Aren’t Welcome is a sweet story of kindness and friendship that develops when Gabbaluchie leaves home for the first time only to find that the other animals are unwelcoming of him. Remembering his nonna’s message, “kindness grows friendships,” Gabbaluchie makes a decision that changes everything for the better.
Writing Wolves Aren’t Welcome proved to be a learning experience for Benner that challenged her in unexpected ways. Because of her Italian and Spanish background, Benner wanted the book to be set in Italy. Little did she know this would mean that instead of choosing animal characters that could be found on the farm she lived on, she had to choose animals found in Italy.
“I didn’t realize that you couldn’t just make it up,” Benner admits.
Finding ways for her characters to interact was another unanticipated challenge.
“Trying to figure out how a land animal like a bird would cross paths with a fish was tough,” Benner says.
It took a year to write the book in its entirety, and the next step was to find an illustrator. Benner asked illustrator Jeffrey Ebbeler to do six to seven sketches with no notes on the book and no background for what she envisioned the illustrations to look like. What he returned was exactly what was in her head, and she knew Ebbeler was the perfect fit. Ebbeler hand painted all of the illustrations, bringing Gabbaluchie and his friends to life in a beautiful and powerful way.
If you are interested in reading Wolves Aren’t Welcome, it can be purchased at Benner’s website, www.gabbaluchiethewolf.com. The book is also sold at a variety of book and specialty stores.
You can find more about Benner and Gabbaluchie on Facebook and Instagram at gabbaluchiethewolf or email Benner at [email protected].