Thursday, February 13, 2020

Book Nook: Caleb and Shallow

Passionately written and filled with memorable characters, Susan Troutt’s “Caleb and Shallow” continues her legacy of providing books for young readers that are filled with both humor and heart. For her 9th publication, Troutt felt inspired to write this story after her 8-year old grandson came up with names for the characters. From there, the story of 12-year old Caleb and a golden retriever named Shallow came to life.

After experiencing a tragic loss and a broken leg, Caleb is going through big changes when Shallow, a stray dog, suddenly appears in his life. Caleb and his grandmother learn how to tackle challenges they face, including Shallow’s new role as house pet. The chapter book’s story is told in the voices of both Caleb and Shallow, and readers can expect a heartwarming tale that will resonate with anyone who has been through hard times.

Written with elementary and middle school readers in mind, Troutt hopes readers will feel inspired by the relationship between boy and dog and their ability to help each other grow.

“Even though one may feel alone in this world, there is someone out there just waiting to be a friend,” the author said. “The first step is always the hardest but reaching out to someone pays off in the end.”
Why did you decide to write this book?
My 8-year-old grandson asked me to write CALEB AND SHALLOW. He wanted a dog story, and he wanted the dog to be named Shallow. He requested that I write the story on a fourth grade level, because he would be in fourth grade the following year. I thought perhaps we could write it together, but my grandson decided my ideas were better than his. 
At first, I wrote from a third person point of view, but later decided to let both Caleb and Shallow tell their own stories. This new version is so much better. It allowed Caleb to share his feelings with the reader.  They can empathize with him about his broken leg, having to live with his grandmother, the struggles of learning to walk again, and of course, his frustration with Shallow. Like most puppies, Shallow is a bundle of energetic trouble. After all, he wants to be the boss. It is humorous the way he lets the reader know that. The voice of Shallow is so funny, I can’t help but laugh.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
Reading is an escape for me.  I love to lose myself in a good book. Writing is an escape too. Whenever I write a novel, the characters are on my mind all the time.  They are like children to me. I worry what will happen to them. I put them in different situations, often difficult ones, and see how they will work their way out.  Sometimes, when I try to make a character do what I want him to do, he seems to have a mind of his own and will not follow my dictate. 
What I like about writing is that I am the story creator.  I use words to make magic and characters come to life.  I want readers to lose themselves in my books.  I want them to laugh themselves silly when they read my humorous ones, and be caught up in the drama and suspense for those that are serious.

What advice do you have for teens who are interested in a writing career?
My advice for teens who are interested in a writing career is to write every day. Just like playing a sport, one has to practice, and daily writing is practice. 
See things from a different perspective. Try to fit your experience into what your character does. In other words, write about what you know, but let your experience be through the eyes of your character. 
When you have written a piece you feel is good, share it with others.  Read your stories aloud in class. Read to your friends, to your family.  Ask them to tell you something good about your story, something more that they want to know, and a way to make your story better. 
Don’t be afraid to make changes. Your first draft should never be the final copy. Your story should evolve. Read to see how other authors do it. And above all, when you have finished a piece, proofread. 

“Caleb and Shallow” delivers a touching story that truly showcases the power of perseverance and friendship. This book makes the perfect gift for young readers and they can expect more stories from Troutt in the near future. Learn more about her previous works at

“Caleb and Shallow”
By Susan Troutt

About the author
Kentucky author Susan Troutt began her writing career as a teenage guest columnist for The Shively News, a local Louisville, Kentucky newspaper. Her alma mater, Louisville’s Valley High School, welcomed her as the 5th female and the 42nd inductee into the school’s Hall of Fame for her contribution to the world of literature and education. She has devoted her life to helping children appreciate good literature and thus began writing children’s books. Her publications include the hilarious “Jake” series (The How-to Joke, Jake the Detective, The Math Problem, and Who Are You Calling Little Shrimpy?) and the realistic fiction series, “Tales from the Granite Countertop” (The Child Pirate, Pirates to the End, Not as It Seems, The Missing Persons List, and Caleb and Shallow). As a retired elementary teacher and former Boone County Teacher of the Year, her writing workshops encourage students to appreciate reading and discover the magic of words.  She is also chairperson of Indiana’s WordWrites Guild. 

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