A book written "many, many years ago" by a New Jersey author and finally, recently illustrated and published is getting attention for its multilayered, anti-bullying message.

Photo courtesy Therese Weiner via Facebook

"Patcheeno's R-R-Ruff Ruff Day" was written by Therese Weiner, a schoolteacher who works mostly with disabled children but also does therapy dog work with American Pit Bull Terriers.

"I've encountered many people who have prejudices not against just the breed of dog that I own, but also the kinds of students that I work with," said Weiner in explaining why she wrote the book.

She said the process of getting published for the first time was complicated, but she finally connected with an illustrator and publisher who brought her vision to life.

In making children her target demographic, Weiner acknowledged that it is sometimes easiest to reach kids in an easily digestible, non-threatening way. Patcheeno, the dog at the center of her story, provides a non-human character for children to connect to and sympathize with, to much the same effect as a therapy dog.

"In general, our world is having a lot of issues with bullying and violence, so I thought it was a good topic for a children's book," Weiner said, adding that her overall goal is "trying to get the message out for kids, and also adults, to be superheroes in the community and find their inner superhero, stand up for themselves and stand up for others."

Weiner is one of the presenters in a pilot program run by the United Way of Ocean County, called "Summer Reading, Summer Feeding." Children get a reading list and a stuffed animal buddy, and parents get involved as well through volunteerism at The Peoples Pantry and JBJ Soul Kitchen in Toms River.

The program, which is free and for which signups are still open, runs for four Thursdays in August, beginning on Aug. 4.

As for Weiner, she hopes to next bring her book — and her message — to more school districts in Ocean County and beyond.

Patrick Lavery anchors and produces newscasts across all dayparts for New Jersey 101.5. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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