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From plumber to author: Guelph man raises money for cancer research with new children's book

'They would crawl up on my lap and they would sit there and we would make up all these stories,' says Dennis Scherer of his inspiration for his book

A ghost story created by a man for his two grandchildren has become a children’s book raising money for children’s cancer research.

Dennis Scherer is the author of The Shadow and The Candle. It is a story about two boys, Blake and Logan, who look for a ghost as their mother is close by.  

The characters are based off of Scherer’s real-life grandsons, Blake and Logan, who he and his wife used to look after. 

“We looked after the boys full time for about seven years,” he recalls, “And through that period of time, part of the time we would do story time.”

“So instead of reading books to them they would crawl up on my lap and they would sit there and we would make up all these stories, from ghost stories to space stories to whatever.”

Scherer is the founder of the Yellow Moon Mouse Children’s Campaign, which plans to distribute the money raised from the sales of this book to various charities, including Guelph Wish Fund for Children, the Ronald McDonald House Charities Hamilton, the McMaster Children’s Hospital and more.

The concern for children’s cancer research is an issue close to Scherer as his youngest grandson, Logan, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2018. Scherer recalls his family faced many challenges and scary moments from that experience, until Logan was declared cancer-free two months ago.

“It’s really crucial  that we can get the word out there so that we can sell a lot of books,” he said about working six to eight hours a day on this, contacting book and toy stores.

Since starting the campaign on Jan 1, 350 books have been sold across Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.  Scherer said his goal is to sell 1,000 copies of the book by June to raise around $9,000. So far, the campaign has made about $1,800.

Scherer is a plumber by trade and a musician. He admits he doesn’t have much creative writing experience besides songwriting. The Shadow and The Candle was one of many oral tales Scherer saved on a computer when Logan asked him to turn it into a book.

“He said, ‘Papa, can you put my favourite story into a book for me?’” Scherer recalls, “I was just going to print it off the computer and fold it up and get a couple pencil sketches in there.”

However, he did call the Canada Arts Council, which provided him with a list of local illustrators, including Robin Baird Lewis, who is a worldwide recognized illustrator, especially in children’s books.

“I went, ‘Oh my gosh! She was one of my plumbing customers!’” he said.

Scherer then reached out to Lewis and sent her a copy of the manuscript in early 2020. After that, Lewis was on board with the project, but also saw more potential for it.

“She said, ‘Dennis, this is more than a little book, this could be a children’s book,’” said Scherer.

Lewis says the concept of The Shadow and The Candle is unlike other stories writers have asked her to take a look at.

“It was very original,” she said, going on to say many stories she does receive from starting authors follow an archetype or are stereotypical.

“I read it through and I thought, ‘Geez you know, this thing has got legs!’” 

With a background in English, Lewis also edited the story and provided illustrations. When she sent the results back to Scherer, she recalls him being very pleased.

“An editor’s job is to support the author’s voice,” she explains, “Similar to an illustrator, the golden rule is to support the text.”

After talking about publishing the book further, Lewis said Scherer brought up the idea to use the book to raise money for children’s cancer research, and she agreed with it.

“I don’t know what family hasn’t been affected by cancer,” said Lewis, “Especially childhood, I think is especially excruciating, and his family has been through a lot.

“He was a good man and he was lots of fun to work with.”

She adds this campaign can also help address an issue close to her, which is improving literacy rates among children. She said boys especially struggle with reading.

As the campaign continues to gather attention, Scherer says he hopes to grow the Yellow Moon Mouse Campaign into a world renowned organization like the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That’s why he is hoping to get on the CBC show Dragons Den to get funding for the business side of the campaign.

“I’ve auditioned for the Dragons Den, I’ve went through the first two steps ... and they’ve just sent me an email to do an audition for their panel … for the team that picks the people to go on the show,” said Scherer hoping one or more Dragons will be interested in his idea.

“I’m looking for major distribution across the country... and I’m looking for someone to partner with the rest of my books as well.”

The Shadow and The Candle is available for purchase locally at Simply Wonderful Toys, K9 Karma and Brighten Up Toys

For more information, check out the Yellow Moon Mouse Children’s Campaign Facebook page.


Ariel Deutschmann

About the Author: Ariel Deutschmann

Ariel Deutschmann is a feature writer and reporter who covers community events, businesses, social initiatives, human interest stories and more involving Guelph and Wellington County
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