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New Ringgold author to release fourth book in series

(AP) When a stripeless chipmunk caught the attention of award-winning author Kathy M. Miller, a tale of empathy resulted.

“Chippy Chipmunk Feels Empathy” is the fourth in the Chippy series written by the New Ringgold author, and highlights the fact that all species have diversity.

It features the adventures of Chippy and his first encounter with Harriet, a unique, black chipmunk who becomes homeless. Chippy, who is having a record-setting day of collecting acorns, initially refuses to help Harriet and chases her away. Miller’s vivid, color photographs take readers into the intimate world of the wildlife she captures with her lens, down to the last whisker.

“When we’re preoccupied, we’re less likely to help,” Miller said. “This book is from his point of view. Chippy’s learning about diversity and ultimately feeling empathy and showing kindness to her.”

The author named the unique chipmunk after Harriet Tubman, she said. Due to the sensitive nature of the material, Miller wanted to have students give input on the book before it went into print. She previewed the book to several classrooms earlier this year.

“I wanted to test it in diverse classrooms,” she said.

Some of the format of the book was changed, when students made the suggestion that a border be taken off one of the pages near the back of the book.

“They wanted a warm, fuzzy feeling at the end,” Miller said.

When the border was removed, the students said it made Chippy and Harriet appear to be better friends, versus keeping the border in place. The border would separate the chipmunks, while having the page displayed without the border would make the pair appear closer.

On another page, fourth-graders suggested the author clearly identify who the rabbit was in the story. Miller included the detail that the rabbit was Chippy’s friend.

The book includes “Fun Facts” about wildlife seen in the book, as well as ancillary pages explaining ways to develop empathy and the difference between sympathy and empathy. One page shows a variety of rabbits, with one rabbit in the center proclaiming that it has to move away, and other rabbits surrounding it, offering their replies.

Miller explains, “The bunnies on the left are feeling sympathy. They feel sorry for their friend. The bunnies on the right are feeling empathy. They feel how their friend feels because they remember a similar situation or can imagine it.”

Contributors include Lauren Matthew and Joanna Schlottman, both elementary school counselors.

“It usually takes me a couple of years to do a book,” Miller said.

She uses a Nikon D-300S camera and special lenses. A few photos, though, were shot with a phone camera, she said. She promised the property owners that she would not reveal Harriet’s location.

Miller uses sunset and sunrise photos, showing the progress of time which gives Chippy a chance to digest what he’s seen and his reaction to Harriet. The book also has photos of a goat and dogs who use wheels for mobility.

So far, the public reception to the book has been positive.

“It’s been great,” Miller said. “It’s got a very timely message on diversity, empathy and friendship.”

A teacher, cellist and nature photographer, Miller graduated summa cum laude from Kutztown University with bachelor degrees in education and music. Miller’s first three hardcover, jacketed books in the series have won more than 20 awards.

Miller’s books are available at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Nature Store, Kempton, and the Nature and Discovery Store in New Ringgold.

For more information, visit www.chippychipmunk.com.

ABOVE: Kathy M. Miller’s latest book, “Chippy Chipmunk Feels Empathy,” will be available Oct. 21.BELOW: Author and photographer Kathy M. Miller. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO