Dartmouth teachers celebrate publication of third book

Jan 6, 2021

Celebrate our differences.

That’s the message from two Dartmouth teachers who have teamed up on their third children’s book, “July Lights,” published in late December.

Dartmouth Middle School English teacher Kathleen Souza took up the pen once more in collaboration with illustrator Hannah Robidoux, Souza’s former student and fellow teacher. 

Robidoux currently teaches art at Demello School.

The pair started working together on their first book, “August Skies,” which was released in 2015, and continued the partnership with “June Moon,” released in 2017.

Their new book starts off on a summer’s evening, with main character Elizabeth anxiously waiting for her beloved fireflies to return to her yard.

When night falls, Elizabeth watches the flickering, dancing light show — but she notices that one firefly is different from the rest.

Although the firefly tries hard to be like the others, Elizabeth encourages her to embrace her uniqueness.

“She realizes she doesn’t have to be just like everybody else,” Souza explained.

Souza said that for this book, Robidoux modeled the main character after Souza’s granddaughter Ellie.

“[Robidoux] took pictures of her holding a jar up, in the car with the jar, etc.,” Souza remembered. “She ended up illustrating the main character to look just like her!”

Having her granddaughter’s image as a star of the book “makes it more special,” she added.

As for Robidoux, Souza said that she loves working with her.

“She’s just so talented,” she said. “She’s very interested in making sure that the illustrations are what I want, and they match the vision I have for each of the pages.”

Although Souza has been teaching eighth graders for more than two decades, she said that writing books for younger kids comes from an interest (and professional license) in early childhood education.

“The first part of my career was in preschool and elementary,” she said.

And she’s been a teacher in Dartmouth so long now that she recognizes a lot of the faces. 

“A lot of my students are children of my former students, which is a little scary,” Souza laughed.

“They get excited about the fact that I was their teacher — then they share my book with their children, and that’s heartwarming for me,” she added.

Souza said she never expected to publish three books.

“After my first one, I felt like that was it,” she said. “Then the flames start to fan...after the second, I said, ‘Nope, I’m done!’”

But now that her third is out in the world, she said, she doesn’t know what the future may hold.

If a good idea strikes her, she said, it may work out.

“I don’t know if I have any more in me,” she laughed. “And if I do and when I do, then it’ll [happen.]”

“July Lights” is published by Texas publisher Black Rose Writing and is available through the publisher, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.