A local author and illustrator are planning a celebration of their book based on the true story of a miniature donkey and the veterinarian who helped her thrive despite a perilous infancy.
Patricia J. Longencker is the author of “A Miracle Named Josefina: The Miniature Donkey Born to Be Loved,” illustrated by Nancy M. Landis, published by Grantville-based Carcyn Publishing. Longenecker and her husband, John, are hosting a celebration of the book at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, at their farm, Berry Patch Homestead, 2094 Turnpike Road, Elizabethtown. Anyone with questions may phone 717-367-2405.
Longenecker plans to sign copies of her book and Landis is to display her watercolor portraits of the book’s characters. Landis also plans to demonstrate her German fraktur art, for which she is well known. In addition to the author and illustrator, visitors will have a chance to meet Caracyn Publishing’s Cynthia Sudor, who plans to explain the process of taking ideas from first drafts to a finished product. Visitors will also get a chance to meet the donkeys featured in the book: Jack, Jill and Josefina.
The book describes a family matriarch, Grandma Helen, who had a longtime love of donkeys and collected many pictures of them. As her health began to fail, the family decided to get her a real donkey as a way of keeping her interested in and engaged with the world around her. In 1991, the family got a male donkey for her as a Christmas present, but she had to be connected to a ventilator and other equipment on Thanksgiving. The family told her about the donkey that was awaiting her and asked for a name for him and the female donkey they planned to get in the spring. She grabbed a pencil and paper and wrote, “Jack and Jill.”
Soon, she was sitting up in bed and smiling, looking forward to her longtime dream of having a real donkey. Unfortunately, her recovery was short-lived; she died before she got to meet her longawaited donkey.
But the family followed her wishes and gave the names Jack and Jill to the donkeys, and it wasn’t long before more donkeys were on the way. One New Year’s Day, Jill gave birth to two foals. The first one thrived quickly and was named Pedro. But the second struggled to survive. Dr. Joan Henderson, a veterinarian, set up an intensive care unit in her family’s basement to care for the female foal, but little progress was made despite visits from Henderson’s children and pets. Henderson concluded there was little hope. But one day, the family returned from church and heard the foal exclaim a loud “hee-haw” and realized there was hope after all. After that, the foal showed vigor.
Henderson’s children, Cassi and Haley, decided that the foal needed a Spanish name, since she was a Spanish donkey. They called her Josefina and insisted that people use the Spanish pronunciation “hose-a-feena,” never calling her Josephine.
Thebookgoesontodescribe Josefina’s time growing up on the farm and her interactions with the humans and other animals on the farm, such as a duck named Tina and a cat known as “Mean Ralph.” It also includes a tribute to Henderson, who died in 2014, information about donkeys, plentiful illustrations by Landis and many photos.
Longenecker said in an interview that Landis’ art is a major part of what readers like about the book.
“The first comment is, ‘Oh, look at these watercolors.’ People are bowled over by the detail she has put into the project and her talent shine through on every page,” Longenecker said.
She said she did a lot of fact checking to ensure Henderson’s role was described accurately.
“I wanted to be sure I had by details correct about her role in the life of the little donkey,” she said.
Longenecker added that Henderson’s family was pleased with the way her work and Landis’ came out once the book was published.
“Her family is so touched that we’ve done this,” Longencker said, adding that Henderson’s husband, fellow veterinarian Dr. Boyd Henderson, took copies of the book to Europe to share with relatives in Germany.