A Graphic Memoir
The heartwarming story of a little girl who overcomes her learning disabilities through the unwavering support of her best friend - an orange tabby cat named Pumpkin. Not only does the little girl learn to read, but ends up inspiring other kids to read as well.
Think John Grogan's Marley and Me meets Cece Bell's El Deafo.
Based on a true story, this middle-grade graphic memoir is approximately 210 pages and 2000 words.
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Nine-year-old Raea Gragg is having a tough time learning to read. Frustrated, she runs off into her forested backyard. Her mother, exasperated, comes up with a plan: If Raea can read 100 books, then she can get a pet! Raea excitedly accepts the challenge but has one minor problem: she can’t read. Cleverly, she finds a work-a-round and enlists her older brother Jared to read the books to her so she can memorize them and then “read” them back to her mom. Finally, after “reading” 100 books, Raea and her family visit the local animal shelter where Raea adopts the last kitten available: a scrappy orange tabby cat that she names Pumpkin.
They become instant best friends and life could not be better as the two spend their time playing in the forest. However, Raea is still having trouble at school. Misdiagnosed with ADHD and falsely medicated, Raea struggles. Deciding to stand up for herself, Raea declares a new way of writing to her special ed class - spacing the letters wide apart “to leave room for when they move,” which alerts her teacher that Raea may have a vision problem. Raea and her mom visit an optometrist and miraculously Raea is diagnosed with a common vision problem: convergence insufficiency, or double vision. This news shocks her parents and teachers, and even a local reporter. Raea’s story ends up in the New York Times and helps shine a spotlight on the common but frequently undiagnosed vision problem in children. Meanwhile, Pumpkin is helping Raea navigate a whole new world - the world of sight!
But vision therapy and glasses are not the end of Raea’s reading problems. If anything, it just marks the beginning, as Raea struggles to catch up with her middle school classmates, who are reading chapter books while Raea is still reading picture books. Pumpkin helps Raea find the courage to start a new hobby: drawing. Together Pumpkin and Raea build a treehouse and art studio in the forest and there Raea hones her artistic skill. Back at school things only get worse until a helpful librarian shows Raea a new section of the library: graphic novels and comic books. Excited, Raea takes home a couple of books and reads them to Pumpkin. For the first time, 12-year-old Raea is reading, cover to cover, all on her own. Pumpkin and Raea couldn't be happier with this success… that is until Raea and her family decide to go on vacation and Pumpkin feels abandoned by his best friend. While on vacation Raea misses Pumpkin terribly and the two besties can’t wait to be reunited!
Raea heads off to high school and feels the pressure mount. Raea struggles silently with her classwork, assignments, and track practice. Pumpkin tries to cheer Raea up, but Raea begins to crumble under the pressure of it all. Raea becomes increasingly worried about her failing test scores and poor grades. She does not believe she is smart enough to go to college. Frustrated, Raea exclaims while in her special education class, “The words just never behave like they’re supposed to!” Raea then makes the profound discovery: she has something called dyslexia. Raea’s mom tries to explain that dyslexia does not define her, in fact, it gives her a unique perspective and makes her more creative. But, still, school is hard. Pumpkin is dismayed, watching his best friend struggle until finally, Raea runs away. “I’m done. Done trying,” she says. Raea runs into the forest and slips into a steep ravine. Pumpkin follows her and helps her climb out of the depths. Raea comes to terms with her learning disabilities and Pumpkin encourages Raea to do something she never thought possible - author a book. Raea and Pumpkin set out to write a novel together. Raea seeks help and gets more vision therapy and glasses and to everyone's surprise, Raea is accepted to college!
Raea realizes that this dream of college means leaving Pumpkin behind. The two say their goodbyes and Pumpkin becomes depressed over the departure of his best friend. Raea is sad to leave Pumpkin behind and the two miss each other immensely. While at college Raea decides to combine her storytelling and art together and create her very own graphic novel based on her little sister, Mup. Raea finds that she is actually enjoying school, for the first time in her life - but just then school is canceled due to the pandemic. Raea returns home and discovers Pumpkin on his deathbed. Pumpkin recovers from his broken heart, and despite school being canceled, Raea and Pumpkin finish the graphic novel together, side by side, in the tree fort. Raea is invited to speak to kids at elementary schools. One day, at a school assembly, the local news interviews Raea. While leaving the speaking engagement, a little girl comes up to Raea and tells her that she too has dyslexia and doesn't like books. Raea tells her that learning to read was the hardest thing she had ever done - but she never gave up on herself.
Later, Raea receives a letter from that little girl, who tells Raea that she was inspired by her and read her graphic novel, Mup, all on her own and now she really likes reading. Raea shows Pumpkin the letter and then thanks Pumpkin for everything he has done for her over the years. Most importantly, she tells Pumpkin, “Thank you for believing in me.”