We love being able to bring in authors, speakers, and inspiring personalities to bring a new spark to our curriculum. The insights and perspectives that different people with different experiences bring into our school are immeasurably valuable to our students. On Tuesday, February 26, our Lower Elementary students had the amazing opportunity to meet with two inspiring authors and activists, and their equally awesome service dog!
Rescue and Jessica
Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes are the authors of the best-selling picture book Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship. The book is loosely based on the lives of Jessica Kensky and her service dog, Rescue. The book centers around a pre-teen girl who is adjusting to life on prosthetic legs—and the powerful connection she forms with her loving service dog.
Jessica and Patrick
In reality, Jessica was a bit older when she lost her legs, and had to adjust to life on two prosthetic limbs. Jessica and Patrick were both victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Jessica lost both of her legs below the knee, and Patrick lost one of his legs. According to them, the lesson they took from that day is not that there are people who want to hurt you, but that there were so many more people who wanted to help.
Throughout their long recovery process, they began to write the first version of Rescue and Jessica as a creative outlet. After long days of physical therapy and appointments with doctors, Jessica and Patrick would get together in their room and work on telling their story.
Eventually, they were able to find an editor and an illustrator to help pull the final pieces of the book together. We were lucky enough to meet their editor and hear more about the process of bringing a book from an idea to a best-selling, illustrated storybook! The result in this case is an amazingly powerful and approachable book. Patrick treated us all to a dramatic reading of the book, with visuals from the pages projected behind him. We especially liked his interpretation of Rescue's excitable voice.
After the reading, Jessica introduced us to Rescue. We saw a video about how rescue helps around the house and out in public, and learned a bit about his laid back attitude. Jessica showed us how Rescue can help her pick things up off the floor, call for help with his bark, or retrieve her cell phone in case of an emergency.
Jessica and Patrick also taught us about living life with prosthetic limbs, and a service dog. They mentioned that their motivation for writing Rescue and Jessica was from all of the curious interactions that they had with children after getting Rescue. They wanted to teach children and adults alike what it's like to work with a service dog, and what it takes to adjust to all of the changes that come along with utilizing prosthetic legs.
Living with a Service Dog
One lucky volunteer was able to demonstrate the best way to approach a working service dog, and ask their person if it's okay to say hello to their dog. It's important to acknowledge that the dog is working, and to ask if it would be a good time to say hello. In many cases, the person might give the dog a command, letting it know that it can play for a minute. In some cases, the person might say no, but you shouldn't feel bad. Some dogs can get too distracted, or are nervous around strangers. And sometimes, people are just in a hurry!
Author Talk: Q&A
After meeting Rescue and seeing some of his impressive moves, Jessica was kind enough to answer a number of questions from our Lower Elementary students. The questions were varied and thoughtful, ranging from questions about Rescue and his training, to living with prosthetics, to writing a book! Jessica and Patrick graciously answered question after question with detail and personal experience.
Being able to meet not only the authors of this amazing book, but the main characters, and the editor was a transformative experience. Not only were the Lower Elementary students able to learn about writing a book, they also learned much about life. What a great presentation!